From a Dream to a Problem: Arab-American Stories and Identity from Little Syria to Post-9/11 New York
In 1911, Ameen Rihani, the first major Arab-American writer and public intellectual, published The Book of Khalid, an extraordinary novel that deals with diverse themes of Arab-American immigration, revolutionary political change, and religious transformation. At the work’s core was the notion that Arab-Americans, in their formulation of an immigrant ethnic identity, were uniquely placed to address a topic Rihani understood would be crucial for the 20th century: the emerging and crucial relations between Americans and Arabs. While the importance of these relations was confirmed throughout the 20th century, the encounter became the supreme question in political life with the events of September 11, 2001, which, as has been rarely noted, occurred in the historical Arab quarter of Manhattan where Rihani grew up and where The Book of Khalid takes place.
Revisiting Arab-American identity 100 years later with the release of Melville House’s new edition of The Book of Khalid, writers Moustafa Bayoumi and Todd Fine will consider how Ameen Rihani’s dream of an Arab-American identity has been transformed and whether narratives and stories, of Arab-Americans today and in the past, could possibly redeem a troubled Arab-American relationship, especially in light of the Arab Spring and the NYPD surveillance controversy. Network of Arab-American Professionals board member Sarab Al-Jijakli will moderate and introduce the event.
Moustafa Bayoumi is the author of How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America (Penguin, 2009), which won an American Book Award and the Arab American Book Award for Non-Fiction. His writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, The Guardian, The National, CNN.com, The London Review of Books, The Nation, and other places. He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Sun-Times, and on CNN, FOX News, Book TV, National Public Radio, and many other media outlets from around the world. Bayoumi is a professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Todd Fine, the director of Project Khalid (www.projectkhalid.org) and the author of the afterword for Melville House’s edition of The Book of Khalid, is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Harvard University and holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. In 2011, he organized centennial events for The Book of Khalid at the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and at dozens of other institutions in the United States and in the Middle East. He also organized and developed the Global Zero campaign on nuclear weapons, which launched in Paris, France in December 2008
Sarab Al-Jijakli is Marketing Director at Ogilvy, where he specializes in developing marketing programs that cut across all mediums. Sarab is a co-founder of the NY chapter of Network of Arab-American Professionals.