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Immigrant Narratives: Orientalism and Cultural Translation in Arab American and Arab British Literature

Immigrant Narrative
Oxford University Press
January 2011

Arab immigrants began to arrive in the United States in the late-nineteenth century and in Britain after World War Two. Those immigrants have produced a vast literature that remains relatively unknown outside of specialist circles. Like other ethnic literatures, Arab-American and Arab-British writing treats a variety of themes such as the immigrant experience, the lives of minorities, cultural misconceptions, and stereotypes. In addition to that, Arab immigrant writing also reveals unique perspectives on complex issues that continue to shape our world today, such as inter-faith relations, the tangled politics of the Middle East, the role played first by the British empire then by the United States in the region, the representations of Arabs and Arab culture in British and American societies, and the status of Muslim minorities there. Although those issues have acquired an unprecedented urgency in the post-9/11 period, they have preoccupied Arab-American and Arab-British writers since the early days of the twentieth century. While this book is not a comprehensive literary history, it offers a critical reading of that tradition from its inception to the present. Drawing upon postcolonial, translation, and minority discourse theory, Immigrant Narratives investigates how key novelists and autobiographers have described their immigrant experiences, and in so doing acted as mediators and interpreters between cultures, and how they have forged new identities in their adopted countries.