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Arab American literature acquired a lot of attention in the late 1980s. It is flourishing now due to creativeness and outstanding imagery world created by the writers who address quite burning issues. Diana Abu-Jaber is one of Arab American female writers who manage to communicate really important massages to the American society.
Notably, this ethnic group has always been in the borderline between whites and non-whites. Arab Americans are seen as whites by the government, though they do not fit in the American society due to their cultural background (Fadda-Conrey 188). They also cannot be a part of African American community or any other community as they are totally different.
The major value of such novels as Arabian Jazz and Crescent is that the author managed to reveal this borderline position of Arab American females who still have to search for their own identity between the two worlds, American society and their cultural backgrounds. In my thesis, I will analyse the means Diana Abu-Jaber used to reveal the borderline position of an Arab American female who had to face a number of issues and had to search for her own identity.
In the first place, I will consider peculiarities of Arab literature which make it distinctively different from American literature. Orfalea focuses on the Arab tradition in Arab American literature and claims that it is highly poetic (115). This is what makes Arab American prose so appealing, emotional and creative (Hassan 20).
Apart from the form, it is essential to analyse the themes revealed in the novels. Many critics focus on self-identification. For instance, Chérif considers Arab American literature in terms of gender roles and the author states that females are in between of the American liberal society and Arab patriarchal society, which forces them to search for themselves (209).
El-Hajj and Harb also focus on females’ search for self-identity and claim that females may be somewhat alienated by their cultural background as American and Arab traditions differ (138). Hartman is more concerned with the place of Arabs in the American society and claims that Arab Americans try to find their place in one of the communities or in-between (146).
For instance, Abu-Jaber’s characters in Arabian Jazz try to find their way through music (jazz, rhythm and blues) which is regarded as Blacks’ music (Hartman 146). Majaj explores the issues Arab Americans may encounter in the American society and argues that Abu-Jaber reveals different ways Arab American females try to fit into the American society (n.p.).
It is also important to note that many critics explore the scope of themes considered in Arab American literature. Ludescher considers peculiarities of Arab American literature and notes that writers should carefully reveal their viewpoints since such work as Abu-Jaber’s Arabian Jazz made many people dissatisfied as the writer critiqued both American and Arab societies and their conventions (105).
Naaman also focuses on Arab American writers’ ‘self-censorship’ and states that it is time to start telling the stories without being afraid of negative responses (271). Therefore, Abu-Jaber’s novels may be seen as somewhat revolutionary as she is not afraid of revealing wrongs of both cultural backgrounds.
The paper will consist of the following chapters:
- Chapter 1: Introduction
- Chapter 2: Literature Review
- Chapter 3: Peculiarity of Abu-Jaber’s Arabian Jazz and Crescent
- Chapter 4: Major Differences between Arab and American Literature
- Chapter 5: Conclusion
In Chapter 1 I will introduce the topic and outline the position of Arab immigrants in the USA. I will also reveal my thesis statement and provide some of my major arguments. In Chapter 2 I will analyse literature available on the Arab literature and Abu-Jaber’s works. I will trace the main trends in the ongoing discussion on peculiarities of Arab literature.
In Chapter 3 I will focus on the two books. I will analyse literary devices used in the two novels. I will also consider the effects created by the tools mentioned. I will pay special attention to the poetic nature of the novels. Arab literature is famous for its poetic picturesqueness (Mother’s Milk 39).
I will analyse such literary devices as metaphors, allusions, hyperbole, metonymy, personification, etc. I will consider the role these tools are used. I will also compare the two books in terms of the themes discussed. This will help trace universal, so to speak, themes which are important for the author. I will be able to trace the major message the author is trying articulate. This will help understand peculiarities of life of Arab immigrants in the USA.
In Chapter 4 I will outline major peculiarities of Arab literature I will also consider peculiarities of American literature. Abu-Jaber’s works can be regarded as exemplary pieces of Arab fictional writing. Arab literature is emotional, descriptive, sensational and poetic (Arab Mothers 7).
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This is what differentiates it from American literature. American literature is not that poetic. Facts and action prevail in American literary works. Descriptions are not that picturesque and sensational. It is possible to note that American literature is more reserved compared to Arab literature.
Thus, I will consider the use of literary devices in American literature. I will compare the use of literary tools in Abu-Jaber’s works and works by American writers. I will also pay a lot of attention to the themes discussed in Arab-American and American literature. Admittedly, the themes discussed differ greatly.
Arab-American authors are preoccupied with the role Arab-Americans play in the US society. This is not an issue for American authors. On the contrary, it can be interesting to identify the way Arab-Americans (or other immigrants) are depicted in American literary works.
In Chapter 5 I will draw conclusions and outline major differences between Arab and American literature.
As has been mentioned above, I will focus on the tools used by the author to reveal position of Arab American females in the US. I will dwell upon the author’s choice of the form of the writing. I will explore the outcomes of that choice, i.e. I will identify the way the form helps the author articulate her viewpoint on the position of Arab American females in the USA.
I will also pay attention to poetic nature of the novels which create a special picturesque world of Arab American females. Finally, I will focus on the major theme considered in the novels. I will explore the ways to find one’s identity outlined by Abu-Jaber. I will compare Arab and American literature.
In Arabian Jazz, the author reveals a simple truth, “In the book of life, every page has two sides” (6). Apparently, when it comes to Arab American females, these two pages are divided into numerous layers and dimensions. I will explore these dimensions analysing Abu-Jaber’s novels Arabian Jazz and Crescent.
Abu-Jaber, Diana. Arabian Jazz: A Novel. Orlando, Florida: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003. Print.
Chérif, Salwa Essayah. “Arab American Literature: Gendered Memory in Abinader and Abu-Jaber.” MELUS 28.4 (2003): 207-228. Print.
El-Hajj, Hind and Sirène Harb. “Stradding the Personal and the Political: Gendered Memory in Diana Abu-Jaber’s Arabian Jazz.” MELUS 36.3 (2011): 137-158. Print.
Fadda-Conrey, Carol. “Arab American Literature in the Ethnic Borderland: Cultural Intersections in Diana Abu-Jaber’s Crescent.” MELUS 31.4 (2006): 187-205. Print.
Hartman, Michelle. “This Sweet / Sweet Music: Jazz, Sam Cooke, and Reading Arab American Literary Identities.” MELUS 31.4 (2006): 145-165. Print.
Hassan, Waïl S. “Arab-American Autobiography and the Reinvention of Identity: Two Egyptian Negotiations.” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 22.1 (2002): 7-35. Print.
Ludescher, Tanyss. “From Nostalgia to Critique: An Overview of Arab American Literature.” MELUS 31.4 (2006): 93-114. Print.
Majaj, Lisa Suhair. “Arab American Literature: Origins and Developments.” American Studies Journal 52.1. (2008). Web.
Naaman, Mara. “Post-Gibran: Anthology of New Arab American Writing by Munir Akash; Khaled Mattawa;Scheherazade’s Legacy: Arab and Arab American Women on Writing by Susan Muaddi Darraj Review.” MELUS 31.4 (2006): 266-271. Print.
Orfalea, Gregory. “The Arab American Novel.” MELUS 31.4 (2006): 115-133. Print.
Shakir, Evelyn. “Mother’s Milk: Women in Arab-American Autobiography.” MELUS 15.4 (1988): 39-50. Print.
Shakir, Evelyn. “Arab Mothers, American Sons: Women in Arab-American Autobiographies.” MELUS 17.3 (1991-1992): 5-15. Print.