Arabesques

Diana Abu-Jaber review Modern Arabic Fiction: An Anthology, edited by Salma Khadra Jayyusi, in The Washington Post:

Ph2005080401603I gave a reading, years ago, after which one of the audience members commented that I “write like an Arab.” At the time, I was too startled to say much more than “Thank you.” Such a statement, however, is troubling to anyone who resists the notion that race carries with it some sort of innate sensibility. Indeed, for a fair-skinned, American-raised, Irish-Arab like myself, the notion of race itself is entirely questionable.

Cultural representation is always a tricky business. Authors who attempt to bridge cultures are accused of all sorts of insufficiencies and betrayals. And while Edward Said’s ground-breaking work Orientalism (1978) attacked the artificial divisions between the so-called “East” and “West,” the ideological divide between America and the Arabic-speaking countries sometimes seems as impassable as ever. One of the challenges for readers living in a time of fear is the deep silence that such anxiety and repression engender. But for some of us, a repressive state of affairs just makes us all the more curious.

So it is fortunate indeed that a timely, ambitious anthology has appeared to help break the silence.

More here.

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