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The United States Through Arab Eyes

An Anthology of Writings (1876-1914)

Nabil Matar

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A vibrant collection of writings about America from its earliest Arab immigrants

The first Arab immigrants to New York or Alaska or San Francisco were ‘small’ men and women, preoccupied with eking a living at the same time as confronting the challenges of settling in a new country. They had to come to terms with new race communities such as Indians, Chinese and Blacks, the changing role of women, and the Americanisation of their identity.

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Contents

Acknowledgements

Some notes on the translations

Part One: Emigration, the Arab Nahda and the United States of America – An Introduction

Part Two: The Texts

Section One: Minorities

1. The Book of the Description of Kingdoms by Idwar Ilyas, 1876

2. Kawkab America by Abraham Arbeely

3. Alaska and the Klondike: Land of Gold by Jibra’il ‘Assaf Mir‘I, early 1890s

4. Instructive Travels in the New World by Dr Naguib Abdou (1907/1908/1909)

5. The American Journey by Prince Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha, 1912

Section Two: Women and Gender

1. The Book of the Description of Kingdoms by Idwar Ilyas, 1876

2. The Traveler’s Guidebook: and the history of America by Saj‘an Effendi ‘Arij Sa‘adeh

3. ‘The [female] Syrian emigrant’ by Miss Wadi‘a Faris Rashid

4. ‘Who has precedence: man or woman?’ by Mrs Asma Sabir

5. ‘The need to put a limit on or to pass a law prohibiting the Syrian woman from emigrating to America’

6. The Stranger in the West by Mikha’il Rustum Shuwayri, 1895

Section Three: Identity and Americanization

1. The Book of the Description of Kingdoms by Idwar Ilyas, 1876

2. History of the United States since its discovery until present times, followed by the history of Syrian emigration and all that pertains to it by Basil M. Kherbawi, 1888

3. The Traveler’s Guidebook: and the history of America by Saj‘an Effendi ‘Arij Sa‘adeh

4. The Syrian Soldier in Three Wars by Jibra’il Ilyas Ward, al-Tarabulsi, 1898

5. ‘The Greatness of America’ by Bulus Effendi al-Khawli, 1905

6. ‘From the Rooftops of New York’ by Ameen Rihani, 1907

7. ‘Syrians in America’ by Yusuf Jirjis Zakham

Section Four: Return

1. Diary of Khalil al-Sakakini: Diary, Letters, Reflections by Khalil al-Sakakini

2. The American Journey by Prince Muhammad ’Ali Pasha, 1912

Bibliography

Index

 

About the Author

Nabil Matar is Presidential Professor and Professor of English, and Adjunct Professor of History and of Religious Studies at the University of Minnesota. He holds the Samuel Russeel Chair in the Humanities at the College of Liberal Arts. He is author, editor and translator of numerous publications, the most recent being An Arab Ambassador in the Mediterranean World (1779-1787) (Routledge, 2015), British Captives in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, 1563-1760 (Brill, 2014) and Henry Stubbe and the Beginnings of Islam (Columbia University Press, 2013).

Reviews


The United States Through Arab Eyes brings together for the first time in English the various Arabic writings of early Arab travellers and emigrants to America. Matar’s masterful translations will enrich classroom offerings across fields, including comparative literature, Arab/American and ethnic studies. This exciting anthology is never more to be desired than at a time when Trump’s America seems more forgetful than ever about its migratory roots/routes.   

- Nouri Gana, University of California

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