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Santa Claus in Baghdad and Other Stories about Teens in the Arab World

Elsa Marston

Publication Year: 2008

What is it like to be a young person in the Arab world today? This lively collection of eight short stories about Arab teenagers living in Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and a Palestinian refugee camp engagingly depicts young people's experiences growing up in the Middle East. The characters, drawn from urban and rural settings and from different classes as well as a mix of countries, confront situations involving friends, family, teachers, and society at large. Along with some specifically Middle Eastern issues, such as strife in Iraq, the hardships of life in a Palestinian refugee camp, and honor crimes, the young people deal with more familiar concerns such as loyalty to friends, overcoming personal insecurities, dreams of a future career, and coping with divorcing parents. Coming of age in a complicated world, they meet life with courage, determination, and, not least of all, humor. With accompanying notes that provide contextual information, Santa Claus in Baghdad brings a fresh perspective to youth literature about the Arab world.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

What is it like, growing up in the Arab world today? Is life there as dangerous and difficult as it looks in our newspapers and on television? For some teenagers, in places of unusual tension and conflict, yes. But the lives of others will seem quite familiar to you, teachers who care about their students, the chance to grow and to ...

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pp. xi-xii

Although I have lived in or visited all the places described in these stories, the help of several friends in the Middle East and the United States was indispensable in bringing them to life. For an accurate description of Baghdad in 2000, I wish to thank again my Iraqi friends, Khadim Shaaban (“Uncle Omar”) of Bloomington, Indi-...

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1. Santa Claus in Baghdad: A story from Iraq (2000): Do the best gifts always have to come at a high price?

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pp. 1-30

Amal listened gloomily to the little speech that Mr. Kareem had prepared. He spoke in a halting fashion, almost as though he were making an apology, but clearly he was as happy as a bird. “And I know,” he concluded, “that my students will greet their new teacher with respect and helpfulness, and will show how well Mr. Kareem has taught them about our glorious literary heritage.” He laughed awkwardly at his little joke, and some of the girls responded with polite smiles...

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2. Faces: A story from Syria: How can you try to make someone else happy when your own world is coming apart?

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pp. 31-48

Shifting uneasily on the velvet-cushioned divan, Suhayl surveyed the grand reception room. This was his first visit to the Turkish bath, a treat from his father. Upon his arrival he had been awed by the ancient building with its floors of colored tiles, the marble fountain, and peacocks painted on the walls—almost like a palace, he thought, where wonderful things might happen. As for the bath part, in some mysterious inner chambers he’d taken a good hot shower and then...

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3. The Hand of Fatima: A story from Lebanon: Which comes first—loyalty to others or faith in your own dreams?

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pp. 49-68

Aneesi paused outside the dining room. She had spent the long, hot summer morning helping Sitt Zeina prepare a lavish lunch, had waited on the guests without a single slip, and had just finished clearing the dessert dishes. She was tired and hungry, and her plastic sandals chafed from so much running back and forth. All she wanted right now was to sit down in the kitchen and enjoy the leftovers...

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4. The Olive Grove: A story from Palestine: Just how do you choose your battles?

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pp. 69-90

Hustling along behind the other boys, Mujahhid stooped to grab a stone, then quickly caught up. About halfway across the open square they stopped. Right next to the military checkpoint was a two-story stone house that the Israelis had taken over. The boys could see the olive-drab helmets of soldiers behind sandbags on the flat rooftop...

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5. In Line: A story from Egypt: Will a city girl ever feel quite at home in a farming village?

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pp. 91-112

Halfway home from school, on a lovely clear day in December, I did something really daring. I decided to change my route. Not much, of course, because my mother knew exactly how long it took me to get home and she would be waiting. I just thought it would be nice to walk along the canal a bit and pretend it was the Nile. That’s how it happened I ran into Fayza...

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6. Scenes in a Roman Theater: A story from Tunisia: Do you have to wait for the story of your life to change—or can you help to tell it yourself?

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pp. 113-128

With a sigh, Hedi plunked himself down on a stone seat in the Roman theater. As the last of the afternoon’s tourists straggled off and disappeared among the ancient walls, he stared dully at the grand view of the ruins and the green hills of the Tunisian countryside beyond...

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7. Honor: A story from Jordan: Whose honor is at stake when a girl breaks the rules?

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pp. 129-160

Yasmine speaks . . .I was not exactly thrilled when the biology teacher teamed me up with Wafa Ar-Rahman. We’d be working in pairs, she said, when we started cutting things up—a learning experience I really did not look forward to one bit. And now I had to do it with Wafa. Not that she was obnoxious or stupid, but she was new in school, and so conservative and quiet and shy that she really sort of stuck out...

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8. The Plan: A story from a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon: Can the spring flowers bloom—and love blossom—where hope is so scarce?

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pp. 161-181

The moment the new art teacher walked into Rami’s classroom, he and every other boy bounced up straight in their seats. With her cheerful smile and green eyes, her shiny brown hair and pink smock that said “You Gotta Have Art,” she looked like all the flowers of springtime...


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pp. 183-198

E-ISBN-13: 9780253000323
E-ISBN-10: 0253000327
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253220042

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2008