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All American Yemeni Girls

Being Muslim in a Public School

By Loukia K. Sarroub

Publication Year: 2013

Based on more than two years of fieldwork conducted in a Yemeni community in southeastern Michigan, this unique study examines Yemeni American girls' attempts to construct and make sense of their identities as Yemenis, Muslims, Americans, daughters of immigrants, teenagers, and high school students. All American Yemeni Girls contributes substantially to our understanding of the impact of religion on students attending public schools and the intersecting roles school and religion play in the lives of Yemeni students and their families. Providing a valuable background on the history of Yemen and the migration of Yemeni people to the United States, this is an eye-opening account of a group of people we hear about every day but about whom we know very little.

Through a series of intensive interviews and field observations, Loukia K. Sarroub discovered that the young Muslim women shared moments of optimism and desperation and struggled to reconcile the America they experienced at school with the Yemeni lives they knew at home. Most significant, Sarroub found that they often perceived themselves as failing at being both American and Yemeni. Offering a distinctive analysis of the ways ethnicity, culture, gender, and socioeconomic status complicate lives, Sarroub examines how these students view their roles within American and Yemeni societies, between institutions such as the school and the family, between ethnic and Islamic visions of success in the United States. Sarroub argues that public schools serve as a site of liberation and reservoir of contested hope for students and teachers questioning competing religious and cultural pressures. The final chapter offers a rich and important discussion of how conditions in the United States encourage the rise of extremism and allow it to flourish, raising pressing questions about the role of public education in the post-September 11 world.

All American Yemeni Girls offers a fine-grained and compelling portrait of these young Muslim women and their endeavors to succeed in American society, and it brings us closer to understanding an oft-cited but little researched population.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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1. Introduction: Being American, Being Yemeni: Uncovering a Predicament

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pp. 1-20

...Except for her face and hands, Saba’s body was completely covered as she sat across from me, explaining how difficult it is to construct an identity that makes sense in the American and Yemeni Muslim worlds she inhabits. This was not the first of our conversations on this topic, but it was the most emotional. Saba was tired, emotionally stressed to a breaking point, and...

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2. American Sojourners Between Honor and Shame

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pp. 21-45

...There exists a strong relationship between the Yemeni American students and their land of origin. Layla, for instance, and the other hijabat and their families are sojourners, with one foot in the United States and the other in Yemen. This connection between their country of origin and their home in the United Statesis key to understanding...

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3. Classroom as Oasis

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pp. 46-58

...welcome relief as from difficulty or dullness.’’ Unlike the hallways or cafeteria at Cobb High, the classroom offered the Yemeni American students, boys and girls alike, a sanctuary from social and cultural norms, a place unlike any other space. Within the school setting, and foremost among the girls’ dispositions toward school and social life, was their worry of perception—how they were...

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4. Islam and Conflicting Visions of Literacy

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pp. 59-83

...negotiating home and school worlds. As I mentioned earlier, home and school worlds mean the various institutional, cultural, familial, and linguistic relationships these girls had in spaces that are normatively construed as home and school. Home and school spaces often overlapped one another and were inherently related, therefore...

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5. The Tensions Teachers Face: Public Education and Islam

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pp. 84-109

...The growing population of Yemeni students at Cobb High led teachers and administrators to carefully consider the dilemmas of cultural pluralism within their school. In particular, it led them to struggle with the issue of accommodating the cultural traditions of Muslim students in general and Yemeni Muslim students in particular. Both at organizational and personal levels, high school...

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6. From Aspiration to Desperation and Living in Ambiguity

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pp. 110-119

...and uneventful, no matter how successful they were academically or in maintaining their cultural and religious norms. All of the high school girls I shadowed—Nadya, Nouria, Saba, Amani, Aisha, and Layla— regarded their futures with trepidation, uncertain if they would be able to realize their dreams and goals. The...

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7. Living Ethnography: Reflections on Dearborn Before and After September 11

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pp. 120-138

...girls said they had never been there nor had they had the opportunity to eat Italian American food. As we sampled the calamari, spinach dip, and various pasta dishes, the conversation ebbed and flowed around topics familiar to all of us: weddings in Yemen, Hollywood films, and school gossip. At the end of dinner, I gave each of the girls an empty journal as a gift and a pretty scarf to Mrs. Dunbar...


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pp. 139-144


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pp. 145-152


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pp. 153-156

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pp. 157-158

...The writing of this book was not a solitary activity. Long before there was a manuscript, a group of people greatly influenced my thinking. Michael Silverstein and Karen Landahl taught me to question critically how people make sense of their lives through language and culture. Gerald Graff and Philip Jackson inspired me to make the intellectual leap from theoretical linguistics and cultural...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812290233
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812218947

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Yemeni Americans -- Michigan -- Dearborn -- Social conditions.
  • Yemeni Americans -- Michigan -- Dearborn -- Ethnic identity.
  • Yemeni Americans -- Education -- Michigan -- Dearborn.
  • Muslims -- Michigan -- Dearborn -- Social conditions.
  • Teenage girls -- Michigan -- Dearborn -- Social conditions.
  • High school students -- Michigan -- Dearborn -- Social conditions.
  • Dearborn (Mich.) -- Ethnic relations.
  • Public schools -- Social aspects -- Michigan -- Dearborn.
  • Education -- Social aspects -- Michigan -- Dearborn.
  • United States -- Ethnic relations -- Case studies.
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