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Talking Through the Door

An Anthology of Contemporary Middle Eastern American Writing

edited by Susan Atefat-Peckham

Publication Year: 2014

The writers included here are descendants of multiple cultural heritages and reflect the perspectives of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds: Egyptian, Iranian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, Libyan, Palestinian, Syrian. They are from diverse socioeconomic classes and spiritual sensibilities: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and atheist, among others. Yet they coexist in this volume as simply American voices. Atefat-Peckham gathered poetry and prose from sixteen accomplished writers whose works concern a variety of themes: from the familial cross– cultural misunderstandings and conflicts in the works of Iranian American writers Nahid Rachlin and Roger Sedarat to the mysticism of Khaled Mattawa‘ s poems; from the superstitions that govern characters in Diana Abu- Jaber‘s prose to the devastating homesickness in Pauline Kaldas‘s characters. Filled with emotion and keen observations, this collection showcases these writers‘ vital contributions to contemporary American literature.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-xii

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Foreword

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pp. xiii-xviii

At the end of the 1990s , when the late Susan Atefat-Peckham began working on this collection, Middle Eastern American literature was gaining increasing visibility on the American cultural landscape. Although early in the twentieth century authors of Arab and Muslim background were publishing work in both English and Arabic, by midcentury authors writing specifically from, and of, Middle...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiv-xxviii

I have worked sporadically on this project since 1998 and owe grateful acknowledgment to many family members, friends, colleagues, and publishers.
My gratitude to all of the writers included, and to the many more in our vibrant literary community, for their patience and kindness, especially to Elmaz Abinader, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Gregory Orfalea, for their help in contacting others....

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Introduction

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pp. 1-20

It was not the first time that , as an Iranian American student in the late 1990s at a large Midwestern state university, I encountered confusion regarding the classification of my heritage. The University of Nebraska’s renowned museum of natural history was exhibiting Persian tiles from the Abbasid period in its Center for Asian Culture. To the right of the display, a map confirmed in bold color what the ...

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Elmaz Abinader

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pp. 21-48

Mayme tucks her dress beneath her thin legs and sits down. The other passengers on the ship around her scrape tin spoons across metal plates. She slowly rubs the left side of her face and closes her eyes. Now she can think. People have stopped moving around; she has stopped moving around. Although she needs food, she does not want to eat. She prefers to sit, to let her back curve in a posture she ...

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Diana Abu-Jaber

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pp. 49-54

During the afternoon stillness when the heat concentrates in the air and the palm trees turn to glass, Sirine is sitting with Um- Nadia in the back kitchen when the phone rings. Um-Nadia picks it up and Sirine can tell by the way she says, “Yes? Oh ho. Oh no, you bad man—yes, yes, you bad thing—no, no, you are, you bad, extra naughty . . .” that she’s talking to Odah the Turkish butcher who’s...

Susan Atefat - Peckham

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pp. 55-62

Joseph Awad

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pp. 63-72

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Barbara Bedway

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pp. 73-94

Mashaya ruins the night for everyone, both aunts say it has to stop. After dinner they find her sitting on our bed already in her nightgown, dark circles under wide green eyes. Aunt Philamena says tell us, habibti, what do you see? Tree shadows? Branches against the windowpane?...

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Joseph Geha

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pp. 95-118

“You’re not from around here, are you.”
The man had put it like a statement, but I recognize the question that was being implied. By that time, having lived “around here” for over a dozen years, I also knew that if I didn’t answer as expected, I’d be leaving the door open for the outright questions that were certain to follow:...

Samuel Hazo

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pp. 119-124

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Joe Kadi

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pp. 125-144

Hunched over on a small chair in the library’s corner, I’m invisible in my physical surroundings and on the pages I’m devouring. It’s my usual Saturday morning extravaganza—read until nauseated, stagger back to the house with an armful of books, snatch every free moment during the week, dive in....

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Pauline Kaldas

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pp. 145-166

The oil splattered as she slipped another falafel patty into the frying pan. One drop stung her cheek and she brushed the pricking sensation by rubbing her shoulder against it. Faten was almost finished. The stuffed cabbage was done, the vegetable tagen needed just a few more minutes in the oven, and the spinach phyllo triangles were all set on the counter. Once she fried the rest of the falafel, she would be able to pack up and go to the next house....

Jack Marshall

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pp. 167-174

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Khaled Mattawa

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pp. 175-180

God made souls in the shapes of spheres then cut them into halves. And when God made the body he placed only half of a sphere within it. That is why we are born without speech, weak and defenseless. And that is why a child is curious, attaching itself to all that may fill the gap in its chest. In adulthood, the person that finds the other containing the other half of his soul develops an attachment based on that old splitting occasion....

D. H. Melhem

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pp. 181-190

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Eugene P. Nassar

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pp. 191-212

The house was in deep shadow though it was noon. The wind had whipped up through the elm trees, the clouds were pushing fast and wild on the black sky and Mintaha could hardly hold herself up. As she wrestled with flapping sheets and clothespins in her apron pockets she hoped the rain would not come. The neighborhood was somber though it had been in bright sunshine two hours before....

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Naomi Shihab Nye

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pp. 213-226

What can a yellow glove mean in a world of motorcars and governments?
I was small, like everyone. Life was a string of precautions: Don’t kiss the squirrel before you bury him, don’t suck candy, pop balloons, drop watermelons, watch TV. When the new gloves appeared one Christmas, tucked in soft tissue, I heard it trailing me: Don’t lose the yellow gloves....

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Nahid Rachlin

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pp. 227-236

Even after a week Mohtaram could not believe that her sister, Maryam, was really with her in the living room of her house. But there she was, her polka dot chador wrapped around her, and sitting in a patch of sunlight on the rug to warm her legs, although it was late May and the temperature hovered around seventy-five. The house too had marks of Maryam’s presence. The gifts she had...

Roger Sedarat

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pp. 237-240

Contributors

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pp. 241-244

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780815652601
E-ISBN-10: 0815652607
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815633471
Print-ISBN-10: 0815633475

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Arab American Writing
Series Editor Byline: N/A

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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- Arab American authors.
  • American literature -- Iranian American authors.
  • American literature -- 20th century.
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