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Dinarzad's Children

An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Fiction

Edited by Pauline Kaldas and Khaled Mattawa

Publication Year: 2009

The first edition of Dinarzad’s Children was a groundbreaking and popular anthology that brought to light the growing body of short fiction being written by Arab Americans. This expanded edition includes sixteen new stories —thirty in all—and new voices and is now organized into sections that invite readers to enter the stories from a variety of directions. Here are stories that reveal the initial adjustments of immigrants, the challenges of forming relationships, the political nuances of being Arab American, the vision directed towards homeland, and the ongoing search for balance and identity. The contributors are D. H. Melhem, Mohja Khaf, Rabih Alameddine, Rawi Hage, Laila Halaby, Patricia Sarrafian Ward, Alia Yunis, Diana Abu Jaber, Susan Muaddi Darraj, Samia Serageldin, Alia Yunis, Joseph Geha, May Monsoor Munn, Frances Khirallah Nobel, Nabeel Abraham, Yussef El Guindi, Hedy Habra, Randa Jarrar, Zahie El Kouri, Amal Masri, Sahar Mustafah, Evelyn Shakir, David Williams, Pauline Kaldas, and Khaled Mattawa.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

Our appreciation goes to the University of Arkansas Press, especially Larry Malley for his encouragement and belief in the importance of this book. We are grateful to him for initiating this second edition. Our sincerest thanks goes to everyone who has helped us with creating this anthology: Lisa Suhair Majaj and T. J. Anderson III for their support; ...

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pp. ix-xiv

We have been pleased by the reception of the first edition of Dinarzad’s Children: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Fiction. The book was reviewed in a variety of journals, it received the Silver Award in ForeWord magazine’s Book of the Year Awards, and the response from readers has been consistently positive. When the book was used in the classroom, ...

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pp. xv-xx

In The Thousand and One Nights, Shahrazad saves herself by telling stories to distract her murderous king and husband, Shahrayar. To assure her survival, the legendary narrator asks that her sister Dinarzad accompany her. It is Dinarzad who asks for a story on the first night and on subsequent nights. She says, “Sister, if you are not sleepy, ...

PART I: First Generation

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The New World

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pp. 3-18

It was a small apartment, comprising the second and third stories of the rowhouse; the first level was a flower shop, run by an Italian widow and her spinster daughter. On Siham’s first day in the apartment, they had brought up a coconut custard pie, slightly browned on top. It had also been her first week in America, so they gave her a red rose as well. ...

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pp. 19-26

He paced the airport waiting room, his steps marking a path in the carpet between the rows of seats. At first those sitting down looked up at this man who could not hold his feet still like the rest of them and curb his agitation. After a while, some returned to their own thoughts or families. A few kept their gaze on his coming and going, perhaps to ease their own turmoil. ...

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pp. 27-50

Waiting for my father, I stood by the banister and stared at the living room below. A spherical crystal chandelier hung from the cathedral ceiling down to the lower level. Two-story floor-to-ceiling windows dominated the lower room. Their layers of drapes, as dense and heavy as a theater curtain, the same colors and pattern as the wallpaper, ...

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Easy to Say

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pp. 51-66

The first time Shireen called her husband, Mahmoud, at his food and liquor store, she thought she had misdialed. A rough voice picked up on the other end. . . . “’Five Star,’” it said without a beat. . . . “Mahmoud?” she asked hesitantly. . . . “Who?”. . . “Please—Mahmoud El Ghazi?” . . . “You mean ‘Mike’?”...

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How We Are Bound

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pp. 67-80

Madelaine called her daughter’s name, but Shereen had not yet returned from her errand to the Dairy Mart. The apartment was silent but for the television humming with low voices. Madelaine pressed her knuckles to her eyes, agitated by what she had dreamed. It had been almost an hour since Shereen left, she calculated, because the program had changed. ...

PART II: Cross-Cultural Encounters

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News from Phoenix

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pp. 83-98

After three years in America, Isaac’s mother was still afraid of Jews. Damascus remained fresh in her, the dark evenings huddled with her sisters, fearful and giggling around the brazier while her uncle told stories. He was an archimandrite in the Maronite church, and even now Sofia trembled at the thought of him. His cassock reeked of sweat and incense, ...

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Edge of Rock

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pp. 99-110

This is the last breath of summer, its heat suffocating, weighing her down. Laila is on her knees in her front yard, scraping at earth, when she sees the boy once more loop around in the street on his bicycle. Not more than eleven, she thinks, a small figure of a boy in an odd-looking hat. He reminds her of her son, Omar, when he was that age: a grapevine, ...

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Manar of Hama

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pp. 111-118

The food here is terrible. The meat smells disgusting. There is no real bread, or coffee, or olives, or cheese. They have a nasty yellow kind of cheese and even the milk—Khalid says make cheese yourself if there is no cheese, but even the milk is tasteless. Even the eggs are pale-yolked. I don’t know what they eat in America. I have lost five kilos already in the months since we left Syria. ...

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The Salad Lady: In memory of Eva Elias

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pp. 119-124

I met Sarah at a restaurant. I was the waiter; she, the quiet customer with the soft voice and long gaze that passed through her puffed cigarette smoke, crossed the glass window and always landed on the same spot on the paved sidewalk. She came every Wednesday and ordered the same Greek salad. Whenever she came in, Stavros,the owner, ...

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The Coal Bin

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pp. 125-134

An old man tended the furnace of a tenement house. Each morning and evening he stoked the coal. In exchange for this labor, the Superintendent gave him a tiny stipend and allowed him to live in the cellar bin where the fuel was stored. Since the Super was expected to do all the maintenance and repairs, the arrangement remained private between them. ...

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My Elizabeth

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pp. 135-154

I tipped my forehead to the window and watched as we passed another Indian, black-bronze in the sun, thumb in the air. I was twelve and Uncle Orson was six years older. We’d started our trip in New York City, and I hadn’t paid much attention until about two days in, when we began passing long wings of pivot irrigation and the sky started to look like it had been scoured with saltwater. ...

PART III: Relationships

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Oh, Lebanon

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pp. 157-170

All her growing-up years, the family spent winters in Beirut, her father refusing—war or no war—to be driven from a city as much apart of him as his own breath. And, except for the year a militia camped in their country house, they still spent summers in the mountains. Like many well-off Muslims (and as long as roads were open), her father and stepmother sent their children ...

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And What Else?

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pp. 171-182

Only an hour or so after sunrise it begins getting hot on the street. But it is still quiet, and the faint honk and roar of the traffic farther downtown only adds to the silence and the sense of hush. A boy, who will one day marry an American girl and open his own supermarket with her family’s money, begins sweeping with wide, playful strokes in front of the grocery store. ...

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Stage Directions for an Extended Conversation

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pp. 183-188

The television special shows a scene of female circumcision in an Egyptian village. The voice-over informs viewers of the risks the woman took in bringing in a camera, hiding the camera in the folds of her dress. Time is spent explaining where the small video camera is located in her gallabiyah. The young girl is brought in. The other women are present. The knife. ...

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The Wedding Night

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pp. 189-202

Ten hours after their wedding, Farid and Rima walked toward their suite, really alone for the first time. There was a frozen kind of stillness in the air between them, and the light of the corridor was too bright. It was three o’clock in the morning. Neither of them had said a word since the elevator doors closed behind them. The only sound was the rhythmic ...

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pp. 203-222

Up and down the Lebanese mountain village’s most frequented promenade, summer vacationers linger, an invigorating breeze filtering through thick green layers of pine needles. A caravan of cars patiently wends its way upward, tired faces peering from windows, leaving behind deserted homes and offices, the stifling August air. They have driven around the ...

PART IV: Politics

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Hair, Prayer, and Men

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pp. 225-240

When Jubayna flies, she always says bismallah ar-rahman ar-raheem when she takes off and a whisper of thanks when she lands, though she is not, nor has she ever been, either scared of flying or particularly religious. Nor is she at all scared of terrorists, mostly because she doesn’t believe in them. Not like they’re Santa Claus or the Devil, ...

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pp. 241-250

I hear a bellow, a two-chorused groan coming from the basement; followed by a brief silence like somebody had spliced in white noise; then a trudging up the stairs—heavy footfalls, as I pick the last grape off the stem and throw it in the bowl. I take a swig of beer and ask Candice what we had lost, but Candice doesn’t say anything and heads straight for the bathroom, ...

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Maryam and Marisa

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pp. 251-274

I’d like to set the record straight once and for all about my relationship with Marisa Peters. Though, frankly, full disclosure would not cast me in the most admirable light. Forget celebrity gossip. Through coming to know Marisa, I discovered myself capable of an intimate transgression. Though not in a way anyone would suspect. ...

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It's Not about That

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pp. 275-284

It’s not about that. It was never about that, between us, so when did it become about that? It was never about my being from Egypt and your being American, about our coming from opposite ends of the spectrum on almost every issue. A few months after we met, I wrote to you: “It’s a miracle that we come from worlds so far apart, and met the way we did, ...

PART V: Looking Homeward

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A Day at the Beach

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pp. 287-298

When the dynamite went off at the bakery across the street and blasted the glass off our flat’s balcony door, which overlooked the Mediterranean, Marwan and I were watching the Six Million Dollar Man. It was the episode where he meets Jamie, the Bionic Woman, not that I cared how that turned out. Marwan was only thirteen years old, and at fifteen, ...

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How I Became My Mother's Daughter

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pp. 297-302

“Hold still,” Milouda said. “It’ll only make it worse if you move. ”She squeezed my earlobe between her thumb and forefinger. The needle was new, unused—she’d shown it to my mother when we arrived in her makeshift salon in the old medina of Casablanca. The sound of Arabic music and bicycle bells filtered through the half-open window from the ...

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pp. 303-314

It was becoming harder and harder to get the children to sleep. Mariam needed her rest, and the two little djinns’ unbelievable energy increased at bedtime. And now, she thought, Laura and Kamil are going out more and more often. They went almost nightly to the open-air theaters that abounded in Heliopolis. When Kamil and Laura took the children along, ...

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Sugar in Amman

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pp. 315-324

The moment Mama starts sugaring Auntie Lotfiyeh’s legs, Zayna and I flee to the garden behind the house. Zayna hides under the pergola. She is giggling on her mobile and smoking a Gauloise. The grape vines stretch down from the grid and hide her with their green arms. I am playing hopscotch by myself on the concrete pavers that border our plum trees. ...

PART VI: Shaping Identities

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Lost in Freakin' Yonkers

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pp. 327-340

New York, during the summer of ’96, sees its highest temperatures on record, and it is toward the end of this summer that I sit, my enormous pregnant belly to accompany me, on an 80 percent acrylic, 20 percent wool covered futon. I look over the tag again, and under the materials it says, made in ASU. So I’m sitting on the futon, sweating—we have neither an ...

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He Had Dreamed of Returning

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pp. 341-356

For twenty years, he had imagined his landing back on the earth that had given him birth. He saw himself walking the streets with his head held high and his broad shoulders embracing the world that rightfully belonged to him. People would call him Pasha and Ustaz, and he would find the place he had lost. He was fifteen years old when it was taken away, ...

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First Snow

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pp. 357-366

He reached for the pack of Marlboro Lights that sat among a crowd of magazines. There were empty soda cans and dirty mugs crammed on the coffee table, with a gulf between them where he rested his feet sometimes. He lit a cigarette, his last one, and rolled the pack into a ball; its edges stung his palm as he aimed it at the wastebasket next to the small ...

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The Fifty-Foot Woman

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pp. 367-375

My earliest encounter with a girl my own age occurred in kindergarten. She was playing with a miniature toy house that had caught my fancy. The house consisted of three floors of exposed cross-section. I extended my hand toward the tiny sofa on the second floor. The girl snapped at me. I didn’t understand what she said, but her tone startled me just the same. ...

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The Lebanon-Detroit Express

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pp. 375-378

Whether Detroit was slicked with ice or whether it was Ford-engine hot—like it was today—the Number 33 bus always arrived at exactly 5:12 p.m., without fail. That was precisely eleven minutes behind schedule, according to the DDOT timetable that Ibrahim had memorized and adjusted for reality. As he did every Wednesday and Friday at 5:12 p.m., ...

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The American Way

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pp. 379-392

Mansour Malouf had a nagging wife. On a presser’s salary, she wanted a brocade couch and a chandelier that looked like a shooting star. They already had a daughter with a half-blind eye. Mansour’s wife called their daughter “Linda” in defiance of the expectation that the first girl in two generations and the child they never expected would be named after her grandmother, ...


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pp. 393-400


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pp. 401-404

E-ISBN-13: 9781610751261
E-ISBN-10: 1610751264
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557289124
Print-ISBN-10: 1557289123

Page Count: 380
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • American fiction -- Arab American authors.
  • American fiction -- 20th century.
  • American fiction -- 21st century.
  • Arab Americans -- Fiction.
  • Short stories, American.
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