ONLINE CLASS: MENA: Arab American Authors: Perspectives on America (2132)

Five Fridays: March 26, April 9, 23, May 7, 21, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

$135 (10% off for members)

Here is another series of classes under the main heading of attempting to understand the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) through literature and prose written by its authors, advocates, observers and supporters. This time we will examine literature by Arab American authors who delve into the lives and challenges of new immigrants learning to assimilate and live as Americans while keeping an homage to their roots from Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, etc. We will begin with a discussion of an organization of writers and poets called Al-Rabita Al-Qalimiyya (the Pen League) which celebrated its centennial in 2020. “Fueled by their interests in mysticism, philosophy and spirituality, members of al-Rabita collectively formed the mahjar (diaspora) school that aspired to rethink the form and essence of Arabic literature and language. Their animated literary and artistic world created a home in New York from where they could withstand the potentially pernicious effects of ta’amruk, or Americanization.” (Introductory Essay by Janna Aladdin, PhD student in Modern Middle East and Islamic History) 

Then we will begin to examine the experiences of Moroccans in America via Laila Lalami’s books; Palestinian American authors will share their yearning to belong despite a heart-wrenching departure from their homeland standing in the way; Egyptians, Lebanese, Jordanians and others in America who are exploring language, politics, family, identity, and culture even as they adapt to American culture and build families in a new environment.  

Five Fridays: March 26, April 9, 23, May 7, 21, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Online Class.

Reading Schedule

March 26 – Al-Rabita Al-Qalamiyya (The Pen League) represented by Khalil Gibran (Kahlil Gibran's Little Book of Life) and Laila Lalami (The Other Americans or Conditional Citizens)
April 9 – Naomi Shihab Nye (The Turtle of Oman + poetry) Please note: we will be joined by Naomi Shihab Nye for a Q&A!
April 23 – Etaf Rum (A Woman is No Man) and/or Randa Jarrar (Love is an Ex-Country)
May 7 – Rajia Hassib (A Pure Heart) and/or Pauline Kaldas (Looking Both Ways) and/or The Penguin Book of Migration Literature
May 21 – Anthony Shadid (House of Stone) and/or Diana Abu Jaber (The Language of Baklava)


Required & Suggested Texts:

1. Kahlil Gibran's Little Book of Life, by Kahlil Gibran, Neil Douglas-Klotz (Editor) (9781571748300)


The Other Americans, by Laila Lalami (9780525436034)


Conditional Citizens, by Laila Lalami (9781524747169)

2. The Turtle of Oman, by Naomi Shihab Nye (9780062019783)
+ choice of several poetry books: Honeybee, 19 Varieties of Gazelle, Castaway

3. A Woman Is No Man, by Etaf Rum (9780062699770)


Love Is an Ex-Country, by Randa Jarrar (9781948226585) (Pre-order: Will ship after February 1, 2021)

4. A Pure Heart, by Rajia Hassib (9780525560074)


Looking Both Ways, by Pauline Kaldas (9781614571988)


The Penguin Book of Migration Literature, edited by Dohra Ahmad (9780143133384)

5. House of Stone, by Anthony Shadid (9780544002197)


The Language of Baklava, by Diana Abu Jaber (9781400077762)

Heba F. El-Shazli is an Egyptian-American and an avid lover and reader of literature from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. She is an assistant professor of political science at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Master’s Degree Program at the Center for Democracy and Civil Society. Heba teaches courses on governments and politics of the Middle East and North Africa, Islam and politics, international relations, and the role of civil society and social movements in democratization. She has a Ph.D. in Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG) with a specialization in Governance and International Affairs from Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs and a Master’s degree from Georgetown University. She was the Director of MENA programs at the Solidarity Center (2004-2011) and the Deputy MENA Regional Director at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) from 2001 until 2004. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (

Karen Leggett Abouraya is a journalist and children’s author, winning the 2013 Arab American Book Award and other honors for Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books. She is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Egypt, and with her Egyptian-born husband, chairs the Baltimore Luxor Alexandria Sister City Committee and the Friends of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) Maryland, Virginia, DC. Together they also produce the podcast American Egyptian Women of Influence.  Karen facilitates online conversations between Egyptian and American children and co-hosted a conference on informal education at the BA in 2015.  She reviewed children’s books for the New York Times, is a past president of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C. and has served as a judge for children’s writing contests in Egypt and Montgomery County. She earned her B.A. in international relations from Brown University.

REFUND POLICY: Please note that we can issue class refunds up until seven (7) days before the first class session.

SKU: 9787000008717
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Kahlil Gibran's Little Book of Life Cover Image
ISBN: 9781571748300
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Hampton Roads Publishing - March 1st, 2018

The Other Americans: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525436034
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Vintage - March 17th, 2020

Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America Cover Image
ISBN: 9781524747169
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Pantheon - September 22nd, 2020

The Turtle of Oman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062019783
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Greenwillow Books - May 3rd, 2016

A Woman Is No Man: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062699770
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Harper Perennial - February 4th, 2020

Love Is an Ex-Country Cover Image
ISBN: 9781948226585
Availability: Coming Soon—Pre-Order Now
Published: Catapult - February 2nd, 2021

A Pure Heart: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525560074
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Penguin Books - August 4th, 2020

The Penguin Book of Migration Literature: Departures, Arrivals, Generations, Returns Cover Image
By Dohra Ahmad (Editor), Dohra Ahmad (Introduction by), Edwidge Danticat (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9780143133384
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Penguin Classics - September 17th, 2019

House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East Cover Image
ISBN: 9780544002197
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Mariner Books - February 5th, 2013

The Language of Baklava: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781400077762
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Anchor - March 14th, 2006