Arab-American Faces and Voices: The Origins of an Immigrant Community

Arab-American Faces and Voices: The Origins of an Immigrant Community

Arab-American Faces and Voices: The Origins of an Immigrant Community

Arab-American Faces and Voices: The Origins of an Immigrant Community

Synopsis

Elizabeth Boosahda, a third-generation Arab American, draws on over 200 personal interviews, as well as photographs and historical documents, to create this understanding look at more than 100 years of the Arab-American community.

Excerpt

The time is right for sharing thoughts about “my people”—Americans of Arab ancestry—the Lebanese, a few Syrians, and fewer Palestinians, predominantly Christian, but a few Druze (a sect in Islam named after Ismail al-Darazi, a religious leader who died in 1019) and fewer Muslim. From 1880 to 1915 they emigrated in small numbers from the Ottoman Empire provinces of Syria and Palestine at the eastern Mediterranean Sea area. Many migrated to North and South America, and the majority settled in New England. Nearly 200 immigrants and a few members of immigrant families told their stories to the author in taped, face-to-face interviews; pre-1920 photographs, most of them from the homes of those interviewed, and documents contemporaneous with their stories give a profile of the daily lives of the immigrants.

This research developed into a study of the origins and history of ArabAmerican communities in North and South America that had roots or links to New England and in particular to Worcester, Massachusetts, a major city in the Northeast where large Arab-American communities were established. Their affinities and patterns of migration and integration into American society usually paralleled those of their counterparts in other Arabic-speaking communities in both North America and South America. Generally, they maintained their Arab culture through food and its presentation, the Arabic language, religion (Christianity and Islam), dance, music, literature, philosophy, poetry, and storytelling. Some enterprising individuals lived and conducted businesses in South America and maintained their New England addresses and businesses that often were operated by the wives.

This book is an effort to document the history of the early immigrants before they die, taking with them firsthand knowledge of their immigrant experience, and to use primary sources before they are lost. The immigrants' anecdotes, told by their eyes as well as their voices, are heartwarming and entertaining and make for enlightened reading. Documenting their . . .

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