Arab American Literature in the Ethnic Borderland: Cultural Intersections in Diana Abu-Jaber's Crescent

By Fadda-Conrey, Carol | MELUS, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Arab American Literature in the Ethnic Borderland: Cultural Intersections in Diana Abu-Jaber's Crescent


Fadda-Conrey, Carol, MELUS


Critical inquiries into Arab American literary studies have often questioned the relative absence of this community from the ethnic canon, with feminist writers like Joanna Kadi describing Arab Americans as "the Most Invisible of the Invisibles" (xix). Such a statement situates this community vis-a-vis other ethnic groups in terms of a discourse of invisibility that, although varying between one group and another, still acts as a common ethnic marker. The isolated enclaves that ethnic groups in the US occupy, however, separate them not only from a hegemonic center, but more importantly from each other. This essay shows the ways in which author Diana Abu-Jaber contributes in her second novel, Crescent (2003), to the inclusion of works by and about Arab Americans in the ethnic studies category, suggesting ways to bridge the barriers separating Arab Americans from other ethnic minorities. Proceeding with an overview of Arab Americans' position in the US, followed by a discussion of borderlands in ethnic studies, this essay will then shift to an analysis of Crescent, carving out in the process a space for Arab American literature in what I will refer to as the ethnic borderland: a constructive space in which interethnic ties between and within different communities of color could be established and maintained.

The term ethnic borderland draws upon Gloria Anzaldua's definition of "[b]orderlands [as being] physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different cultures occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy" (Borderlands 19). Abu-Jaber's Crescent situates Arab American literature in the ethnic borderland while also embodying, on a small scale, such a ,borderland. The novel features various intersecting cultures and maps different minority groups (including Arabs, Arab Americans, Turks, Latinos, and Iranians) that occupy the same geographical and ethnic space. The setting of the novel, which takes place in a part of Los Angeles referred to as "Teherangeles" due to the large number of Iranians living there, gives form to the novel's borderland. Thus, by creating (through literature) a borderland of ethnic intersections, Abu-Jaber exemplifies a necessary addition to the multiplicity of borderlands that Anzaldua points out in Borderlands/La Frontera, including "[t]he psychological borderlands, the sexual borderlands and the spiritual borderlands [in addition to the geographical ones]" (19). In fact, the ethnic borderland includes all of the aforementioned ones, placing them in dialogue so that they ultimately transform and influence each other.

Positioning Arab American literature within the ethnic borderland, however, necessitates first the delineation of the Arab American community's current ethnic/racial categorization in the US. Rendering visible these ethnic and racial markers that draw the dividing lines between Arab Americans and other ethnic communities is the first step toward making them pliable.

Plagued by Whiteness: The Dubious Position of Arab Americans in the US

The Arab American community currently faces a quandary in terms of its racial classification. With the US Census Bureau situating it within the "white" category, this group has no legal position within the spectrum of minority cultures from which it can legally articulate its communal concerns about discrimination. These ambiguous racial positions drive the likes of Helen Samhan, Executive Director of the Arab American Institute, to state that the current federal white categorization of Arab Americans from the Middle East and North Africa within the "white 'majority' context" does not resolve confusions regarding their racial status (219).

Arab immigration to the US is characteristically divided into three phases: the first one extending from 1885 to 1945, the second from 1945 to 1967, and the third from 1967 to the present (Naber 1). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Arab American Literature in the Ethnic Borderland: Cultural Intersections in Diana Abu-Jaber's Crescent
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.