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Contemporary Literature of the Immigrant Experience in the United States: Middle East/North Africa


“America wasn’t like that. You became what you coveted. Memories were short. She met Mexicans, Germans, Libyans, who spoke accented English but responded, From here, whenever asked. Souad became brown. People’s eyes glazed over when she tried to explain that, yes, she’d lived in Kuwait, but no, she wasn’t Kuwaiti, and no, she had never been to Palestine, but yes, she was Palestinian. That kind of circuitous logic had no place over there.” 

-- Hala Ayan, Salt Houses

Recommended Literature

Relevant Publications & Organizations

Al Jadid

Founded in 1995, Al Jadid is a print and online journal dedicated to covering the Arab world and Arab America. With contributors from both the United States and the Arab world, it publishes, both in English and in translation, essays, features, and interviews, as well as coverage of books, poetry, film, art, music, dance, and theater.

Middle East Institute

Founded in 1946, the Middle East Institute is a nonprofit think tank based in Washington, D.C., devoted to increasing Americans' knowledge of the Middle East and promoting understanding between people of the United States and the Middle East. The organization offers expert policy analysis, educational and professional development services, and a hub for engaging with the region's arts and culture. Its website contains information on its activities and lists upcoming events. The Middle East Institute also publishes The Middle East Journal in print and online.

The Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI)

Established in 1993, RAWI is a nonprofit literary organization that provides mentoring, community, and support for creative and scholarly Arab American writers and those with roots in the Arabic-speaking world and the diaspora. Its website provides information on its yearly conference as well as the various workshops it hosts.


Mizna is a Twin Cities–based nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting contemporary expressions of Arab American culture. It has published the print literary journal Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America, since 1999. It also produces the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival and hosts readings, performances, art projects, and community events. Its website provides information on these activities and on its journal.

Arab American National Museum (AANM)

This museum in Dearborn, Michigan, is devoted to documenting, preserving, and presenting Arab American history and culture. It also presents yearly Arab American Book Awards.

Relevant Books & Articles

Majaj, L. S. (2008). Arab-American literature: origins and developments. American Studies Journal, 52. doi: 10.18422/52-0

Marchi, L. (2014). Ghosts, Guests, Hosts: Rethinking "Illegal" Migration and Hospitality Through Arab Diasporic Literature. Comparative Literature Studies, 51(4), 603–626.

Immigrant Writers Respond to Trump, San Francisco Public Library, 2017

Hala Alyan at TEDxBrooklyn, 2013