Draft:Remember Me to Lebanon: Stories of Lebanese Women in America

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Remember Me to Lebanon: Stories of Lebanese Women in America
AuthorEvelyn Shakir
CountryUnited States of America
LanguageEnglish
GenreFiction, Short story collection
PublisherSyracuse University Press
Publication date
2007
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages165
ISBN0-8156-0881-0

Remember Me to Lebanon: Stories of Lebanese Women in America is a short story collection from Lebanese-American author Evelyn Shakir that concentrates on the cultural and social challenges by first-generation and second-generation Lebanese women in America. The stories range from multiple backgrounds of Lebanese heritage, from Christian to Muslim, and reflects a sense of nostalgia among the backdrop of community belonging and human connection.

Remember Me to Lebanon: Stories of Lebanese Women in America was the recipient of the 2008 Arab American Book Award for adult fiction.[1][2]

Background[edit]

The preface Remember Me to Lebanon touches on the two waves of Arab-speaking immigrants arriving into America. The first wave was from 1876 to 1920's, where most of the migrants were Christian peasants from Mount Lebanon (then part of the Ottoman Empire) and found work in mills and factories around Chicago and St. Louis. The second wave came after World War II and the liberal immigration policies of the 1960's. This second wave brought both Muslim and Christian societies with a broad range of backgrounds - from students of privilege to escaping civil war - and saw that these generations were able to successfully merge with the first generation.

Contents[edit]

Story Originally published in
"The Story of Young Ali" Baltimore Review
"Oh, Lebanon" Flyway[3]
"Remember Vaughn Monroe?" Post Gibran: Anthology of New Arab American Writing
"Power Play" Knight Literary Journal
"Name Calling" "Any Other Name" in Red Cedar Review
"Not Like Today" Original
"The Trial" Original
"House Calls" Original
"I Got My Eye on You" Original
"Let's Dance" Original

Synopsis[edit]

The Story of Young Ali[edit]

Rima, a college-aged woman, is a second-generation Arab living with her first-generation parents. Rima is raised within the traditional protocols of family etiquette, as she watches her mother obediently complete various demands of the father. One day, her father reads her the story of Young Ali and focuses on how the character would ignore his temptation for jewels in order to pay attention to the Sheikh, and the father relates the themes of Young Ali to his own life, detailing to his daughter how he sacrificed a chance for a better education by giving it to his brother instead, as according to social customs. Rima portrays her impertinence to her father's decision, saying that he should not have given the chance to his brother. Angered, the father blames the mother for Rima's behavior and demands respect. Rima realizes that people in her generation have been dishonest, and ask her father to finish the story of Young Ali, engaged with the essence of nobility.

Oh, Lebanon[edit]

Born to a well-off Muslim family during the Lebanese Civil War, a young girl finds her wish to escape by being accepted to Wellesley College. She develops relationships with various men who her family disapprove of, and though she finds satisfaction from these men, she becomes challenged with depression, feeling as if none of the men have connected with her the way she's understood. She enters a dating agency and is connected to an Americanized Lebanese man. She's worried that he's superficial in his desires, but during an intimate conversation with the man, she's reminded about her cousin Fawzi, who died while trying to cross the borders of Lebanon in order to connect with a girl he loved. They are both reminded about the fragility of life and the opportunity of America, and they begin to learn Arabic together, he learning as an American, her as the teacher, but both nonetheless from Lebanon.

Power Play[edit]

The story jumps from woman-to-woman as they play a game for relationships. Each woman one-ups through marriage and relationships in order to attain some power in the game of etiquette.

Name Calling[edit]

Dolores is married in accordance to her familial customs, arranged to a man whom she didn't develop an initial relationship with. Various people begin assigning her names, such as Dolly, and she feels that every names demeans her own personality. She watches her daughter get her ears pierced and begins reading American magazines, seeing that the women in America appear to be happy because of their beauty. Envious of their portrayed happiness, Dolores attempts to emulate them and becomes dissatisfied with the actual results. She decides, then, that she would never let others control her name, and that it only belongs to her.

Not Like Today[edit]

Julia, a young mother, visits her family to cook food and talk about life. Their conversations leads into a sense of nostalgia about Lebanon and their grandmother, discussing her stubbornness that is reflective on each woman's personality. They disparage the grandmother's fallacies, and Julia believes that she is in a more progressive state as compared to the old country. When Julia heads back home, she sees her daughter teasing her boyfriend, and realizes that there is so much to learn, despite having lived through different generations.

The Trial[edit]

Sadie, a young woman transitioning through a city, is approached by another woman, Lilian, who speaks to her in Arabic and claims to know her family. As per cultural etiquette, Sadie must appease Lilian despite her feeling uncomfortable with the interaction. Lilian's aggressive makes Sadie feel that she would be giving up aspects of her independence, and that by holding up to cultural protocols, she would be subscribing to the future challenges of tradition. Sadie abandons the woman's requests and manages to find comfort with her family.

House Calls[edit]

Aunt Aggie has passed away and has begun visiting her second-generation family members as a spirit. Each family member is going through a specific challenge, but Aunt Aggie encourages them to stay connected and reminds them that as her aunt, she is responsible for their love and well-being. Despite the family member's awareness of Aunt Aggie's spirit, however, they begin to see her as a nuisance, and start to exclude her memory from their own lives. Each family member uses a different way to abandon their memory of their past, with the most significant being Father Michael, who reads Aggie's Arabic letters dating back to the 1900's and slowly begins throwing them away. As the past of Lebanon and Aunt Aggie begins to be pushed away, she slowly finds herself in her dream paradise, left with very little to enjoy, only wanting more color and more to enjoy.

I Got My Eye on You[edit]

Carol Fadda-Conrey writes that "I Got My Eye on You" discusses September 11 attacks.[4] The story features an older woman who lives by herself and gathers most of her knowledge through the media, even making it a personal hobby to observe the people around her with suspicion. Once the 9/11 attacks occurred, she gathered an increase hate for Arabs and Muslims. Her neighbor, Sissie, brings her new boyfriend, Mohammad, to meet the people of the neighborhood. The old woman grows weary of Mohammad and demands that he is removed from the restroom, believing that he is leaving bad luck inside her home. Mohammad grows a dislike for the old woman, and gradually begins to challenge the woman for "cursing" him. When the old woman observed what was possibly an argument at Sissie's house, she decided to call 9-11, and the police informed her that they would keep an eye on the neighborhood at her request. The old woman stares out her window and sees Mohammad staring back, observing his family laughing and enjoying food, while she remains trapped in her own suspicions.

Let's Dance[edit]

A story about generational change and the challenge new Arabs face in America. Despite second-generation Arabs looking to adapt to their new environment by dating men who are not from their own culture, they try to find the good in life and similarities with one another. Nadia, a young Lebanese woman, is dating a Jewish man and introduces him to her family. They end up breaking bread, drinking Arak, and eventually, dancing with the older generation. When Nadia returns home, she passes a photo given to her by her grandfather, an image that shows her dancing and smiling with the older generation, a memento that captures a moment where people are united in happiness.

Major themes[edit]

Generational Relativism[edit]

Nostalgia[edit]

Post-Lebanese Civil War[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Marquard, Bryan (June 2, 2010). "Evelyn Shakir; Bentley professor wrote about Arab-American experience; at 71". Boston Globe (Obituary). p. B14.
  2. ^ "2008 Book Award Winners". www.arabamericanmuseum.org. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
  3. ^ "About the Contributors". Red Cedar Review. 38 (1): 109–111. 2003. doi:10.1353/rcr.2013.0031. ISSN 1554-6721.
  4. ^ Fadda-Conrey, Carol (Fall 2011). "Arab American Citizenship in Crisis: Destabilizing Representations of Arabs and Muslims in the US after 9/11". Modern Fiction Studies. 57 (3): 550. JSTOR 26287213.

Remember me to Lebanon review[edit]