"Drinking from Two Seas": Arab Women Writers of the Twentieth Century American Diaspora

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0002-5937-6702
Ujayli, Zaina, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Al-Samman, Hanadi, AS-MidEast & SAsia Lang & Cult, University of Virginia

Within the pages of twentieth century periodicals, the first Arabs to arrive in America debated issues of gender, empire, and assimilation. Many of these periodicals were at first male spaces until Arab women, finding the pages of the male printing presses closed to them, published their own periodicals. Female editors and writers created a press network which connected writers and editors across the world, providing women a platform to debate their issues until male-run printing presses unlocked their doors. Despite their prominence in their time, both the women and the literature they published, have been lost to the public eye. This thesis focuses on overlooked prose fictions by Arab American women published in diaspora periodicals. It finds that, for Arab female diaspora writers, the act of authoring their communities in diaspora was defined by the embattled nationalisms they were living among. The chapters discuss how female Arab diaspora writers used the language of nationalism and patriotism so prevalent in their times to demonstrate the possibility of dynamic and multiple transnational patriotisms. Chapter One explores the role first generation immigrants like Afifa Karam and Sumayeh Attiyeh played as cultural interlocutors between the “Arab East” and “American West” as they argued for women’s rights in both. Chapter Two discusses the efforts of American-born Arabs, notably Labeebee A.J. Hanna and Edna K. Saloomey, to author their communities not only to outsiders, but to themselves, giving us the first stories that offer possibilities of Arab American life.

MA (Master of Arts)
Arab Women, American Literature, Afifa Karam, Edna K. Saloomey, Labeebee A.J. Hanna, Sumayeh Attiyeh , Arab Diaspora , Arab American Literature
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