Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family

( 9 )

Overview

A frank and entertaining memoir—from the daughter of Edward Said—now in paperback.

The daughter of the famous intellectual and outspoken Palestinian advocate Edward Said and a sophisticated Lebanese mother, Najla Said grew up in New York City, confused and conflicted about her cultural background and identity. Said knew that her parents identified deeply with their homelands, but growing up in a Manhattan world that was defined largely by class and conformity, she felt unsure ...

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Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family

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Overview

A frank and entertaining memoir—from the daughter of Edward Said—now in paperback.

The daughter of the famous intellectual and outspoken Palestinian advocate Edward Said and a sophisticated Lebanese mother, Najla Said grew up in New York City, confused and conflicted about her cultural background and identity. Said knew that her parents identified deeply with their homelands, but growing up in a Manhattan world that was defined largely by class and conformity, she felt unsure about who she was supposed to be, and was often in denial of the differences she sensed between her family and those around her. She may have been born a Palestinian Lebanese American, but Said denied her true roots, even to herself—until, ultimately, the psychological toll of her self-hatred began to threaten her health.

As she grew older, she eventually came to see herself, her passions, and her identity more clearly. Today she is a voice for second-generation Arab Americans nationwide.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Said’s aching memoir explores her coming-of-age as a Christian Arab-American on New York’s Upper West Side. Her father, Palestinian-American scholar and human-rights activist Edward Said, was always her “temperamental soul mate”—passionate about art and literature, but not good with practical details—while her Lebanese-American mother managed daily life with aplomb. Said describes feeling divided by her open-minded, heterogeneous neighborhood near Columbia University. Her birth in 1974 coincided with the start of Lebanon’s decades-long civil war and continually exacerbated anxieties about her “otherness.” She relates how the escalating violence and growing anti-Arab sentiment in the U.S. eroded her self-confidence and contributed to an eating disorder. She admits to resenting her parents’ secular-humanist ideals as a child, and her brother’s smoother mix of Arab and American, heightening her feelings of “otherness.” Some readers may find her use of “Daddy” and “Mommy” oddly regressive, but these terms nicely reveal what she really desired from her parents. Empowering experiences like taking acting classes and joining an Arab-American theater group balance unsettling accounts of a harrowing 1992 visit to Gaza and her father’s 2003 death. Her complex persona, self-deprecating humor, and focus on the personal rather than the political broaden the appeal of Said’s book beyond any particular ethnic, cultural, or religious audience. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
In an illuminating memoir, the daughter of Edward Said, the writer, academic and symbol of Palestinian self-determination, explores her complex family history and its role in shaping her identity. The author grappled with her convoluted family tree as a child, but she has grown weary trying to make sense of the conflicting information she has gathered. "I am a Palestinian-Lebanese-American Christian woman, but I grew up as a Jew in New York City. I began my life, however as a WASP," she writes. Said comes from a warm, loving home often populated by visiting literary celebrities such as Lillian Hellman and Cornel West, and she is confused by what others say regarding Arab culture. "I resigned myself to believing that everything people said about my culture was true," she writes, "because it was exhausting and futile to try to convince anyone otherwise." The author was a high achiever attending Princeton, yet she also battled anorexia. Following a family trip to the Middle East, including her father's homeland of Palestine, Said learned more about her family history. Her perspective shifted when she realized how little she knew about conditions in the Middle East, especially Gaza. As for many, Said's life changed following 9/11. To many Americans, the author became part of a group, an Arab-American. Said joined an Arab-American theater group, exploring and enlarging the boundaries of her identity. Following her father's death, the author spent a summer alone in Lebanon. During her visit, she discovered a compelling connection to the land and people and, ultimately, herself. An enlightening, warm, timely coming-of-age story exploring the author's search for identity framed within the confounding maze of America's relationship with the Middle East.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594487088
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/1/2013
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 206,608
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Najla Said has performed off Broadway, regionally and internationally, as well as in film and television. In 2010, Said completed a nine-week sold-out off-Broadway run of her solo show, Palestine, which features some of the material in this book. She lives in New York City.
 

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

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(6)

4 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    I found this book to be truly fascinating. The author's accounts

    I found this book to be truly fascinating. The author's accounts of confusion over cultural differences is well done and truly interesting. I give this book my highest recommendation.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 13, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    This is a well told, very compelling memoir about growing up wit

    This is a well told, very compelling memoir about growing up without a clear vision of ethic identity. The culture battle Najla Said faced is remarkable. Palestine is a testament to survival and personal introspection.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 25, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Looking for Palestine is a five star book. From the first few pa

    Looking for Palestine is a five star book. From the first few pages I was hooked. Najla Said is a wonderfully gifted storyteller. I was fascinated by her story of trying to blend her Middle Eastern heritage with her American upbrining.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2013

    As a Christian Lebanese-American myself (born in Lebanon), and r

    As a Christian Lebanese-American myself (born in Lebanon), and raising three young kids born here in the US, I can totally relate to Najla's parents, and can see my kids' struggles with their identities through her descriptions of how she grew up in New York.
    This is an amazing account of how new immigrant families desperately try to mix the best of both cultures: the good customs they grew up on in the old country, and what they are exposed to in their new life in the USA.
    One thing I feel I did better than Najla's parents is give my kids totally Western names so they can blend in with society around them much easier. However, my Iraqi-Jordanian-American wife and I insist on our kids to speak Lebanese at home, not Arabic :) . We eat our beloved Middle Eastern food at home, and try to expose our American friends to the best of our culture and hospitality.
    This is a wonderful book that truly exposes the challenges of the Christians of the Middle East as they want to hold on to the dear customs of their ancestors, while badly wanting to distance themselves from the extremists that give us a bad name.
    Very eloquently written. Very good read for anyone wanting to understand how good immigrant families give this great country a great deal of welcome diversity.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2013

    An honest and profound account of her life crosscutting cultural

    An honest and profound account of her life crosscutting cultural and national boundaries, overshadowed by illustrious parents and yet reflective of her own talent and individuality.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2013

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews

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