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

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

by Najla Said

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594632754
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/02/2014
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 1,081,832
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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.
 

What People are Saying About This

Hanan Al-Shaykh

In this account of her search for identity and heritage, Najla Said has achieved something remarkable. Looking for Palestine is Said's powerful story of learning to rescue her own stranded self, with the help of her wise and loving parents.—Hanan Al-Shaykh, author of The Story of Zahra

Moustafa Bayoumi

A deeply penetrating, often hilarious, and occasionally devastating account of growing up Arab American. Of course, Najla Said's scramble for her identity is uniquely hers. How many of us, after all, have had world-famous intellectuals as fathers, experienced the civil war in Lebanon first hand, and been kissed on the cheek by Yasir Arafat (which she hated)? But after finally finding the conviction to be at peace with herself, Najla Said has written more than a memoir. Looking for Palestine is a survivor's guide for all of us who live with that feeling of being out of place wherever we are.—Moustafa Bayoumi, author of How Does it Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America

Professor Cornell West

Najla Said's Looking for Palestine is a compassionate and candid book on her courageous coming-of-age in contemporary America. Said is a brilliant, talented and sensitive artist with a larger-than-life, loving father.—Professor Cornell West

From the Publisher

"The scholar Edward Said was born in Jerusalem when it was Palestine under the British Mandate, immigrated to the U.S., was baptized an Episcopalian, supported Palestinian independence, married a Lebanese Quaker, and became a prominent professor at Columbia University. No wonder his daughter, Najla, was conflicted about her identity. If Edward’s Orientalism provides the intellectual framework for understanding postcolonialism, Najla’s memoir, Looking for Palestine, is the other side of the coin, as those same complex forces tug her life in multiple directions while she tries to understand who she is."—Daily Beast

"In her engaging memoir, Looking for Palestine, Najla Said explores the cultural confusions of growing up Arab-American in the1970s and '80s New York City."—Elle

“What proves substantive and memorable about this book . . is the author's exploration of her relationship with her family and her social surroundings. . . . her snapshots of personal interaction with her father and their sometimes droll exchanges give the book an undeniably warm and intimate feel.”—San Francisco Chronicle

"Said's aching memoir explores her coming-of-age as a Christian Arab-American on New York's Upper West Side. . . . [Said's] complex persona, self-deprecationg 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."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"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. . . . 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."—Kirkus

“It can be a difficult story to tell: that of one's discontent in the midst of privilege. And yet with great skill, humor, and poignancy, Ms. Said accomplishes just that. In the end, she is her late father's great inheritor, ever-journeying toward that elusive home.”—Alica Erian, author of Towelhead

“Najla Said’s Looking for Palestine is a compassionate and candid book on her courageous coming-of-age in contemporary America. Said is a brilliant, talented and sensitive artist with a larger-than-life, loving father.”—Professor Cornel West

“A deeply penetrating, often hilarious, and occasionally devastating account of growing up Arab American. Of course, Najla Said’s scramble for her identity is uniquely hers. How many of us, after all, have had world-famous intellectuals as fathers, experienced the civil war in Lebanon first hand, and been kissed on the cheek by Yasir Arafat (which she hated)? But after finally finding the conviction to be at peace with herself, Najla Said has written more than a memoir. Looking for Palestine is a survivor’s guide for all of us who live with that feeling of being out of place wherever we are.”—Moustafa Bayoumi, author of How Does it Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America

“Thoughtful, searching, and open-eyed, Looking for Palestine takes readers on a journey into an Arab-American girl’s search for identity. The joy and pain of growing up in the long shadow of a brilliant parent, the struggle for meaning and belonging, and the painful dispossession of the Palestinians are all treated with tender care as Najla Said gives us a haunting and singular life story.”—Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent

author of Towelhead - Alica Erian

It can be a difficult story to tell: that of one's discontent in the midst of privilege. And yet with great skill, humor, and poignancy, Ms. Said accomplishes just that. In the end, she is her late father's great inheritor, ever-journeying toward that elusive home.

Diana Abu-Jaber

Thoughtful, searching, and open-eyed, Looking for Palestine takes readers on a journey into an Arab-American girl's search for identity. The joy and pain of growing up in the long shadow of a brilliant parent, the struggle for meaning and belonging, and the painful dispossession of the Palestinians are all treated with tender care as Najla Said gives us a haunting and singular life story.—Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent

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Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
WhisperGant More than 1 year ago
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.
Flymaster More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
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