In 1960, the Badre family emigrates from Beirut, Lebanon to the United States, a dream come true for fourteen-year-old Nasib.
Nasib struggles to assimilate as a teen in Albany, New York. With limited English skills, he attempts to learn new customs, make friends, and adapt to a different culture. In Beirut, the Badre family was well-known and socially privileged. In America, they are unknown nobodies. Nasib adopts his father’s name “Albert,” and to further Americanize his name, young Albert becomes “Al.”
Despite the many frustrations and difficulties, Al’s ultimate goal is to become a successful American. The new anonymity actually inspires the young man. Excited by the opportunities available to him in his new country, he determines to make a potent contribution to society.
As he strives to adapt, Al reads voraciously, becoming increasingly interested in religion and philosophy. Books become his “American friends,” and reading soon prompts him to ask deep theological questions about his family’s Lebanese Protestant roots, his mother’s conversion to Catholicism, and the contrast between the Protestant and Catholic faiths. This ultimately leads to his Catholic conversion.
Al’s search for meaning in life leads him to social activism among New York City’s poorest. And, in time, to graduate studies, where his desire is to improve the human condition through information technology.
Al Badre– like many other American immigrants–works his way through hardship to achieve a meaningful place in his adopted nation.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Looking West is a memoir about Albert Nasib Badre’s journey as a Lebanese-American immigrant. I was touched by his story and drawn completely in by his storytelling. The relationship factor throughout the story helped me feel kindred with Badre (even though I’ve never left the country much less immigrated).I was drawn in from the first page: “I was home from school for the regular two-hour lunch recess and was wet and hungry; I certainly had no idea this would be a pivotal day in my life. All I cared about at that moment was lunch, the main meal of the day.” My mother sat down with my two older brothers and mea t the table….” Not only did these opening paragraphs seem believable to me, but I could picture myself as a sibling at the table or as the mother, preparing her children for an exciting yet unimaginable change. I immediately related to the family and characters in Looking West and couldn’t help but feel as if I were on the journey with them. Badre is as I said before, is a fabulous storyteller, but his personality also makes this a winning story. His positive attitude from childhood into adulthood drew me to him (as both the author and as the character in the memoir). There are so many examples of this positive vibe, but one that stuck out in particular is chapter 8: “THE FUTURE AND THE PAST ABRUPTLY FADED, REPLACED BY the excitement of the present moment as Ramsey said, ‘Let’s go explore the ship.’” Imagine being a 14 year old boy leaving your country and yet instead of fear or anger, feeling excitement and being drawn to explore with your brothers. As Badre tells this story, he could easily remember the enthusiasm he felt as a teen – this spoke volumes to me about his resilience and overall positive attitude. There wasn’t any point in Looking West where I felt disconnected from the story or family. Badre’s storytelling and overall tone kept me wanting more. I felt connected to the family and vested in a sort of relationship with them. This was an insightful memoir; it drew me in and helped me understand what it was like to be a teen in the 60’s and an American Immigrant. This is a story everyone should read right now as it is sure to spark empathy during this time of political and economic unrest in the world around us.
A great story that took me fluidly from page 1 to the conclusion. The story is filled with colorful images of Lebanon - the people, the culture, the food, the diversity of religions, etc. It would be hard for any of us to leave our own culture behind and adjust to a new one, but for for this teenager it meant making new friends, learning a new language and moving on. The teenage years are hard for most teenagers, but Nasib (Al) has so much family support that he perseveres and takes the bumps. This book is packed with stories we can all relate to, some sad, some humorous, but always enjoyable. I loved this book!