Hyphenated Identities and Border Crossings in Contemporary Literature by Arab American Women

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 1-1-2005


Campus Only

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Magali Cornier Michael

Committee Member

Kathy Glass

Committee Member

Linda A. Kinnahan


Arab Women, Arab Women and Diaspora, Border Crossings, Displacement and Hyphenated Identities, Muslim Women in America, Resistance and Arab Americans


This project focuses on Leila Ahmed's A Border Passage (1999), Mohja Kahf's Emails from Scheherazad (2003), Laila Halaby's West of the Jordan (2003), and Diana Abu-Jaber's Crescent (2003), examining how each of these works uniquely tackles the idea of having a hyphenated Arab American identity and living in the borderzone. These Arab American women writers use their writings as a form of resistance; explore what it means to belong to a nation as it wages war in their Arab homelands, supports the elimination of Palestine, and racializes Arab men as terrorists and Arab women as oppressed victims; and study the Eurocentric racialization of "Arab culture" as inherently backwards, uncivilized, and patriarchal. They use their writings as a form resistance not only to Orientalist and Arab fundamental regimes and construction of identities but also as a means to explore and express their feelings about their hyphenated identities, exile, doubleness, and difference. Chapter One examines the story of A Border Passage in terms of the cultural implications of the constructs of the Arab Muslim female identity as Leila Ahmed has experienced and remembered it. Chapter Two focuses on Mohja Khaf's Emails from Scheherazad, which offers the most articulate example of the challenges facing hyphenated Arab American women and the resistance they practice. Chapter Four examines the narratives of four Arab women presented in Laila Halaby's West of the Jordan in terms of the cultural construction of their identities as Arab women positioned into situations of physical and psychical displacement in America and in Palestine. Chapter Four examines Diana Abu-Jaber's Crescent, which marks a striking depiction of exile experience and exilic identities and their relationship to "home," pointing to the multiplicity of notions of exilic identities and revealing home as a multi-located and contested site.





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