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HomeBooksIslam in North America, Its History, Growth and FutureAl' America: Travels Through America's Arab and Islamic Roots (Jonathan Curiel)
Al' America: Travels Through America's Arab and Islamic Roots (Jonathan Curiel)
Al' America: Travels Through America's Arab and Islamic Roots (Jonathan Curiel)

Al' America: Travels Through America's Arab and Islamic Roots (Jonathan Curiel)

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ISBN: 9781595583529
Author: Jonathan Curiel
Publisher: New Press (November 11, 2008)
Pages: 272 Binding: Hardcover w/ Dust Jacket

Description from the publisher:

From surf music to the ice cream cone—a lively and eye-opening look at the little known influence of Arab and Islamic culture on America, by the San Francisco Chronicle journalist.

"In 1960, a Pittsburgh couple hosting a visiting Muslim student from Pakistan took him to what they assumed was an Islamic mosque—but it turned out to be the headquarters of the Shriners' Pittsburgh chapter."—from Al' America

Four out of ten Americans say they dislike Muslims, according to a Gallup poll. "Muslims," a blogger wrote on the Web site Free Republic, "don't belong in America." In a lively, funny, and revealing riposte to these sentiments, journalist Jonathan Curiel offers a fascinating tour through the little-known Islamic past, and present, of American culture.

From highbrow to pop, from lighthearted to profound, Al' America reveals the Islamic and Arab influences before our eyes, under our noses, and ringing in our ears. Curiel demonstrates that many of America's most celebrated places—including the Alamo in San Antonio, the French Quarter of New Orleans, and the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina—retain vestiges of Arab and Islamic culture. Likewise, some of America's most recognizable music—the Delta Blues, the surf sounds of Dick Dale, the rock and psychedelia of Jim Morrison and the Doors—is indebted to Arab music. And some of America's leading historical figures, from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Elvis Presley, relied on Arab or Muslim culture for intellectual sustenance.

Part travelogue, part cultural history, Al' America confirms a continuous pattern of give-and-take between America and the Arab-Muslim world.

The rich and surprising tapestry of Arab and Islamic influence on America includes:

  • architecture: from the World Trade Center to the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina
  • music: from the blues to
  • surf music and the Doors
  • philosophy and poetry: from the Transcendentalists and Henry James to Khalil Gibran and Rumi
  • the food we eat: from the
  • ice cream cone to coffee
  • pop culture: from P.T. Barnum to the Shriners and Star Wars
  • Also features interviews with leading musicians, artists, historians, ethnomusicologists, and scholars of Islam

    Amid a heightened wave of xenophobia directed at Arabs and Muslims, San Francisco Chronicle writer Curiel reminds readers of a rich store of cultural borrowings and relationships that have gone deep into the very fabric of American society, including its most precious symbols and artifacts. While many will readily recall the Arabic strains in 1960s rock groups like the Doors, less obvious is the formative personal background at work in a classic like Miserlou (Turkish for The Egyptian) by Dick Dale. Still fewer Americans are likely aware of the blues' significant debt to Arab and Muslim musical traditions (imported by Muslim West Africans kidnapped into slavery). While the relative interest and import of these and other examples varies, Curiel's cultural odyssey moves swiftly and engagingly across time and geography, as he excavates everything from the Moorish architecture of New Orleans and the Alamo to the stories of the Arab and Muslim victims among the 9/11 World Trade Center dead. His research and focused interviews with leading scholars and musicians yield many surprises and leave little doubt about a crucial historical connection too easily forgotten in facile appeals to American identity. (Nov.)
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