Arab American Drama, Film and Performance

A Critical Study, 1908 to the Present


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About the Book

Beginning with early Arab American playwright, poet and novelist Kahlil Gibran and concluding with contemporary playwright Yussef El Guindi, this book provides an historical overview and critical analysis of the plays, films and performances of self-identified Arab Americans. Playwrights, filmmakers and performers covered include Ameen Fares Rihani, Danny Thomas, Heather Raffo, Ahmed Ahmed, Mona Mansour and Cherien Dabis. These artists, traditionally underrepresented in entertainment, publishing and academia, have created works that exemplify the burgeoning Arab American arts movement. By addressing cinema, stand-up comedy and solo performance, the author introduces audiences to contemporary genres that are shaping Arab American culture in the United States. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Michael Malek Najjar is an assistant professor of theatre arts at the University of Oregon and is a director, playwright, and scholar of Arab American drama. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Bibliographic Details

Michael Malek Najjar

Afterword by Jamil Khoury
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 288
Bibliographic Info: 31 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9516-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1865-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Preface 1
Introduction: Defining a Genre 15
1. “Unresolved sorrow and uncomprehending anger”: Contemporary Arab American Identity Formation 31
2. “We are not of the East or West”: Origins of Arab American Drama in the Works of Rihani, Gibran and Naimy 70
3. “There’s nothing funny about your people”: Arab American Comedy and ­Stand-Up Performance 98
4. “It’s not profiling, it’s deduction”: Post–9/11 Arab American Drama 125
5. Suffering for Palestine: Palestinian American Playwrights 156
6. Arabs Filming Arabs: Contemporary Arab American Films 186
7. “A psychic civil war onstage”: Arab American Solo Performance 204
Conclusion 231
Appendix: Abridged Chronology of Arab American Drama, Film and Performance, 1896–2015 243
Chapter Notes 247
Works Referenced 261
Index 269

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “The author is meticulous in his attention to the details of his examples and equally committed to the larger cultural and institutional history that these works represent and enable. Activist practitioners and academic critics contribute dynamically with their provocative and probing examinations and recordings of a major, if often overlooked, component of modern US cultural and political history…highly recommended” —Choice
  • “Comprehensive and scholarly…engaging” —Aljadid
  • “Offers a valuable and scholarly treatment of Arab American performance in refreshingly direct prose, introducing readers to the artists, works and themes currently shaping Arab American culture…an engaging and clear overview of the plays, films and performances of self-identified Arab Americans”—Studia Neophilologica
  • “Unquestionably, Michael Malek Najjar’s new book will stand as a vanguard in the study of Arab-American culture and arts. Najjar is at his most fascinating when describing and analyzing individual works, both past and present”—Al Jadid Magazine
  • “An important examination of an underrepresented area…a ground-breaking inquiry into stereotypes, resistance, cultural inclusion and exclusion, and how artists engage in all of the above. A worthy addition to the cultural and ethnic studies bookshelf.”—Kevin Wetmore, Jr., professor and chair of theatre arts, Loyola Marymount University
  • “Najjar’s study offers an impressive appraisal of the trajectory of Arab American drama, theater and performance from its early origins to its latest and most embattled manifestation in the post–9/11 works. This is a highly recommended, wide-ranging and informative book.”—Nouri Gana, editor of The Edinburgh Companion to the Arab Novel in English: The Politics of Anglo Arab and Arab American Literature and Culture