Images of non-Arabs in West of the Jordan by Laila Halaby

Najoua Stambouli 1
  • 1 University of Sfax, Tunisia

Abstract

The Jordanian-American novelist Laila Halaby is perceived as one of the most well-known contemporary Arab-American writers whose hyphenated identity raises questions regarding which side of the hyphen she belongs to. In this respect, one way to determine whether Halaby identifies herself as an Arab or an American is to examine how she perceives and explores Arab and American cultures and to investigate the different images she constructs about Arabs and Americans. In West of the Jordan (2003), throughout the tales of the four female cousins, this American writer of Arab descent explores the Arab communal values and conventions, as well as the Western beliefs and ways of life. Most importantly, Halaby depicts different images of Arabs and non-Arabs in the context of social, political, and economic conflicts and relationships. In this article, the focus will be mainly on the images of non-Arabs in West of the Jordan. My study, accordingly, draws on Edward Said’s Orientalism and its counterpart Occidentalism, which offer theories of communal and identity construction, as well as practices that lead to stereotyping discourses about the other. This article will consequently start with a definition of the term Orientalism and its counterpart Occidentalism, moving on to deal with the different images of non-Arabs in the second part. Indeed, this latter section investigates how Halaby, who belongs to the Western and Eastern worlds, produces knowledge of the Western society and culture, by offering interesting representations of the two worlds. The third part will shed some light on Halaby’s attitude toward the American world and toward the Arab-American relationships.

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