Author Alia Malek Tells the True Arab American Story
Just a few years ago, Syrian American Alia Malek was most known as a civil rights attorney in the US Department of Justice. However, with the release of her first book, “A Country Called Amreeka,” she has since claimed the new title of author.
The recently published book offers a rich historical account of Arab Americans —giving proper insight into their experiences of love, friendship, family, courage, hate, and success.
As an attorney, Malek witnessed the plague of injustices facing Arab Americans in a post 9-11 world. While the word “Arab” became synonymous with dissident and extremist, their hard working, good willed nature suddenly took a backseat.
While Malek tried to right wrongs from within the legal system, she realized the problems of hatred and discrimination could better be addressed at its root. It is then that she felt compelled to find a way to humanize the image of Arab Americans.
While there had been previous books and articles detailing accounts of Arab assimilation, Malek knew that the material would never encourage a broad readership: “I felt like the most widely consumed pieces were more academic in nature and therefore only pertained to a particular audience.”
With that, Malek decided the best way to communicate the true Arab American story would be through a heartwarming narrative. “With narratives, the reader’s guard is down because it’s a form they are familiar and comfortable with” said Malek.
The book is organized in a way such that it retells significant events in American history chronologically from the 1960s until present day. It does this, however, through the eyes of a particular Arab American who lived through that experience.
For example, one chapter highlights Alan, an outspoken Dearborn auto worker and community organizer who suffer the effects of the Arab Oil Embargo. As each character is introduced, the readers are reminded that Arabs did not only face the “immigrant” experience, but also encountered the “American” experience throughout history.
Because of the book’s ability to showcase Arabs in a very raw and intimate way, it has thus far received laudatory reviews from readers all over the country. Malek recalls, “While Americans tell me they find themselves understanding that Arabs are a diverse people, Arab Americans are excited to learn a part of their history they never knew.”
Now on tour with the book, Malek looks forward to presenting it to a multitude of groups, ranging from adolescents in school to lawyers in law firms. And in so doing, she hopes to inspire as many people as possible to pick up a narrative that will continuously challenge their previously held notions and breakdown some of their most misleading stereotypes.
Author Alia Malek will have a book reading and signing at the Arab American National Musuem on December 10th. “A Country Called Amreeka” can be found at any major bookstore, and online at www.aliamalek.com.