The Wandering Palestinian By Anan Ameri
Anan Ameri’s riveting new memoir, The Wandering Palestinian (bhc Press), is receiving rave reviews, and with good reason. It chronicles the author’s life in the US as a newcomer, where she overcomes culture shock, finds her independence, and becomes a driving force in Detroit’s large and politically active Arab American community.
With refreshing honesty and flair, Ameri narrates her life through twenty-eight vignettes rooted in the Arab tradition of storytelling. It starts in 1974 in Beirut, Lebanon, where at age twenty-nine, Ameri, a free spirited urban middle-class woman, met the charming Arab American Abdeen Jabara, and fell madly in love. It was love that swept her off her feet. Soon she followed him to Detroit. Five months later, she uttered the words “I do.”
To her surprise and disappointment, Detroit was a far cry from what she expected. Life in Detroit, a city that was still marked by the scars of the 1967 rebellion, was rather difficult. Love alone couldn’t sustain her or save her from loneliness, isolation, and depression. Without speaking English, knowing how to drive, or having a permit to work, and without family or friends, Ameri felt uprooted and stripped of her identity and independence.
Armed with resilience and determination, the author found comfort in Detroit’s large and politically active Arab American community, which helped her find a sense of belonging, resume her activism, and pave the way for her to become a recognized and respected leader in her community.
The vignettes of the Wandering Palestinian are both humorous and poignant. They reflect Ameri’s skillful ability to welcome readers into her personal and political life. They are stories of activism that led the author to live in Washington DC, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Jerusalem, then back to Detroit to be with her newly found love, and a new career that led her to play a pivotal role in the creation of the Arab American National Museum in 2005. These are also stories of love, depression, and loss. When asked why she felt it was important for her to share the most intimate part of her life she says, “To share only one’s success is not only self-glorification, but also dishonest. Respecting and honoring those interested in our stories, requires transparency. I believe the more forthcoming a writer is, the more she/he can connect with readers.“
With a keen eye of a trained sociologist, the book also gives us an insight into the Palestinian and Arab American communities; and their struggles and aspirations to find their rightful place in the American mosaic. And as the stories of this book reveal, Ameri’s personal, social, and political life has been very much intertwined with these communities. She hopes that these stories will provide a window into the many challenges immigrants face, as well as their contributions and triumphs. She also hopes that the book would encourage other activists, especially women, to narrate their own stories.
The Wandering Palestinian has been endorsed by some of the most influential scholars in the field of Arab American studies. The Washington DC Literary activist and writer Ethelbert Miller beautifully describes it here: “There are different types of love stories. Anan Ameri in her second memoir successfully tells us what it means to love a person, people, and place. Like beautiful Middle Eastern tapestry, she presents a personal narrative of immigration and activism woven into a story of institution building. In The Wandering Palestinian one will find the history behind the establishment of the Palestine Aid Society (PAS) and the Arab American National Museum. These organizations were an outgrowth of a woman fiercely motivated by a desire to be independent while helping her people. Success, like political struggle, often comes with a price. Ameri has the strength to describe her battle with depression. She is a fighter when it comes to speaking out for those who cannot speak. The Wandering Palestinian uncovers the silence we too often hear when one speaks of Palestine. Reading Anan Ameri’s memoir one will be reminded that at the center of the fight for peace is the search for love.”
For more information and to purchase a copy, click here.
Dr. Anan Ameri is a scholar, author activists, and community organizer. Her first volume memoir The Scent of Jasmine: Coming of Age in Jerusalem and Damascus was published in 2017. She is the recipient of many awards and was inducted to the Michigan’s women Hall of Fame in 2016 and received the ACCESS”s Arab American of the year award in 2020.
Compiled by Arab America
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