Strangers in the West: The Syrian Colony of New York City, 1880-1900

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Kalimah Press, 2015 - Arab Americans - 474 pages
Strangers in the West is the never before told story about the Syrian/Lebanese immigrants who, beginning in 1880, settled on the lower west side of Manhattan. Coming from what was then known as "Greater Syria," these immigrants gathered near the Battery where they disembarked after their long journey from the Middle East. Settling in tenements recently abandoned by Irish immigrants, these recent arrivals to the New World founded an Arabic-speaking enclave just south of the future site of the World Trade Center. They opened Syrian restaurants, half a dozen Arabic-language newspapers, oriental merchandise and food shops, and four Syrian churches. They capitalized on the orientalist craze sweeping the United States by opening Turkish smoking parlors, presenting belly dancers on vaudeville stages, and performing across the country in native costume. Peddlers and merchants, midwives and doctors, priests and journalists, belly dancers and impresarios--all were part of the small community in its first 20 years. This is their story.

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Dr Jacobs is an anthropologist and a first- rate story-teller and writer. She has been a businessperson, a University Trustee, and Chairperson of several Foundations. All of these skills have led to this seminal book detailing immigration from the Arab World to New York City in the last two decades of the 19th century.
It is carefully researched, relying on documentation-and therefore differs from the oral histories which until now have characterized Arab immigration "histories".
It is a key to the story of immigration to the United States, and will remain a cornerstone of understanding America's story, and the story of those mid-easterners who helped shape the 20th century in the United States.
Bob Goodhouse

About the author (2015)

Linda K. Jacobs is an independent scholar living and working in New York City. She holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Archaeology/Anthropology and spent many years working on archaeological excavations and economic development projects in the Middle East. She is the author of Digging In: An American Archaeologist Uncovers the Real Iran (KalimahPress: 2012) and a number of articles about the nineteenth-century Syrian Colony in New York. All four of her grandparents were members of the New York Syrian Colony.

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