Al' America: Travels Through America's Arab and Islamic Roots

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New Press, 2008 - History - 246 pages
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"In 1960, a Pittsburgh couple hosting a visiting Muslim student from Pakistan took him to what they assumed was an Islamic mosque--but it turned out to be the headquarters of the Shriners' Pittsburgh chapter." --from Al' America

Four out of ten Americans say they dislike Muslims, according to a Gallup poll. "Muslims," a blogger wrote on the Web site Free Republic, "don't belong in America." In a lively, funny, and revealing riposte to these sentiments, journalist Jonathan Curiel offers a fascinating tour through the little-known Islamic past, and present, of American culture.

From highbrow to pop, from lighthearted to profound, Al' America reveals the Islamic and Arab influences before our eyes, under our noses, and ringing in our ears. Curiel demonstrates that many of America's most celebrated places--including the Alamo in San Antonio, the French Quarter of New Orleans, and the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina--retain vestiges of Arab and Islamic culture. Likewise, some of America's most recognizable music--the Delta Blues, the surf sounds of Dick Dale, the rock and psychedelia of Jim Morrison and the Doors--is indebted to Arab music. And some of America's leading historical figures, from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Elvis Presley, relied on Arab or Muslim culture for intellectual sustenance.

Part travelogue, part cultural history, Al' America confirms a continuous pattern of give-and-take between America and the Arab-Muslim world.

The rich and surprising tapestry of Arab and Islamic influence on America includes:

‚€Ę architecture: from the World Trade Center to the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina

‚€Ę music: from the blues to

‚€Ę surf music and the Doors

‚€Ę philosophy and poetry: from the Transcendentalists and Henry James to Khalil Gibran and Rumi

‚€Ę the food we eat: from the

‚€Ę ice cream cone to coffee

‚€Ę pop culture: from P.T. Barnum to the Shriners and Star Wars

‚€Ę Also features interviews with leading musicians, artists, historians, ethnomusicologists, and scholars of Islam

What people are saying - Write a review

AL' AMERICA: Travels Through America's Arab and Islamic Roots

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Curiel lists a few Middle Eastern influences on American music, culture and politics.Readers misled by the subtitle to expect information on how—or even whether ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - davidt8 - LibraryThing

Curiel provides us with Islamic history, Arab culture, explanations of how the Shriners grew out of Free Masonry, and much more. His intent is clearly to reduce our fear of Arab-Americans, who are ... Read full review


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About the author (2008)

Jonathan Curiel is a journalist in San Francisco and the author of Al' America: Travels Through America's Arab and Islamic Roots (The New Press). As a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle, he has had his journalism on Arabs and Muslims honored by Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. He has taught as a Fulbright scholar at Pakistan's Punjab University and researched the history of Islamic architecture as a Thomason Reuters Foundation Research Fellow at England's Oxford University. He lives in San Francisco, California.

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