MELC 532 A: Arab American Writers

Winter 2024
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm / DEN 113
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
GLITS 253 A , C LIT 362 A , MELC 332 A
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

MELC 332 / 532 A / GLITS 253 A /C LIT 362A

Arab American Authors

Winter 2024




Instructor: Terri DeYoung                                                                            Class Location:

                                                                                                                                                Denny 113


Office: 246 Denny Hall                                                                                       Class Time:

on the same floor as the NELC Dept. Office)                                                        TTh 2:30-4:20

E-mail:                                                                                      Modality: Hybrid

Office Hours:  by appointment (email Prof. DeYoung directly)


Description of Course: There have been three significant waves of immigration by Arabic-speaking peoples to the New World. The first of these consisted (with some notable exceptions) of mostly of illiterate individuals from Africa who were enslaved between 1700 and 1830. Some of these individuals were able to use their educational skills to record their experiences (either in Arabic or English), but their cultural endeavors were consistently suppressed by their new masters.

            Then, between 1850 and 1940 perhaps as many as 350,000 Arabs emigrated to North and South America, mostly from the Ottoman province of Syria (modern-day Syria, Lebanon and Palestine-Israel), and mostly of Christian heritage. This immigrant movement produced a group of intellectual figures whose works are still influential in both the Americas and the Arab world.

            Third, after World War II, the reform of immigration laws encouraged a broader spectrum of groups, from a variety of regions and countries, both Muslim and Christian, to emigrate to the United States from the Arabic-speaking world. At first these individuals worked very effectively to assimilate into their new society. Then, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, the “second generation” engaged in a determined quest to articulate a new Arab American identity that paid due attention to both past and present.

             Finally, the destabilization that was introduced following the attacks on the New York Trade Center in September of 2001 has injected a new element, questioning the viability of both the models of assimilation and identity assertion that had been most influential in this community.

            This course will look at all three waves of Arab immigration into the Americas. It will focus, however, especially on the middle period (1850-1940), where emigrant (or Mahjar) intellectuals had a decisive influence on Arabic (even more than American) literature. We will spend time at the end of the course discussing the maturing of Arab American literature and possible future directions in the field.



 Learning Goals: At the conclusion of the course, students will be familiar with

  • what the 4 waves of Arab American emigration were and how they were affected by the changes in US Laws.
  • what the canon of important Arab American writers are, and what genres of literature they specialized in.
  • what the special challenges are that Arab Americans have faced in becoming part of American culture.
  • the opportunities and challenges Arab Americans continue to face in participating in American public life.


Required Texts:

Prince Among Slaves (Video—Available for streaming at Unity Productions Foundation (Watch Prince Among Slaves - UPF

The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. Roger Allers et al, The Prophet (2015);

Post-Gibran: An Anthology by Munir Akash and Khalid Mattawa (available on Amazon).


Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge (2017) by Ezzedine C. Fishere,  The Inheritance of Exile (2007) by Susan Muaddi Darraj; and Koolaids The Art of War (1998) by Rabih Alameddine (all on Amazon). You will only be reading one of these last three titles so you should wait to purchase any of them until after the first meeting of class.

            Other required readings for the course will be available on Canvas and from Prof. DeYoung via e-mail attachment. If you think you cannot receive the texts this way, please talk to the instructor as soon as possible, in order to make suitable arrangements so that you can get access to the texts.




Course Requirements

Position Papers: Four short position papers (at least 2 pp. long) will be due at different dates during the course. The first will be due at midnight Monday, 15 January 2024, answering the question: “Why am taking this course?” (2 pp.). The second “Should African American authors from the time of slavery be included in the category of Arab American authors?” (2 pp.) will be due at midnight on Monday 29 January 2024 The topic of the third paper (tentatively due at midnight on Monday 19 February 2024) will be:”Is the film version of The Prophet superior—or not—to the original written version and why?” (3 pp.) The final paper (tentatively due Monday 4 March 2024) will ask you to write a review of one of the three books by Ezzedine Fichere, Susan Muaddi Darraj and Rabih Alameddine.

These papers will count for 40% of the final course grade.


I prefer the following format for the papers: Double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 point font. Since these are position papers (not research writings) you do not need to use material from outside the course. If you do refer to an outside source, you do not need to follow a particular reference style (Chicago, MLA or APA are common ones) though you are welcome to do so. You do need, however, to give me enough information about the reference (author, title, web address [if applicable], date, page number) so that I can find it for myself to read it.

If you are dissatisfied with your grade on any of these writing assignments, you may correct the marked passages and comments on the text Prof. DeYoung returns to you, and re-submit the essay for a higher grade. Friday March 8, 2024 at midnight (last day of classes) is the last date on which a re-submitted essay will be accepted.

Question Sets: You will be asked to turn in a set of three questions about the readings at the beginning of each week when we look at the work of 1) Amin al-Rihani, 2) Mikha’il Nu‘aymah and 3) Kahlil Gibran. Sample questions will be distributed for you to use as guides for this assignment.

These question sets will each count for 5% of the final course grade.


Exams: There will also be a take-home Final Exam —due at 5:00 Friday 15 March 2024—(the last day of Exam Week), that will be based on a set of questions distributed no later than three class sessions before the end of the regularly scheduled classes for the Course. This exam will count for 35% of the final grade. The Final Exam may be submitted as an attachment to an e-mail (addressed to Prof. DeYoung) or as a hard copy left in Prof. DeYoung's mailbox. If you choose the latter option, you need to send an e-mail to Prof. DeYoung informing her that you have turned in the Final Exam. If this procedure is not followed, you may be penalized for turning the Exam in late.

            Students will have the option to substitute (with the instructor’s permission, obtained at least two weeks in advance of the end of classes a final paper (usually about 5-8 pages in length, but consult with the instructor) for the take-home final exam. This paper will be due on the same day (and the same time) as the final exam.


Other Assignments:

            The remaining 10% of the grade will be based on in-class participation. This means that you will be expected to have read the “Primary Readings” before coming to class and do whatever other reading is necessary so that you can participate actively in the class discussions. Regular attendance (according to University Regulations) will not be included in this portion of the grade, so it is up to the student to participate in the class discussion, in order to receive full credit for "class participation."


            Any of these assignments, if turned in or completed late, may be subject to an automatic .3 deduction from the grade originally assigned. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all assignments are submitted on time and in readable format to the instructor.


            The general policies about plagiarism in force at the University of Washington will be observed in this course.


Writing Credit (“W”):

      If students are interested in obtaining “W” (writing) credit for the course, they should contact the instructor as soon as possible. Basically, “W” credit can be awarded for completing all the written assignments for the course (and revising them if necessary) + one 5 page extra paper due by the eighth week of the course (to allow time for revision 


For 532 Students:

Those taking this course under the “532” number will be required to turn in a paper (of at least 10 pp.) instead of the take-home exam

                In addition, those enrolled in 532 will be required to prepare 1 presentation (about 15 minutes) to be given in class outlining the background of two of the authors covered in the course, or they may write an additional research paper of at least 5 pp.  Students enrolled in the 532 section of the course should consult the instructor about these presentations as soon as possible. The additional assignments will count for 20% of the final grade.



Recommendations: Professor DeYoung will be happy to write a recommendation for any student who receives a 3.8 (or above) in this course or any other of her upper-division courses.


Exam Comments: If you would like to have your Final Exam questions returned to you (with comments), please leave off a hard copy, with a stamped, self-addressed envelope in Professor DeYoung’s box in the NELC Main Office (211 Denny) or make arrangements to pick them up in Spring Quarter 2024.


Additional Credits: If a student wants to sign up for additional credits for the class or do independent studies (including senior essays) in other quarters, s/he needs to contact Professor DeYoung as soon as possible. All such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.




For Students With Special Needs: If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to the instructor as soon as possible so we can discuss the accommodations you might need for the class.


Religious Accommodation starting in Autumn 2019, the University of Washington implemented the following new policy about arrangements for religious observances:


“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”

More information on the policy is available on the webpage for the Office of the University Registrar.


Classroom Courtesy: Hydration is important. I myself fainted in class about a decade ago because I did not observe this rule. Please feel free, therefore, to consume beverages in class that will help with hydration.

Since the consumption of food often interferes with class participation and is distracting to others, students are requested to avoid this both in our  in-person and Zoom class sessions. Your cooperation will be appreciated.




Class Breaks. Whenever possible, there will be a break of approximately 10 minutes halfway through each class lecture. This will be, especially, an opportunity for students to conduct any personal business necessary outside of the Zoom learning environment, when we are meeting online.





Background Reading and Viewing

Useful information about the history of the first wave (1720-1860) can most fully conveniently be approached through Henry Louis Gates, Mark Bates, Karen McGann, and Virginia Quinn, magisterial set of videos Africa’s Great Civilizationsl, 6 episodes (available through UW Streaming services). All the episodes give useful background about the first wave of immigrants to America from Africa, but especially episode 3 (“Empires of Gold”) and episode 5 (“The Atlantic Age”) are helpful in understanding why slaves brought from Africa to America often had training and education in Arabic.

            For background on the second wave (1880-1925) of Arab immigrants to the Americas, useful background information can be found in Michael Suleiman, “Early Arab-Americans: The Search for Identity,” in Crossing the Waters, pp. 37-54, Call Number E184 A65 C76 1987); Eva Veronika Huseby-Darvas, “‘Coming to America’: Dilemmas of Ethnic Groups since the 1880s,” in Ernest McCarus, ed. The Development of Arab-American Identity, pp. 9-21 and Alixa Naff, “The Early Arab Immigrant Experience in The Development of Arab-American Identity, pp. 23-35. Call Number E184 A65 M37 1984). and Gregory Orfalea, Before the Flames: A Quest for the History of Arab Americans, Call Number E184 A65 O741985. Early (but historically valuable) attempts to categorize the experiences of this group of immigrants can be found in Philip K. Hitti, The Syrians in America (1924) Call Number E184  S98 H6 (order through Summit); The Arab Americans: Studies in Assimilation, ed. Elaine Hagopian and Anne Paden  Call Number: E184  A65  H34 (1968); Arabs in the New World: Studies on Arab American Communities, ed. Sameer Abraham and Nabeel Abraham Call Number E184  A65  A73  1983; and  Alixa Naff, Becoming American: the Early Arab Immigrant Experience, Call Number E184  S98  N26  1985.

            The personalities and works of the third wave (1967-present day) often defy easy categorization. The best introduction to the themes and preoccupations of their work can perhaps best be approached by reading Post-Gibran, the anthology of works assigned for this course. Their history is still being written.

Catalog Description:
Explores the influences of Arab American writing both in the United States and the Arab world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Discusses issues of emigration to the United States from the Arab world and its impact on the formation of a distinctive Arab American identity.
Last updated:
May 11, 2024 - 9:27 pm