Dancing ArabseBook - 2007
A bildüngsroman suffused with humor and irony, Dancing Arabs centers on a young boy from a poor Arab village, his haphazard receipt of a scholarship to a Jewish boarding school, and the dislocation and alienation that ensues when he finds himself faced with the impossible: the imperative to straddle two famously incompatible worlds. As a child, our nameless narrator/antihero lives with his family in his grandmother's house. His grandmother and father constantly impress upon him the significance of their land: when so many people fled or sold theirs away, they held strong. "Better to die fighting for your land than to give it away."Every night after his brothers fall asleep, he climbs into bed with his grandmother, his main source of comfort and protection. One night she tells him where the key to her secret cupboard are, and if she should die, he must find all the death equipment in the blue bag. Paranoid from then on, he races home every day at recess to see if she's died. One day he gets there and she is not there, so he unlocks the cupboard and pulls out the box. All he finds are towels and some soaps from Mecca, but then he notices his father's photo in the old newspaper lining the suitcase, and some postcards in his father's handwriting. At his urging, his grandmother tells him about the newspaper clippings: his father was always "the handsomest and the smartest" in Tira, until he was thrown in jail for his political activity (eg: bombing a school cafeteria). The grandmother visited her son every week, wrote letters to the mayor, anyone who might be able to help her son. When he was released years later, he remained politically active, revering the Egyptian president Nasser, and for a time, joined the communist party. The young narrator is nothing like his father, who "doesn't understand how my brothers and I came out the way we did. We can't even draw a flag. He says kids smaller than us walk through the streets singing 'P-L-O----Israel NO!' and he shouts at us for not even knowing what PLO stands for." Not at all politically motivated, the boy knows nothing of national identity; he simply wants to get through the school day without getting smacked by his teacher. He excels at school and his family dreams that by the time he graduates, they will have their own state and he will become a pilot, or a judge. One day the principal tells him the Jews are opening a school for gifted students and they will be admitting a few Arab kids too. He is accepted and his father whoops with joy-this will mean a better life for his son and his whole family. His transition at school is very rough. The other students make fun of how he speaks and eats. On a bus home to Tira during his first school break, he is singled out and pulled off the bus by some soldiers. Humiliated, he proceeds on his journey home, but gets off of two more buses fearing that he will be questioned again. He winds up at Ben Gurion airport where his father has to come get him. He cries the whole way home and says he is never going back. His father mocks his tears and his weakness and tells him he has no choice-this is his only chance to escape the limitations of life in Tira. (The tug of war between father and son continues throughout the novel, the father putting his hopes and aspirations onto his son, as well as his defeats and disappointments.)He goes back to school, but only after deciding that he will never be identified as an Arab again. He becomes an expert at assuming false identities: he shaves off his moustache, learns how to pronounce Hebrew like the Jews, buys new clothes, starts listening to only Hebrew music. Soon he falls in love with Naomi, one of his Jewish classmates. On Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers, the narrator does not stand up during the moment of silence, and Naomi, whose father had died in action, refuses to speak to him. Eventually, Naomi admits that she loves him too, and for a while, they are together in spite of their differences.
Publisher: [United States] : Grove/Atlantic, Inc. : Made available through hoopla, 2007.
Branch Call Number: eBook hoopla
Characteristics: 1 online resource