Lu-lu-lu-lee! This ululation is a unique sound referred to as a zaghareet and is made by touching the tongue to either the side of the mouth or teeth in rapid succession. Palestinians often zaghareet in joyous exclamation in celebration of a couple’s engagement, and in Amreekiya, Lena Mahmoud takes readers on a rich and colorful journey that allows them to be privy to such intriguing cultural traditions in a heartfelt and engaging way. Amreekiya is masterfully written and vividly paints the story of Isra Shadi, a twenty-one year old Palestinian woman growing up in America and grappling with the intersectionality of her own identity. Raised in California by her paternal amu (uncle) and amtu (aunt), Isra must come to terms with her mother’s death and her father’s abandonment. As if that wasn’t enough for someone to endure, Isra must also deal with her amu and amtu’s neglectful resentment and their eagerness to see her married off as soon as possible. Despite the hardships she faces, Isra remains strong-willed, determined, and fiery in the face of adversity. Readers trace her journey as she matures from an orphaned child being raised by less-than-willing guardians to a married woman on the path to motherhood herself.
“But after nearly two years of lining up men, they were still unsuccessful, growing impatient with how selective I was. Why didn’t I want to marry a man who was pushing forty and already graying or a man who had been divorced and had three half-white kids?”
“I was enough of an outcast in American culture with my dark curly hair, olive skin (even if it was light), and dark eyes, and enough of one with Arabs because of my white mother.”
“We had been arguing and snapping at each other for days, and he was confused about what to do. He didn’t realize marriage was this hard. He only wanted us to be happy.”
Mahmoud really establishes herself as an exciting new voice to watch out for with this debut novel. Readers will become emotionally invested in both the characters and the issues they face. Not only does Mahmoud craft a beautiful story with relatable, yet unique, characters, she also manages to highlight many highly relevant social justice issues, like race, class, and gender. Get your very own copy of AMREEKYIA, available now!
Visit the author’s site here: https://lenamahmoud.com/.