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Amreekiya: A Novel (The University Press of Kentucky New Poetry and Prose Series)

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Isra Shadi, a twenty-one-year-old woman of mixed Palestinian and white descent, lives in California with her paternal amu (uncle), amtu (aunt), and cousins after the death of her mother and abandonment by her father at a young age. Ever the outcast in her amu and amtu's household, they eagerly encourage Isra to marry and leave. After rejecting a string of undesirable suito Isra Shadi, a twenty-one-year-old woman of mixed Palestinian and white descent, lives in California with her paternal amu (uncle), amtu (aunt), and cousins after the death of her mother and abandonment by her father at a young age. Ever the outcast in her amu and amtu's household, they eagerly encourage Isra to marry and leave. After rejecting a string of undesirable suitors, she marries Yusef, an old love from her past.In Amreekiya, author Lena Mahmoud deftly juggles two storylines, alternating between Isra's youth and her current life as a married twentysomething who is torn between cultures and trying to define herself. The chapters chronicle various moments in Isra's narrative, including the volatile relationship of her parents and the trials and joys of forging a partnership with Yusef. Mahmoud also examines Isra's first visit to Palestine, the effects of sexism, how language affects identity, and what it means to have a love that overcomes unbearable pain.An exploration of womanhood from an underrepresented voice in American literature, Amreekiya is simultaneously unique and relatable. Featuring an authentic array of characters, Mahmoud's first novel is a much-needed story in a divided world.


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Isra Shadi, a twenty-one-year-old woman of mixed Palestinian and white descent, lives in California with her paternal amu (uncle), amtu (aunt), and cousins after the death of her mother and abandonment by her father at a young age. Ever the outcast in her amu and amtu's household, they eagerly encourage Isra to marry and leave. After rejecting a string of undesirable suito Isra Shadi, a twenty-one-year-old woman of mixed Palestinian and white descent, lives in California with her paternal amu (uncle), amtu (aunt), and cousins after the death of her mother and abandonment by her father at a young age. Ever the outcast in her amu and amtu's household, they eagerly encourage Isra to marry and leave. After rejecting a string of undesirable suitors, she marries Yusef, an old love from her past.In Amreekiya, author Lena Mahmoud deftly juggles two storylines, alternating between Isra's youth and her current life as a married twentysomething who is torn between cultures and trying to define herself. The chapters chronicle various moments in Isra's narrative, including the volatile relationship of her parents and the trials and joys of forging a partnership with Yusef. Mahmoud also examines Isra's first visit to Palestine, the effects of sexism, how language affects identity, and what it means to have a love that overcomes unbearable pain.An exploration of womanhood from an underrepresented voice in American literature, Amreekiya is simultaneously unique and relatable. Featuring an authentic array of characters, Mahmoud's first novel is a much-needed story in a divided world.

30 review for Amreekiya: A Novel (The University Press of Kentucky New Poetry and Prose Series)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Arsala

    I can see what the author was intending, a young woman caught between two distinct cultures, navigating the complexities of having a dual identity while reconciling her troubled past with a hopeful future. BUT the execution IMO was sorely lacking. Characterization was shallow, writing seemed stilted and abrupt... the potential was there but it all just fell flat. Maybe I’m not used to this style of writing? If you’ve read the book, tell me what you think

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gaele

    Isra has always felt ‘out of place’ in her life: never quite accepted by either half of her being. Too dark to be accepted as white and the result of an unmarried pregnancy with a white mother and no real connection to her Arab half, with her mother’s death she is brought to live with her father’s cousins and their two children. Resented by her ‘aunt’ Samia, mostly ignored by her ‘uncle’ Nasser, she has been, almost from the start, the Cinderella in their home. Given a room and shelter yes, but Isra has always felt ‘out of place’ in her life: never quite accepted by either half of her being. Too dark to be accepted as white and the result of an unmarried pregnancy with a white mother and no real connection to her Arab half, with her mother’s death she is brought to live with her father’s cousins and their two children. Resented by her ‘aunt’ Samia, mostly ignored by her ‘uncle’ Nasser, she has been, almost from the start, the Cinderella in their home. Given a room and shelter yes, but her aunt constantly refers to her mother as a whore and her as the result of that shame. Using her to cook, clean and mostly raise her two children, Rasheed and Haman while accepting (or tolerating) the constant demand that she be grateful and pliant, but most of all, accepting of the crumbs handed her. Now at 21, her family believes that the best option for her is marriage, if a man can be found to take on this tainted young girl. But a bonus comes in the form of Yusef, a boy she met at her only friend’s house, knew in school and shared some simple flirtations. Isra and Yusef are married, and while she’s got very “American’ ideas about marriage, working women, self-determination and her own desires. Feeling as if it’s her against the world, she’s always a bit argumentative and quick to anger – years of resentment and being made to feel like less has worn her control thin – and with Yusef appearing to be thrilled with their match, he’s the first (but not only) target for her anger and woes. Failed pregnancies, not really speaking Arabic with his mother and sisters visiting or requiring them to visit constantly, and feeling as if everyone is judging her and her ‘ideas’, she’s always on guard for the next judgment, phrase, or look. Frustrated with the misogyny present in the more traditional homes, still grieving for her mother and wondering about her mother’s family, never quite white enough for society, or Arab enough for her father’s relations: she’s struggling with questions of identity, place and choices as she straddles two worlds in which she feels alien in both. Written in a way that feels very ‘stream of consciousness’ in Isra’s voice, it’s curious to see her rather conservative thinking (to Americans of modern days) as it further separates her from one side and how her views are so radical to the traditional views of the life she believes she has been placed in: leaving her not quite a member of either. Heart wrenching and completely honest, the portrayal of a woman trying to find a place for herself and her views in two dramatically contrasting worlds, and her gradual acceptance of the diverse sides of who she is, and in so doing, gives us all a bit of insight into the common desires we all have for acceptance, family, love and a place to call our own- no matter what our DNA, parental figures or society decides is what we should want. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. Review first appeared at I am, Indeed

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ankit Sharma

    Amreekiya: A Novel Based on a Story of 21 Year old Young Lady Isra Shadi,A Novel With Twist of Emotions, Determination, Desire, And Ambition. Her Mother Died Early and Father abandonment her. But This Lady Struggle To Make Impact and Fighting to Get Positivity in her life. Slow Start but Novel Is Interesting to Read And every turning Page Itself Gives You A Joy of Reading. Through The Book Is Not lengthy, And Storyline Itself So clear And Forward Which Binds Readers To Stick With The Book, The Lead Amreekiya: A Novel Based on a Story of 21 Year old Young Lady Isra Shadi,A Novel With Twist of Emotions, Determination, Desire, And Ambition. Her Mother Died Early and Father abandonment her. But This Lady Struggle To Make Impact and Fighting to Get Positivity in her life. Slow Start but Novel Is Interesting to Read And every turning Page Itself Gives You A Joy of Reading. Through The Book Is Not lengthy, And Storyline Itself So clear And Forward Which Binds Readers To Stick With The Book, The Lead Character of This Book Which Is A Lone Girl Who’s Mother Dies In Her Early Years And She Live With Her Uncle And Their Family, She Wanted To Achieve Something Different in Her Life but Situations Come on Her Way to Take Some Extreme decisions and With Limited Choices. As the integration of story line is so unique and straight that readers didn’t feel loss of interest while read this book. So Overall In Brief A Story of Women Who Fight With The Situations And Try To come out And Find The Ways To Live With Dignity. I Am Not Wrong I Say This Is A Motivational Story For Others also to see how the main character Isra Shadi fighting with several situations and stay forward towards in her life. Book Author By Lena Mahmoud its first novel and author itself try to gain attention of readers towards producing this interesting storyline, at last Read with Lots of interesting facts and fiction Story with difference.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Haneen

    I got through most of this in one day, and just finished it today after a few days off. I liked the two timelines: Isra’s youth and her early adult years. I didn’t like the ending though; it felt open ended with no substantial conclusion.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Audreygold

    The best part of this book was the beautiful cover. The book is almost a novella 184 pages and I struggled to finish. Isra is a young women of Palestinian and white descent living in California. She has evil mean relatives that she lives with after her mother dies and her ne'er do well father abandons her. We learn about her husband and his close family that seem to be constantly interfering whether well meaning or not. Hope this new author keeps writing as there is potential. The best part of this book was the beautiful cover. The book is almost a novella 184 pages and I struggled to finish. Isra is a young women of Palestinian and white descent living in California. She has evil mean relatives that she lives with after her mother dies and her ne'er do well father abandons her. We learn about her husband and his close family that seem to be constantly interfering whether well meaning or not. Hope this new author keeps writing as there is potential.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kailin

    It felt like reading a diary, but not a good one. The characters and dialogue were wooden.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Samiha

    I'm not sure why readers felt this was a "feminist" novel. It portrays a story of an orphaned young Palestinian American woman, who falls prey to the same tragic history of her Palestinian aunt. The main character is incredibly immature, and seems to be very egotistical, while at the same time ignoring her own desires and simply going along with the path set before her. Isra seems to recognize her self agency, but often denies herself of it and blames it on everyone else around her. The story fe I'm not sure why readers felt this was a "feminist" novel. It portrays a story of an orphaned young Palestinian American woman, who falls prey to the same tragic history of her Palestinian aunt. The main character is incredibly immature, and seems to be very egotistical, while at the same time ignoring her own desires and simply going along with the path set before her. Isra seems to recognize her self agency, but often denies herself of it and blames it on everyone else around her. The story felt one-dimensional, and portrayed Isra as a typical young Muslim woman who continues on her chosen path, with little to no say in her own life. It absolutely did not feel like a "feminist" novel, and felt like Isra chose a path of self-pity often instead of empowerment. Additionally, the author and the main character portray other woman who are not virgins as "whores" VERY often in the novel, and Isra shows incredible judgement towards other womans' decisions with their bodies and their sexuality. The frequent mention of "sodomy" when referring to anal sex also felt homophobic and very old fashioned. I did often feel compassion for Isra, as she seemed like a character that had so much potential, so much energy, and so much drive. If only she had gotten out of her own way and not fallen prey to her emotions and what others' thought of her, she might have been more likeable. The novel was written ok, although many characters felt one-dimensional, which created a one-dimensional story. It was a very simple and quick read, which was the main reason I finished it. Overall, I would absolutely not recommend this novel.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Amreekiya tells the story of Isra through two intertwining story lines-her youth and as a young, married woman in her 20s. She is a young woman caught between two worlds and does not feel acceptance in either world. She was never accepted by her white mother’s family, and once she moved to her “uncle” and “auntie’s” house, she was never Arab enough I wanted to love this book, but it fell flat for me. The prose was stilted and felt more like a Young Adult novel than a true work of literary fictio Amreekiya tells the story of Isra through two intertwining story lines-her youth and as a young, married woman in her 20s. She is a young woman caught between two worlds and does not feel acceptance in either world. She was never accepted by her white mother’s family, and once she moved to her “uncle” and “auntie’s” house, she was never Arab enough I wanted to love this book, but it fell flat for me. The prose was stilted and felt more like a Young Adult novel than a true work of literary fiction.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Indu Arya

    I picked up this book from a display shelf from my local library. I had never read anything about Palestine, so it will give me glimpse of their culture. It is a skinny book and a very easy to read. Sometimes felt very sorry about Isra, the main character of the book, but author portrayed her really well.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Johann Jacob

    The push and pull of biracial, bicultural identify and point of view of a fiercely independent Palestinian-American woman converge beautifully in Amreekiya. It’s complicated, as it always is... 📚 #Amreekiya #LenaMahmoud

  11. 5 out of 5

    Yasmeen

    I really loved this book! Isra is a very relatable character, and the author makes it easy to see all the characters' points of views. Amreekiya is a quick, intense read. I really loved this book! Isra is a very relatable character, and the author makes it easy to see all the characters' points of views. Amreekiya is a quick, intense read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nisreen Nijmeh

    3.5 I liked the story but wish the ending was more resolved.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Kara

    Hated the ending

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mya

    This feminist Palestinian novel is an intimate unearthing of a couple tasked with loving in a modern, contradictory world.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    This story was powerful and heartbreaking in a way that sneaks up on you and you don't even realize it is happening. It started out slow but turned into a page turner. I do wish the characters were more developed... the book itself was short so there could have been more time given to developing Lena and Yusef's characters in particular, and their relationship and bond to each other particularly during their high school years. That would have benefitted from a lot more attention. I also would ha This story was powerful and heartbreaking in a way that sneaks up on you and you don't even realize it is happening. It started out slow but turned into a page turner. I do wish the characters were more developed... the book itself was short so there could have been more time given to developing Lena and Yusef's characters in particular, and their relationship and bond to each other particularly during their high school years. That would have benefitted from a lot more attention. I also would have loved to learn the back stories of Amti Samia, Amu Nasser, Baba and Carol, and what led them to be who they are, although that may not have made sense in the narrative style Mahmoud was using. This book reminded me in some ways of A Woman is No Man in how it risks contributing to stereotypes of Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab culture and society particularly in how it views and treats women. Because there is not the character development that shows much nuance or historical/political context to the characters, I think this book walks a particularly fine line in how it represents those issues. However, I also think it is unfair to put the burden on young Palestinian women authors to tell their stories in a way that addresses stereotypes that they themselves are not responsible for creating or exploiting. It was a very good book and I do recommend it. Heavy content warning regarding miscarriage and loss of children. This is not a book I could have read while pregnant or with newborn babies.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Libby

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eyeronee

  18. 4 out of 5

    M

  19. 4 out of 5

    KaitMadz

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anne

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leila Ahmouda

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nadya Nicholson

  24. 4 out of 5

    Robert Casas

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mikaela Hairston

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mckenzie

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lina Bahri

  28. 4 out of 5

    Neela

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nady

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christa

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