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Read an excerpt of Amreekiya featured in The Offing
“Both wise and humorous, Mahmoud’s debut novel is an intimate portrayal of an early Arab American marriage, filled with passion, loss, and ultimately forgiveness. Readers will be moved by the fierce but fragile Isra, who refuses to be defined by her family, her husband, and her society.”—Susan Muaddi Darraj, author of A Curious Land: Stories from Home and Inheritance of Exile
“Lena Mahmoud’s novel, Amreekiya, takes us through the story of Isra, a young Palestinian American woman, as she negotiates the liminal space between cultures, generations, and gender. Mahmoud brings the past and present together, moving the novel back and forth to blur the distinctions of time. As we watch Isra grow, she becomes a catalyst for the interrogation of gender roles within the dynamics of cultural tensions. This is an honest and vulnerable story where Mahmoud manages the escalating tensions and the delicate balance of familial relationships with a skilled hand. The fabric of Palestine lives beneath this narrative, weaving into the lives of these characters as they as they struggle for place and identity in their new world.” —Pauline Kaldas, author of Looking Both Ways, The Time Between Places, Letters from Cairo, and Egyptian Compass
“[Mahmoud’s] debut novel, Amreekiya, represents a significant contribution to the literature of Middle Eastern diaspora. This important coming-of-age story presents complex characterizations of the second-generation American female yet manifests as a real and familiar story to any reader.”—Azita Osanloo
Amreekiya tells the story of Isra Shadi, a twenty-one year old woman of mixed Palestinian and white descent, who lives with her father’s relatives after the death of her mother and the abandonment by her father. Ever the outcast in her Amu and Amtu’s household, they eagerly encourage her 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 woman 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.