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Arabian Jazz

3.41  ·  Rating Details ·  426 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
In Diana Abu-Jaber's "impressive, entertaining" (Chicago Tribune) first novel, a small, poor-white community in upstate New York becomes home to the transplanted Jordanian family of Matussem Ramoud: his grown daughters, Jemorah and Melvina; his sister Fatima; and her husband, Zaeed. The widower Matuseem loves American jazz, kitschy lawn ornaments, and, of course, his daugh ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 17th 2003 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1993)
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Cheryl Gatling
I picked this book up more or less by accident, and was thrilled to find that it takes place in Syracuse, my home town. The characters work at Johnson-Crowes hospital, which is obviously meant to be Crouse-Irving hospital, where I work. They live in Euclid, which is a real town north of the city. References to the Onondaga Indian Reservation, the Moyers Corners Fire Department, "the strip between the hospital and Syracuse University" that is Marshall Street, watching the Orangemen, and driving u ...more
Mar 29, 2009 Sherien rated it liked it
Recommended to Sherien by: Ayu Palar
Shelves: 20th-century
Arabian Jazz is a story depicting the Jordan immigrant experience and their struggle to cope with cultural conflict in America. Jemorah and Melvina, the second generation in the story are American born who are half Jordan and half Irish American trapped in the ‘in betweeness’ issues. Are they Arab? Are they American? They don’t feel a strong bond towards the Jordan culture but on the other hand, the American society don’t perceive them as truly American. Through out the story we follow their con ...more
May 30, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
Jemorah and Melvina Ramoud have been raised by their father – a Jordanian American man whose love for the drums is the only thing that can dampen his grief for his late wife. Now in their 20′s, Jem and Melvie are a source of constant worry to their aunts, who long to see them married off to a nice Arabian man. Jem is brilliantly intelligent but lacks the motivation to do much with her life, working as a secretary in the same hospital as her father and sister. Melvie is a highly driven nurse, who ...more
Jun 23, 2010 Eliza rated it did not like it
Shelves: light
Although the other books by this author I love, this one fell short. It didn't have a clear plot, and it tried to tell the stories of too many people. It was a compendium of thoughts and events occurring everywhere over a span of time, and it was just too much. No one character was developed enough, instead each was developed a mediocre amount. The book ended up dragging on with no focus.
Apr 06, 2012 Terri rated it really liked it
Shelves: muslim-world, poetic
I really liked this book, which I have been meaning to read for a long time. A few years ago I listened to Crescent, by the same author, as an audiobook, and really enjoyed her characters and the mixture of cultures and myths and tales and real people trying to find their places in the world.
Diane C.
Oct 29, 2009 Diane C. rated it it was ok

Have read all her other books..........this was the first and least sure handed. I love her books, but this one, as another reader commented, was long on dialogue, character forming and short on plot. It didn't draw me in. I skimmed, and then quickly read the end. It never becomes compelling.
Sep 15, 2013 Wawan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Narrating the life of an Arab immigrant family in a small town on upstate New York, Arabian Jazz is a powerful reinterpretation of the American dream and the idea that the United States is the land of immigrants. If we are so familiar with the myth of the American dream, this novel is one we need to read. It deconstructs that idea without tossing away altogether the said myth. On one hand, it has narratives about individuals whose presence in the United States is practically rejected. These indi ...more
Aug 16, 2011 Debbie rated it liked it
Just a brief review.
This is the story of the Ramoud family, Matussem and his two grown daughters Jemorah and Melvina. Matussem and some of his extended family members emigrated from Jordan before his daughters were born. The Ramoud's live in a small decrepit town called Euclid in upstate New York. Matussem married an American woman and on a trip back to Jordan when the oldest daughter was 9, his wife passed away. In general it seems as if this is a story of the three Ramounds trying to find them
Oct 28, 2010 Tricia rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
Abu-Jaber writes quite evocative and lovely descriptions, but overall the writing style was kind of odd and fragmented - modern fiction, perhaps? Not what I'm used to. The book was more character driven than plot driven. Even so, I feel like it could have been tighter - too many pages were spent reinforcing the character traits we already knew, rather than enhancing and focusing them. Around page 300, Jem had a sort of breakthrough and the book was more engaging from there on out (even if I did ...more
Oct 10, 2016 Lizzie rated it it was ok
I was a big fan of Crescent, but I did not love this book nearly as much. This definitely felt like a first novel, and I think Abu-Jaber's later novels are vastly improved.

Overall, the themes were excellent, and similar to her later novels. It is an exploration of what it means to be "half" - in this case half Arab and half white; and what it means to live in between cultures. I enjoyed the role reversal of the younger sister being more dominant, and the older sister being the daydreaming, flig
Victoria Allman
Mar 24, 2013 Victoria Allman rated it it was amazing
Arabian Jazz is a look at life through the eyes of an almost thirty year-old Arabian/American woman searching for identity.

Diana Abu-Jaber writes of what it means to be Arabic, American, an immigrant, a daughter, and a woman trying to find her sense of place in the world and in an often-kooky family. This is done with humor, heart, and breath-stopping prose that are so lovely you will find yourself re-reading passages again and again to hear the rhythm of her language.

I think everyone has an Au
Tarn Allen
Apr 21, 2008 Tarn Allen rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Tarn by: Betty Broderick, my freshman American lit professor
Shelves: re-reading
I first read this book in college, and Diana Abu-Jaber has since become one of my very favorite fiction authors, perhaps my very favorite contemporary author. It's a kick to go back and re-read this, her first novel, after having been blown away by her other work since, and having had the chance to meet her at Wordstock this past fall, where she was awesome and thoughtful and friendly and insightful and became one of my real-life heroes as well as my literary ones.

Is there a more beautiful desc
Sep 15, 2011 Tory rated it really liked it
This is a sweet story. I thought the author did a wonderful job describing characters and moments; I could easily envision Uncle Fouad and Auntie Fatima. I enjoyed the dynamics between Jemorah and Melvine Ramoud and their father, Matussem. In a way it reminded me of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"- Jem and Melvie are caught between two worlds as children of a Jordanian immigrant father and a (deceased) Irish-American mother. I was sad to see this story end and thoughts of this crazy, loving family co ...more
Stacey Neve
May 03, 2016 Stacey Neve rated it it was ok
I guess I kept reading because I liked the characters, but other than that I found the book disappointing. It seemed like the author was trying to tell too many different stories, so while some were very good, it felt like they didn't get enough attention to do them justice. There was also a plot twist or two (if you can call them plot twists when the story lacks a clear plot) that was so random and out-of-nowhere that it felt forced and unnecessary, instead of feeling surprising and driving the ...more
May 08, 2010 Bryn marked it as abandoned
I chose to read this book because I really enjoyed one of Abu-Jaber's later books, Crescent, which I read several years ago. A couple pages into the book I thought it sounded a little too familiar. A couple more pages and I began to recall having checked it out from the library not long after I read Crescent and returning it unfinished a couple days later. It is quite unfortunate I did not have this recollection in the bookstore when I bought it.
Dec 03, 2014 Chelsea rated it really liked it
I spent the first quarter of this book worrying that the main character, Jermorah, didnʻt have enough backbone for me to enjoy her journey. However, by the end of this rhythmic tapestry of a novel, I was rooting for her, and even more importantly, I felt that Abu-Jaber had breathed so much life into her world and characters that I actually closed the book believing that Jermorah was out there, someone in the world, continuing the journey she had started.
Aug 10, 2009 Grace rated it liked it
Shelves: bicultural, jazz
Very nice. I like the way Abu-Jaber writes. The book left me hanging a little bit, and it was very long for a book that didn't have a more definitive conclusion, I thought. But I liked the characters. At first everything seemed a little unlikely, but by the end of the book I felt every character was genuine and possible.
Mirka Breen
Jul 30, 2016 Mirka Breen rated it really liked it
This book is poignant, FUNNY, and delightful. My one slight reservation has to do with a feeling of unclear steering, plot wise. But it evaporates about three quarters in, and I am eager to read other books by this wonderful writer.
There aren't many books of fiction like it, depicting an Arab-American family, warts and all, with no political agenda whatsoever. We need more.
Zora O'Neill
Oct 08, 2015 Zora O'Neill rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, and hilarious. The redneck neighbors are perhaps a little over the top, but that is hugely offset by the vividness of many of the main characters. There's a certain "Confederacy of Dunces" air to some of the comic scenes--but fortunately this book engages with meaty issues much more than CoD did.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 24, 2007 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it really liked it
Shelves: read06
I like the other book I read by Abu-Jaber a little better (Crescent) but this one had the same charm of the contrast between middle eastern cultures and American-born children of people from this area. It's funny how the littlest things can make a book seem dated. This was published in 1993, and little things like people having discussions in an airport gate just can't happen anymore!
Aug 27, 2008 sdw rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I liked the end of the book more than the beginning. There is an outlandishness that is just a little too much for me. There is enough going on in this novel however that it would be fascinating to explicate and I look forward to encountering some lit crit about it. And I will be looking up her other novels. Oh, and I think she has a Portland connection. I'm always partisan to oregon.
Aug 12, 2008 Chelsea rated it liked it
I didn't enjoy this book until Chapter 35 --those 20 pages were the best part of the entire book. It finally all came together and became less chaotic, the pieces fell in place and it was beautiful and made it all worth it.
May 31, 2009 Michele rated it it was ok
I think this was supposed to illustrate the life and identity crises of members of a Jordanian immigrant and his American born daughters. It kind of fell flat for me in that regard. However, it was an interesting look at the cultural social dilemmas of the sisters.
Dec 03, 2008 Marna rated it it was ok
Started this one but had to return it to the library before I could finish it... guess it means it wasn't too much of a page turner for me!
Jun 07, 2009 Beth rated it liked it
Her literary voice is absolutely one of my top 20, so I loved it, and yet it isn't about much plot wise. The cultural commentary was good. It's good, but languid and easy.
Nov 28, 2015 Elham rated it it was amazing
Just amazing! wonderful and poetic and funny :) Recommended for everyone but preferably read it in English.
Oct 10, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2012
Holy lack of focus, Batman. I'm starting to think I should have stopped at Crescent and The Language of Baklava.
Jennifer Wyld
Aug 17, 2008 Jennifer Wyld rated it really liked it
The search for identity is universal, and this book has a great exploration of the journey from the perspective of an Arab-American woman...
Oct 19, 2007 Ruth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I hate to admit I was disappointed. Ever since reading Crescent 10 years ago, I have been hoping to capture the same magic in another Abu-Jaber novel, but have yet to find it.
Jul 02, 2009 Theresa rated it it was ok
I got this after reading and loving the authors' novel "Crescent". This was good, just not as good. I think if I'd read it first I would have liked it more.

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home 1 2 Aug 22, 2011 12:39AM  
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Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of Origin, Crescent, Arabian Jazz, and The Language of Baklava. Her writing has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Ms., Salon, Vogue, Gourmet, the New York Times, The Nation, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. She divides her time between Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Portland, Oregon.

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“When Matussem Ramoud opened his eyes each morning, his wife would still not be there. ” 5 likes
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