Arabian Jazz
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Arabian Jazz

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  339 ratings  ·  38 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
Sep 19, 2009 Sherien rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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 27, 2010 Eliza rated it 1 of 5 stars
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.
Diane C.

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.
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.
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...more
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
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
Victoria Allman
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...more
Tarn Allen
Jul 01, 2008 Tarn Allen rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
Leigh Sophia
This has a reading group guide with discussion questions in the back. hmm I'm beginning to figure out something about myself and the reasons that i pick and choose the books i enjoy. Moving forward.
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
Nov 02, 2011 Bryn marked it as unfinished
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.
Aug 27, 2008 sdw rated it 3 of 5 stars
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.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
a light read, a few/some beautiful passages, I've read enough of her books that I can say she uses stereotypes based on race which are insulting and lack creativity.
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.

Jennifer Wyld
The search for identity is universal, and this book has a great exploration of the journey from the perspective of an Arab-American woman...
This read to me like Joyce Carol Oates, recent Anne Tyler, etc. Entertaining plot, lovable characters, but all a bit to melodramatic to resonate.
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!
Holy lack of focus, Batman. I'm starting to think I should have stopped at Crescent and The Language of Baklava.
Silly but amusing tale of vastly different sisters. Several secondary characters are little more than stereotypes.
An fun look at how the children of two cultures cope. It could go a bit over the top at times though.
Rasha ahmed
it is an amzing novel dealing with Arab American issues namely the issu of identity. i enjoyed it
Mar 31, 2009 Jenny added it
Getting ready for a summer course in the jazz novel, and this will be one of them.
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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 Coral Gables, Florida, and Portland, Oregon.

More about Diana Abu-Jaber...
Crescent The Language of Baklava: A Memoir Birds of Paradise Origin Intuïtie

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“When Matussem Ramoud opened his eyes each morning, his wife would still not be there. ” 4 likes
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