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All Strangers Are Kin: Adventures in Arabic and the Arab World
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All Strangers Are Kin: Adventures in Arabic and the Arab World

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  287 ratings  ·  62 reviews
The shadda is the key difference between a pigeon ( hamam ) and a bathroom ( hammam ). Be careful, our professor advised, in the first moment of outright humor in class, that you dont ask a waiter, Excuse me, where is the pigeon? or, conversely, order a roasted toilet.
If youve ever studied a foreign language, you know what happens when you first truly and clearly
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Holly S.
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A travel memoir set in four areas of the Arabic World--Egypt, the Gulf, Lebanon, and Morocco--All Strangers are Kin explores the complexities of the Arabic language and the challenges of learning it, from Standard Arabic to the spoken Arabic of the street.

As someone who has traveled to all the places mentioned and has studied Arabic for years, I found the book to be a terrific read for anyone with an interest in travel, linguistics, the Arabic language, and the vast variations within the
Steven Svymbersky
It is true that the only way to become fluent in a foreign language is to spend time amongst native speakers in their own land and that to truly understand and appreciate the people and culture of another country you need to be able to speak their language. In this book, the author seeks to expand her Arabic studies through sojourns in Egypt, Lebanon, the Arabian Peninsula and Morocco and in the process also finds insight into the places she visits through the differences in way the language has ...more
Jun 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The short: I loved this book.

The long: I can't believe how much I related to the author. We both started studying Arabic in US universities around the same time (very early 90s), rejected academic study of the language for 3ameyya/colloquial, and we share a strong love for Cairo, warts and all. There were several times I felt like I was reading stories I could have written or reading about folks I could have met. She has had some great experiences and I liked her writing style very much. I
Jun 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
What happens when a middle-aged woman from the US decides to try and master her limited Arabic by travelling around the Middle East to different countries, learning some of the ins and outs of each version of the language? A bit of chaos, a bit of confusion, and an interesting history lesson thrown in. In short, you have 'All Strangers Are Kin'.

This book was a bit of a toss-up for me in regards to the actual reading. The parts where the author emphasized so much of the language were slow and
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I came to this book through the NPR podcast The World in Words, and I'm so glad I read it. To a language nerd, the heartfelt hand-wringing over accuracy vs. connection is both familiar and delightful. The descriptions of popular culture, traditional language, and human connection in Arab cities are vivid and warm. I only wish it was available in audio so I'd know how to properly say many of the phrases I read.
Emily Morrison
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of my new favorites. Funny and engaging. I already love Arabic, but this made the language all the more delightful. What a grand way to get a taste of the flavor of so many different Arabic-speaking countries. If you're not an Arabic speaker, this is a great- and needed- intro to a part of the world that sadly evokes fear in many Westerners. If you have ever been a student of Arabic, you'll get a kick out of her descriptions!
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fun and highly informative tour through several stops in the Arab-speaking world. O'Neill introduces us to many compelling characters in Egypt, the UAE, Lebanon, and Morocco. Along the way she provides plenty of insight into (transliterated) Arabic that was fascinating even for those of us who know no Arabic.

O'Neill's journey is personal as well, and we learn a lot about her through some moving passages about her family, her struggles with Arabic, and her navigation through the Arabic-speaking
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. Her journey to discover the nuances of a foreign language and become fluent in a language with as rich a history as Arabic is wonderful. The humor, the danger and the overall insights provided into the Muslim culture through its language is fascinating. If you are a word nerd as I am, you will be enthralled and amazed by zora's adventures.
Ali Crain
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture-travel
I really enjoyed reading about the authors adventures and misadventures in learning Arabic and different dialects. As someone living in Morocco and struggling daily with Darija, this was comforting. I hope I can take the advice of just winging it but also asking clarifying questions when necessary
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a most unusual, beautifully written, memoir. At the age of 40, the author's desire to learn more about the Arabic language led to her taking a year-long trip to four different Arabic-speaking countries. Highly recommended!
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
OK, I'm a language nerd. I love learning about different languages and their history. Zora tells a fascinating story from a perspective rarely explored when visiting the Middle East. Very refreshing and entertaining.
Grass monster
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have been wanting to read this book for a whille. For one, i love Travel Memoirs and two, i have an interest in the Arabic language.
This covers Zora O'Neill's travels to Egypt, United Arabic Emirates, Lebanon and Morocco.
Zora starts in Egypt, where the dialect is very different from words that are used in other Arabic dialects. Next she travels to the United Arabic Emirates, where they are very wealthy and like to make it known. Maids attend to the homes and there is an awful lot of the sex
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
All Strangers Are Kin is a fascinating book about travel, as well as the logistics of the Arabic language. Throughout the memoir, the reader comes to understand Zora and why she is motivated to travel the world. Zora discusses the nuances of Arabic and its many dialects and colloquialisms. By the end of the book, the reader understands that, through her travels, Zora not only better understands the Arabic language, but now better understands the breadth of the human experience.

As someone who has
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this tour through Arabic dialects: from Egypt to the Arabian Peninsula to Lebanon and finally ending in Morocco. The author had undertaken a trip to these parts to learn colloquial Arabic, the languages spoken on the streets rather than the formal Arabic, Fusha.

For me it was listening to a story told about places I know of, some I'd been to and now miss, and some I knew less of and had never been to but have had some little connections, stories inside my mind. So it
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loved this book! O'Neill expressed the same frustrations and challenges that I have gone through trying to learn Arabic, and yet interwoven are the warm people she dares herself to meet, as she travels alone throughout the Middle East. Very brave, and very insightful!
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I expected Zora's "grand tour through the Middle East" would, for the most part, sweep the reader up with cultural experiences peppered with the odd reference to language and vocabulary. But what a delight that the converse was true. Zora does recount her experiences but her real skill lies in her ability to delve surprisingly deep into the nuances of the language. Her frustration between the classical and popular languages had me equally disheartened until she abruptly turned the whole matter ...more
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. The author tells the story of her travels in 4 different areas of the Arab world in order to study Arabic and the dialects spoken in these regions. She had studied Arabic in college and was now wanting to learn more about this fascinating language. Her travels are interesting but also of interest is what she learns about the language and its grammar and usage in these various regions. She first goes to Egypt, then to Dubai, next to Lebanon and finally to Morocco. There is a lot ...more
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
As a language teacher and learner, I enjoy reading about other people's experiences with studying foreign languages. Who knew there were several variations of Arabic? This woman's experience was like a learner of English going to the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in one year to learn to speak English. How confusing would all the slang be? If you like languages, this is a very fun book.
Mary Stewart
Aug 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Zora is a friend of mine and she never ceases to amaze me. This memoir is very conversational and funny and really takes you along for the ride on her adventures; so much so that at times I found myself wanting to say: "No Zora! Don't go with that person. What are you thinking?" It is deliberately and refreshingly anti-political and just presents the people she has met as ordinary people who happen to speak and pray differently from myself. What a joy!
Carianne Carleo-Evangelist
It shouldnt have taken me this long , I just had no reading time. I really loved this book. In some ways her journey with Arabic is mine with Spanish or Japanese. Some words are just us. I love how her journey came full circle with an understanding that language learning doesnt need to be perfect as well as bringing her parents back with her. ...more
Gunter Nitsch
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The author describes a totally different world I knew nothing about. Fascinating book! I couldn't put it down!
Katharine Rudzitis
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Makes you want to travel (and take a few language classes)! I liked he combination of word lessons and anecdotes.
Nov 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This started out as a 3.5 stars and degraded to 2.5 stars....

Loved the premise - - exploring a region through its language dialects, looking at similarities or the vast differences in various Arabic countries, both linguistic and cultural, through the specific lens of this American female author.

Part memoir, part linguistic history, part travelogue, this book works on many levels for a while. But after a while, the heavy emphasis on a language that I know nothing about it more of a slog to get
Jess Witkins
Jul 16, 2019 rated it liked it
For those interested in language and travel, All Strangers are Kin, is a delightful path into the Middle East and understanding, or at least trying to, the Arabic language. Like any language, the country, and even the city you're in can determine dialect and vocabulary and O'Neill shares how her understanding of the language changed as she traveled from Egypt to the Gulf to Morocco.

It's definitely a book for word nerds and grammarians, as she takes time to explain what she learns from different
Jeni Enjaian
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I absolutely loved this book. I love languages and linguistics. Although I did not intend to read this book at this particular moment (I am currently attempting to read all the books on the SC Librarians Association book award nominee lists for middle grades and high school), after mistakenly checking the kindle version out from the library, I went ahead and read it. Devoured it, is more like it.

Although I do not hold a strong desire to learn Arabic, I possess an intense desire to become more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a book about the Arabic language and its different expressions throughout the Arab world. Knowing next to nothing about Arabic myself, I found the information fascinating, although sometimes I got bogged down in the details. Different countries speak different dialects, so different from one another that they are mutually incomprehensible, different languages, really. But theyre all united in the use of Arabic script and by a macro language, literary Arabic. It reminded me of China, ...more
Leslie Nettleton
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I would have given this 4.5 stars if I could. This book is brilliant. Anyone who has ever studied Arabic will recognize these experiences. This book was part memoir, part travelogue, part language instruction, part history, and all around good fun. My own experience in Arabic is far more limited than the authors, and I don't work nearly as hard as she does in my studies, but I still related to many of the amusing anecdotes, and was able to think of many of my own that would fit right in. Thank ...more
Cheryl Armstrong
Jul 24, 2017 rated it liked it
A freelance travel writer, Zora O'Neill spent a year traveling in Arabic speaking countries immersing herself in the language she loves, hoping to become fluent. She was surprised to find no single, official version of the spoken language exists; each country has its own dialects. I find this premise ridiculous. I enjoyed the first third of this book, enjoyed the author's observations about learning a language, visiting each 'new' country, becoming acquainted with customs, taking some risks. But ...more
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
The book got a bit lighter when the author gets to the Morocco chapter ,but until then I kept reading and thinking for what reader did she write this book ? It was not intend for the linguist , did it? For the American public ? showing her ways of thinking and the differences in the places she has been to during 2012 ?
I am glad all her travels ended well and safe .As the Middle East politics is a constant changing and some of the things she could do then would be quite daring and dangerous now
Tom Rowe
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having studied formal Arabic myself many years ago, I was intrigued by the idea going to various Arabic speaking countries to learn the "real" language used by real speakers. In the book, Ms. O'Neill visits Egypt, The Gulf States, Lebanon, and Morocco. She delivers incredible insights into the language, the culture, and the relationship between the two. I liked this book so much, I'm making my colleagues (We are ESL teachers.) read this for professional development. If you like learning about ...more
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I'm a travel and food writer, with a particular interest in languages and traditional cuisine.

I grew up in New Mexico, and now live in Astoria, Queens, in NYC. I chose the neighborhood because I hear so many different languages spoken in the streets, and I can buy fresh produce 24 hours a day.

For years, my main gig was writing travel guides. It has always been a pleasure to give a great restaurant

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