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“Crescent” and “Arabian Jazz” by Diana Abu-Jaber


The Arab American writers have always employed several literary components and literary devices that reflect the true history and traditional values of Arabs living in America. The literary works of Diana Abu-Jaber in her two novels, Crescent and Arabian Jazz are some of the most important Arab American novels, which demonstrate how Arabs have been struggling with multiculturalism in America. In her literary works for the two books, Diana Abu-Jaber applies literary techniques such as metaphors, poetry, allusions, hyperbole, metonymy, personification. Pertinent to such convictions, the literary designs of Diana Abu-Jaber in her novels, Crescent and Arabian Jazz have focused predominantly on uncovering the cultural aspects of the Arab Americans and have tried to distinguish such differences with the cultural aspects found in among the White Americans. It is important to understand the literary devices used in the two novels separately and their direct contributions towards explaining the unique culture of Arab American immigrants in the United States.

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Literary Elements in the Novels

Metaphors and their role

Metaphor is figurative language or speech and is one of the commonly applicable elements of literature used to provide certain comparison or resemblance between aspects, ideas, or even certain principles. Metaphoric expressions sometimes reveal previous experiences and associations. Diana Abu-Jaber, in her novels, Crescent and Arabian Jazz, uses some metaphoric expressions that directly reflects and brings out the cultural and lifestyle issues of the Arab American immigrants. In the novel, Abu-Jaber repeatedly uses the terminology half-and-half (Arabian Jazz 327). While such metaphoric expression may literally mean of equal dimensions, but metaphorically Diana Abu-Jaber uses such expressions to refer to the transformation and acculturation of the Arab community into multicultural American society. The half-and-half concept metaphorically defines the manner in which Arab Americans shared two cultures ((Orfalea 128). The metaphor represents the notion that family members of Matussem are not typical in their culture and that they belong to two distinct cultures or mixed identities. Metaphorically, Diana Abu-Jaber expresses them as half White Americans and half Arab Americans.

Persistently, Abu-Jaber uses the terminology of American Adam is referring to the typical White Americans and distinguishes the Native American men from the Arab American men (Arabian Jazz 197). In Crescent, the word food may literally mean something edible, but metaphorically, Diana Abu-Jaber uses the word food several times to express explicitly an assortment of cultural issues that distinguish Arab Americans from White Americans (79). Food in Crescent, which the Arab American women prepare around Nadia’s Cafe, is an important metaphor as it connects people from different ethnicities because they gather for meals. Sirine cooks meals in Arabic style, and this is an important distinguishing aspect between the Arabs and the rest of the ethnicities residing in America (Abu-Jaber Crescent 189). Arabic food attracts people from diverse ethnicities, as Arabic women are active in preparing different delicacies. The cooking style of Arab women and their ethnic cooking techniques distinguish Arab Americans from White Americans and other ethnic groups.

Metaphoric expressions dominate almost all the two novels, with the metaphor of food being dominant in Crescent, while the metaphor of jazz, dominating conversations in the Arabian Jazz. The characters in Crescent use the word food on their discussions, constantly to bring the idea of cultural disparity between the Arab Americans and the White Americans. The metaphoric word ‘food’ is the focal point of the major conversations regarding racial and cultural disparities between the two communities. Hanif and Sirine converse about food to demonstrate the differences in the cultural norms between the Arab Americans and the White Americans. Concerning food that Sirine cooks in the cafe using the Middle East cooking style, Arab Americans would sit and discuss the food to set comparisons between the American and the Arab cultures and demonstrate the existing cultural disparities. The White Americans also come to understand the differences in culture through food discussions such as:

Victor says Chef is not an American cook…Not like the way Americans do food-just dumping salt into the pot. All the flavours go in the same direction. Chef cooks as we do. In Mexico, we put cinnamon in with the chocolate and peppers in the sweet cakes, so things pull apart, you know, make it bigger? (Abu-Jaber Crescent 197)

Crescent employs the metaphoric term of food as terminology that helps readers to understand the struggle of Arab Americans in fitting into the American culture (Fadda-Conrey 199). In a highly prejudiced environment around the cafe, food metaphor acts as the connecting bridge that makes Arab Americans, who have a similar identity with Sirine to connect and adjust to different ethnicities, while highlighting the cultural distinctions between the races (Fadda-Conrey 199). It is only through the food metaphor that the author takes it as a medium for connecting and interacting with diverse ethnicities around Nadia’s Café. The manner of preparing food in the Middle East is culturally different from the way Americans prepare their meals since an Arab woman should be an extraordinary pastry-cook (Orfalea 124). Sirine plays an important role to demonstrate that Arabs have their unique ways of preparing delicacies, and this single practice makes Sirine and the Arab Americans renowned for their exemplary cooking methodology.

The word Jazz in Arabian Jazz is a metaphor that frequently appears throughout the novel, apart from playing the role of the novel title. The author uses jazz in referring to a continuum of factors that distinguish Arab American immigrants living in the United States (Hartman 159). Jazz is a metaphoric expression referring to the Arab American community and their struggle to survive in the foreign land. The drumming of jazz and music played through the bands is the American jazz music that the widower Matussem greatly loves and frequently reminds him of his life in Palestine. The jazz metaphor explains the life of Matussem and his family experiences that seemed intertwined between two distinct cultures, which are the Arabian culture and the American culture, which make his daughters unable to distinguish their real identity (Hartman 154-159). Jazz music acts as a unitary identification for the Arab Americans and Native Americans since Matussem lives in a family with mixed identities.

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Allusions and Their Roles

Allusions in the literature represent a figure of speech that novelists, authors, or even oral speakers use to give an indirect reference to or intimation of an object or subject in a context. They are literary expressions or names that authors and novelists use to refer to something without exactly mentioning its actual name. One literary element that Diana Abu-Jaber utilizes to write the two books is an allusion. Diana Abu-Jaber frequently utilizes allusions to describe some cultural norms affecting Arabic women (Cherif 207). Fatima, a sister to Matussem, is one of the most important female characters, who battles against old ideologies associated with the Arab-American feminism. In the novel, Arabian Jazz, Fatima does not want to mention the female reproductive organs explicitly and refer them to them as things. In Arabian Jazz (117), Fatima tells her American nieces that in this world, it is horrible to be born a woman, and the worst is when a doctor looks at baby’s thing and says it is a girl.

Diana uses the literary art of allusion in some instances to demonstrate the manner in which people tend to anticipate and prospect about certain changes in their lives. The allusion in Crescent is eminent in the conversation involving Sirine and her uncle (Cherif 209). Arab Americans try to adjust to the American lifestyles through mimicking and sharing their experiences with each other regarding American culture. Sirine’s uncle constantly recalls the journey of acculturation into the American land and uses the aspect of illusion to demonstrate the manner in which Arab Americans have struggled to adjust to the American lifestyle and culture (Cherif 209). They mimic and make jokes about the culture of Americans that revolves around leisure behaviours bound in the modern Western lifestyles. In a conversation in the midst of their feast, the uncle emulates the behaviour of Americans by saying:

“Well, look at us”: sitting around here, like a bunch of Americans with our crazy turkey. All right now, I want to make a big toast. Here’s to sweet, unusual families, pleasant dogs, who behave, food of this nature, the seven types of smiles, the crescent moon, and a nice cup of tea with mint every day. Sahtain. Good luck and God bless everyone (Abu-Jaber Crescent 217).

In Arabian Jazz, Fatima remains disgusted by the old traditional norms vested upon Arabic patriarchal social order that frequently oppresses Arabic women (El-Hajj and Harb 140). An Arab woman must be in a marriage to become respectable in the community, just as the larger Arab community requires of any Arab woman. Fatima unveils the oppressive socio-historical experiences that Arab women undergo because of their traditional Arabic ideologies (El-Hajj and Harb 140). In the context of the Nadia’s Café in Crescent, the word terrorist appears when Iraqi American Sirine listens to a White woman talking about imagining about the word terrorist while mingling with Arab men in the café (197). Using the word terrorists refers to the popular conviction that the White Americans prejudice and assume that Arab men are mostly terrorists (Fadda-Conrey 203). Despite mingling together, racism is inevitable throughout the novels. In Crescent, Sirine cannot imagine having a baby of mixed two identities and introducing the baby to her parents is even a mystery. Sirine describes such scenarios as:

“The blood and bones and the shape of her mind and emotions-she think she would find her true and deeper nature”… She (Sirine) imagines her parents, young, expecting their first child, expecting, perhaps, a true amalgam of their two bodies. “Were they disappointed,” she wonders, to have an entirely fair-skinned child. (Abu-Jaber Crescent 231)

Among others, Arab Americans are not exceptions to other people of colour, a name that most White Americans frequently use to refer to the minority communities or refugees living in America (Cherif 212). Unable to distinguish herself as neither a White nor a Black woman, Sirine as an Iraq American Arab woman, concludes that the skin tone or skin colour of individuals in American is a mistaken notion that impels racial and ethnic biases. In Crescent, the author demonstrates the manner in which racial hostility has been forcing Arab Americans to construct racial links with other groups of coloured people, including the famous, but minored Black Americans (Hartman 146). Portia, the White American manager to Jemora, is the character, who reveals the notion of the allusion among the people of colour. Portia demonstrates racist hostility by referring to Jemora and his parents as people of colour that are no better than the American Negroes. She calls the father of Jemora, the dirty sand nigger (99).

In Arabian Jazz, the author uses the word master to refer explicitly to an Arab man, who the American Whites normally consider to dwell in the patriarchal traditions of the Arab community (Kaldas 179). In their conversation with her White American boss Portia, Jemora responds to the allegations of racial confrontation against her mixed African-Arabian origin specifically concerning her family. Jemora exclaims, “She married her master, who had twenty-six other wives. They were black, brown, and yellow, and some did not even have skin” (295). Jemora explains that her father was a real African man with a polygamous family of many women married to the same man (Kaldas 179). The allusion of master depicts the traditional African man brought up and dwelling in the Arabic traditions that confine to the social ideology of patriarchal familial order. Sharing similar traditions on polygamy just as the black, boss Portia sees the biological origin of Jerome as the reason behind her retrogressive and non-proactive characteristic at her workplace.

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Hyperboles and their Role

Hyperbole is a literary device or a figure of speech that involves using exaggerative or extravagant statements to give an extraordinary reference to something in literature. Hyperboles express or describe something with a view of deriving a moral lesson. Diana Abu-Jaber, in her two novels, Crescent and Arabian Jazz, uses hyperboles in different contexts throughout the storylines. In Arabian Jazz, the author uses the term strands of life, in a statement that claims that Matussem had a desire to retreat to Euclid and his lifestyle in his motherland, Palestine (Kaldas 176). Strands of life depict the Arabic life that strictly follows the religious norms and its connection to the cultural practices that Arabs rarely abandon, despite relocating to the Diaspora (Kaldas 176). All Arabian Americans continue to view themselves as immigrants and refugees despite their long life in America and even being the offspring of their ancestors, who stayed in America.

In a conversation in Arabian Jazz, Nassir and Jemorah claim that they are professional nomads and people, who spring from exiles. Having mixed identities and unable to trace their real identity in America, they still consider themselves as refugees given the prevailing state of racial prejudice in America (Hartman 143). In the novel, Arabian Jazz, Jemorah questions her mother as to why people normally go to church. Fatima describes the dressing code of the White Americans as not dressy enough, paints Christianity as a liberal religion that does not perceive the women’s attire as an important aspect of religion. Arabs and the Muslim community dwell in strong Islamic ideologies and often dispute Christianity and the manner in which women dress among Christians. Typical Arabs have the tendency of upholding their religious norms, cultural values, and important traditions associated with extended families and societies.

Arabs adore their cultural backdrop and often respects marriage rules stipulated by the Quran and the Arabic-Muslim Shariah. An Arab man lives within the stipulations of the Islamic laws that govern courtship and marriage, including the patriarchal and societal principles of Shariah. According to Abu-Jaber, Fatima persistently reminds Jemorah to marry her fellow Arabic men: “you come back to home soon, come back to the Old Country, and marry the handsome Arab boys and makes for us grandsons” (Arabian Jazz 77). The old country here depicts Palestine as the home for both Jemorah and Fatima. In Arabian Jazz, Diana Abu-Jaber describes the home of Matussem as a place thick with ghosts. Diana Abu-Jaber wants to exaggerate the notion that the family is homesick and the nostalgic memories of Palestine as their homeland appears in frequent discussions (El-Hajj and Harb 139). The contextual situation in this perception is that the Arab American family, although confused due to mixed identities, still recollects experiences of Palestine and considers it as the motherland.

Poetry, Songs, and Their Role

One of the critical literary devices that Diana Abu-Jaber employs in her literature writings, just like several other Arab Americans writers, is the art of poetry. Diana Abu-Jaber uses the literary arts of poetry in both novels with the poets carrying their unique roles in the literature documented. The art of Arab American poetry appears in Crescent, where Arab Americans in the company of the chef woman Sirine, gather to recite and sing poems while making dinner in the cafe. A dinner conversation at Nadia’s Café largely entailed food and politics. Aziz and Sirine recite poems while trying to demonstrate the disparities of cultural norms of cooking between the Arab Americans and the White Americans. The Arab Americans love their traditional way of cooking because they hold that the food sold in bakeries and supermarkets across the American states seems tasteless to them. Using bread as an example, Sirine claims that the cooking habits of White Americans are unnatural as their food are tasteless and unpalatable.

Poetry is a cherished literary art among Arabians and mostly used by the community and individuals to express their emotions and feelings, especially while in love or having a feeling of torment, personal sorrow, and a feeling of rejection (Orfalea 116). Orfalea states that poetry is the stuff of life in the Arab world; it is unfurled at dinner tables, and at nearly all public gatherings, from funerals to political rallies and religious meetings (115). The poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye in Crescent, which Arab Americans recite and sing during dinner conversations in the cafe, demonstrates the communal emotion, individual sorrow and even a sense of love among Arab Americans. Poem in Crescent offers a means of sentimental communication between Han and Sirine, a common culture in the Arab community (Field 209). The poem, as a source of expressing communal emotions, connects and binds the Arab American families from different regions in the American Diaspora to one family. In Crescent, characters often met to share happiness and ideas.

Living in an environment marred by racial prejudice and hatred, the Arab American family gathering in the café uses poems to soothe their emotional repressions during the dinner conversations (Fadda-Conrey 194). The poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye shared among Arabians around Nadia’s cafe is a source of reminiscence and recollection of their homeland memories and brings a feeling of Arabic culture and togetherness in the foreign land. With food as a complement to poetry for their convergence in the cafes, members freely share love, communicate with each other, recollect their memories, and argue politics that reflect ethnicity, culture, and class (Field 208). Poetry is a source of courtship tool that Arab men use to provide romantic sensations to their lovers just as demonstrated in the case of Sirine and Han, who attained a blossoming romance through the reciting of love poems (Field 209). Poems, therefore, become sources of sharing love, depression, and peace among Arab Americans just as their culture and traditions portray. The poem encapsulates the importance of the poems as:

The memories of acculturation and shifting in cultural norms become clear in the poem that Shihab wrote. Shihab wrote, everything we have learned so far, skins alive and ripening, on a day that was real to us that was summer, motion going out, and memory coming in (Abu-Jaber Crescent 113).

The art of poetry also appears in Arabian Jazz, with the author trying to demonstrate the cultural traditions associated with the Arab community (Kaldas 167). Combined with elements of songs that have almost similar literary arts, the author explains how the element of poetry bonds the family of Matussem. As the American jazz sounds poetic in nature and due to its musical and poetic nature, it has attracted Arab Americans to the jazz songs and bonded them together because they love for poems (El-Hajj and Harb 138). Like the poems in the Arab world, the Arabian Jazz is a sort of reflection of the Palestine lifestyle of Arabic culture of poetry and music to fit into American jazz played by drums and bands (El-Hajj and Harb 138). Arabian Jazz describes the process of self-definition, where Arab Americans Matussem and Nassir embattle American racial prejudice and American jazz becomes a meeting point of Arabians through music as a source of recollection.

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The poetry of food comes into play as a language with a hidden meaning in communication among the Arab Americans, who shared their nostalgic memories, sentimental moments, and their dilemma in adjusting to the American racially divided land. Mercer and Strom assert that “in Diana Abu-Jabber’s novel, Crescent, and in the poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye, food functions as a complex language for communicating love, memory, and exile” (33). The poem and poetic nature of Naomi clearly demonstrates the nature of the Arab woman bound to live in the order of a patriarchal family. The ideas in the poem stick to the domestic environment familiar to an Arabic woman, where words such as gardens, kitchens, grocery stores, foods, among others frequently appear in the poem. In the poem written in Crescent, Naomi Nye combined domestic concepts with facts to elaborate issues of unappreciated efforts of the Arab women bound to traditions and dwelling in the patriarchal families. Naomi Nye notes that:

In the poem, Naomi exclaims, “When I think how far the onion has travelled just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise all small forgotten miracles.” While others notice the “texture of meat or herbal aroma,” she praises the real hero of the stew: “the translucence of onion, now limp, now divided” which “for the sake of others, disappears.” (Abu-Jaber Crescent 13).


Metonymy is a literary figure of speech that involves the use of a phrase or word used in place of another word. It is a literary practice of substituting a phrase with another closely related to generate a unique meaning. The novelist, Diana Abu-Jaber, tried to employ the technique of using metonymies in writing the two novels. In a narration in Arabian Jazz, Jemorah and Melvie recall the good impression, in terms of stories that their aunts from America told them. The author uses a metonym summer and flight to describe the rising trend of immigration into and from America by the Arab Americans, who anticipate living well in America. Summer in this scenario means the warm season in America and mostly associates with the homecoming of Americans, who toured other places and arrival of different people in America. This is the time when opportunities and business expand and become more productive with working opportunities for both the nationals and foreigners available.

The author in the same context in Arabian Jazz uses the word flight of fancy, to depict the notion of arriving Arab Americans in aeroplanes, who consider America to be a fancy place with extraordinary lifetime job opportunities. In Crescent, the author uses the word terrorist, commonly used by the White Americans to depict the assumptions that Arab men are mainly rebellious and capable of carrying out terrorist activities. In Crescent, the author frequently mentions the word ingredients to demonstrate the differences in cultural cooking styles of the Arab Americans and that of the White Americans, which Arabs consider formless. The chef is also a common phrase in Crescent, where Sirine and her Arabic counterparts receive fame in from flavoured foods. The chef is an honourable name that indicates the ability of the Arab women to cook quality delicacies within the café.

Personification and Its Use

The art of personification as a literary element involves the use of phrases and words to assign human characteristics to non-human living thing to express certain notions or ideas in certain literature. Diana Abu-Jaber uses personification in certain cases to demonstrate the racial hatred and cultural differences between the Arab Americans and the White Americans. The romantic experiences of Jemorah and Ricky have some personification elements where Steven Salaita, Jemorah, and Ricky debate over the cruelty of Arabs and Hindus (Abu-Jaber Arabian Jazz 36). Jemorah regards fauns, mermaids, and monsters as lovely creatures that have human nature and practical existence. According to Abu-Jaber, ‘a beautiful monster’ and ‘demigods and fabulous beasts’ are words that Jemorah and Ricky use to describe these nonliving creatures (Arabian Jazz 36). The subplot represents the true Arabic cultural nature of believing in the existence of supernatural gods and spirits. Historically, Arabs have been living a mythical life full mythologies and theories of gods and goddesses that presently influence their spirituality.

Jemorah, in this scene, compares children in a certain play to the mermaids and gives the mythical mermaid the characteristics and behaviours of human in practical life. This scene represents true mythical perceptions that Arabs and Muslim religion have historically believed. Although nonexistent, Arabs have always believed that mermaids, jinni and monsters, if they are not practical, they exist spiritually in the supernatural world. In Crescent, personification appears in some identifiable situations to reveal the passionate hatred for Arab Americans towards the culture and religion of the Whites, which mainly comprise of the Christian doctrines (Mercer and Storm 34). While Sirine and her Arab community converse in Nadia’s Café, the poem by Naomi Shihab Nye personifies onions and terms then the crying onions; deliberately to mock the spirituality of Christians, the reality behind domestic labour affecting Arab women (Abu-Jaber Crescent 131). Onions in this case represent all women, who normally receive little praise for their commendable family chores, just as people ignore the importance of onions that increases flavour, aroma, and taste of meals.

In the poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, the travelling onion is an effective idea that presents the plight of an Arab woman living in the patriarchal and familial order, where the kitchen is the place for women to carry out their daily chores (Mercer and Storm 34). The translucence of onion as the stew champion often ignored describes the Arab women, who the culture has relegated their roles to domestic duties. The poetry reveals mockery of Arab women towards Christianity and its forms of priestly practices. The poem discusses about the priestly teachings that involve the parable of “confessing our fears to the flesh of the tomato” (Abu-Jaber Crescent 83). The poet compares human life with the halfway-ripened tomato, which is ripening gradually. The domestic environment associated with the Arab women makes them to perform domestic chores and practices, and thus affects their perceptions of life (Mercer and Storm 34). Their reasoning surrounding flavoured food, kitchenware, and ingredients affects their view of postmodernism.

Juxtapositions in the Novels

Juxtapositions, also commonly known as contrasting expressions, are figures of speech that involve placing two ideas or notions close together, specifically for drawing comparisons or contrasts. Diana Abu-Jaber uses juxtapositions elements in some specific cases that directly demonstrate the cultural differences between White Americans and Arab Americans, as well as the feministic problems among the Arab women (El-Hajji and Harb 146). In the novel, Arabian Jazz, “Diana juxtaposes the tomb of the infant girls against grown-up Matussem to reveal patriarchal injustices, whereby the girls had to die for Matussem to grow,” (El-Hajji and Harb 147). Matussem had witnessed the burial of four newborn sisters alive, since a poor family could not tolerate their upbringing cost. The Arabian and African communities have old ideologies and stereotypes that cherish and respect the lives of men than the lives of women. According to Abu-Jaber, the sister of Matussem, Fatima buried her four surviving sister babies so that other people, especially the brother Matussem, should survive during the time when the family were destitute and hungry (Arabian Jazz 334).

On the same burial issue, the author again juxtaposes the burial place of the newborn girls with the sounds produced by the American bulldozers at the commercial construction sites (Abu-Jaber Arabian Jazz 147). Apart from expressing the extent of negligence that the girl child experiences and discrimination against the feminists within the Arab community, the notion of poverty of the Arab American immigrants and the richness of Israeli occupants in the neighbourhood becomes eminent in this scene (El-Hajji and Harb 147). Arab Americans have been struggling to eliminate poverty and achieve education, although little seems practicable in eliminating the conformist ideologies that discriminate women. In Arabian Jazz, boss Portia juxtaposes the identity of Jemorah against her personal rigid conviction about Americanism, as a pure race. Portion juxtaposes that Americanism consists of the postmodern Christianity, the whiteness aspect, mixed education, and social mobility from one region to another, a notion that reveals multiculturalism (El-Hajji and Harb 151). This reveals prejudice that the White Americans exercise against the Arab Americans.

The author used the literary art of juxtapositions in Arabian Jazz to demonstrate the manner in which the patriarchal lifestyle of the Arabs back in the Middle East, affects women since they have little space in their communities and receive minimal attention (McCullough 804). The story of killing the newborn babies of a feminine nature explains the cultural disparities between the White Americans and the Arab community, who seem to have high respect for men than women. In a conversation, the painful moments of killing the four living babies for the sake of the survival of Matussem haunt Fatima in her stay in America (McCullough, 803). This portion of the story juxtaposes with the American culture that dwells on equity between women and men, and boys and girls. In a painful trepidation, Fatima converses with his brother Matussem and reveals her painful past by exclaiming that:

“What of my losses? What of my parents’ shame, driven off the good land and sacred home the father’s fathers built? When we were homeless and dying without food, what of the four starving babies I had to bury still alive, living-I, I, I” she said, pushing her palms in their faces, as if the mark of it was there to be read. Can I buy a bar of American soap and wash these away… babies I buried with my mother watching so this rest could live, so my baby brother can eat, so he can move away and never know about it” (Abu-Jaber Arabian Jazz 334).

Fairy Tales and Storytelling

A common literary practice that Arab Americans employ is the use of storytelling, which is a strategy that appears almost throughout the two novels. Crescent largely involves the literary element of storytelling that appears throughout the scenes of the novel. The author structures the novel to focus on cafeteria food that creates a storytelling aspect involving men and women of the Arab community around the café (Mercer and Strom 40). Many Arab Americans tend to feel the attraction of flavoured foods in Nadia’s Café and the idea of storytelling and reflections of their historical backdrop pulls them together. People at the coffee restaurant narrate stories concerning their real life experiences, as well as folk stories involving the traditions and culture of the Arab community. They share jinn tales of Aunty Camille and her son, Abdelrahaman, and their exploration on the Arabian. Additionally, the people at the restaurant discuss folktales concerning the mythologized jinn and the traditional beliefs about monsters. Hence, the description of mythologized jinni is that:

A lesser-known fact about jinns, Sirine’s uncle explains is that although their homes may lack “living rooms or dining rooms or studies or bathrooms or even very comfortable beds, they do like a nice kitchen, to satisfy their sweet tooth, maybe bake a little knaffea, brew a little coffee, have a few people over-that sort of thing (Abu-Jaber Crescent 193).

Arabians have always lived in extended families and storytelling is part of their traditional tendency while enjoying meals or simple coffee. They believe that storytelling relieves people from psychological torment, frustrations, and loneliness, and rejuvenates listeners through by assuming the haunting past and embracing hope for the future (Field 215). The gathering at the café for stories is a recap of the familial collection that prevailed in their Arab homelands. A similar storytelling element of literature is eminent in the Arabian Jazz, which reveals storytelling as the foremost means of recollecting information about the past of the Arab Americans. Storytelling is a common aspect that appears between Matussem, his sister Fatima, and the children of Matussem. To motivate them to work hard and improve their lives through education, Fatima constantly reminds her nieces about the historical and traumatic experiences of the Arab communities and even through her personal life experiences. The stories of burying the newborn sisters could probably motivate the nieces to work hard in school.

Families of Arab Americans communities residing in America constantly share their historical grievances, which they believe rejuvenate them to build hope for great future when they are still in the American land (Shakir 39). Fatima shares her story of incarceration in America in which racial prejudice motivated her imprisonment. The painful memories of her incarceration remain stuck in her heart. She does not seem to forego the happenings of her incarceration and such bitter moments offer a means of motivation to make the nieces remain a staunch Arab and uphold the Islamic principles. However, through storytelling the events, she feels revealed from the haunting past. “I think maybe if I do not say it, maybe, it does not go away” (Abu-Jaber Arabian Jazz, 335). To send away conscious thoughts and painful flashbacks and memories, the storytelling element here demonstrates the traditional Arabian cultural practice of conversing and sharing folktales with family members during free time and during dinnertime.

Storytelling is the literary art that dominates the work of Diana Abu Dhabi in her novel, Crescent. Storytelling brings about the understanding of two major themes that Diana targeted to elaborate in Crescent (Mercer and Strom 35). First, the art of storytelling brings about the issue of the nature and culture of the Arab families that live in patriarchal order and in nuclear families. The Arabs generally love working communally and share most of their traditions in large families or societies (Mercer and Strom 34). The Arabic community remains arranged in extended families where the concept of storytelling is common among family members. Secondly, storytelling unveils the culture of Arabs in which cooking delicacies and discussing about food within family members, especially women, is a common practice (Mercer and Strom 34). In Crescent, most of the actions take place around various kitchens and storytelling with food contents takes up the major discussions involving the Arab Americans, who gathered around the cafe for either dinner or supper. A description of the scenario shows that:

During the storytelling, Arabic men and women would recall and anticipate. Through storytelling, Nye recalls her father, “He (Nye’s father) carried the tray into the room high and balanced in his hands, and it was an offering to all of them.” His Arabic culture, his past-history, family, friends, and his hope for the future are “the centre of the flower” (Abu-Jaber Crescent 130).

Comparison of Themes of the Books


The two novels share similar themes concerning the plight of Arab Americans in the American Diaspora. The themes of cultural disparities, racial discrimination, acculturation, feminism, postmodernism, and political superiority appear in both novels (Ludescher 97). The two novels demonstrate how the White Americans differ culturally with the Arab American immigrants, especially through their cooking practices, dressing code, courtship and marriage behaviours, socialization practices, and familial associations. The two books demonstrate the inherent hatred and racial discrimination between the Arab Americans and the White Americans, and the way Arab American women struggle to pursue their dreams in a racially rivalled zone (Shakir 43). Each of the two novels describes how the racial disparities remain noticeable between the two communities and eminently seen through differences in their creed, religious beliefs, traditional values, and inherited cultural norms. The novels also discuss the theme of multiculturalism and the hardships that the American immigrant communities experienced, especially the Arab Americans in the acculturation process in the foreign land of America.

Feminism is one of the foremost themes discussed in both novels, with the author trying to justify prevailing differences between women raised in Arab culture and the Americanized woman (Cherif 214). The novels reveal how Arab American women and American women view womanhood differently with an Arabian woman bound to the patriarchal traditional principles and the American woman dwelling in postmodernism. While an American woman lives in the first world perspective of the independent woman, the Arab American woman struggles to eliminate traditional ideologies vested in the patriarchal family order. Such notions bring forth a new idea and theme of postmodernism and the way Arab American women differ with American women in their attitudes and perceptions towards maturity and independence of women (Cherif 210). Postmodern culture dwells on the notion that a woman should remain independent, something that American women have already experienced, contrary to the Arab American women. The two novels also discuss the divisive racial politics surrounding the Arab nations and the Europe and American nations and their impact on individuals.

Apart from revealing the cultural disparities between Arab Americans and White Americans, the two novels highlight issues of marriage and courtship as independent themes in the novels (McCullough 806). The theme of courtship and marriage is prevalent throughout the two novels as the author trying to demonstrate the differences in gendered interaction between Arabs and Americans. Abu-Jaber reveals the courtship practices of Arab Americans through the interaction of Sirine and Han (Crescent 135). Arabian Jazz reveals the perceptions of Arabs on marriage through Fatima and Matussem, who take marriage as a serious matter bound in the Arabic culture. Marriage and behaviours of courtship seem to be the centre of controversial arguments that frequently raise issues of ethical disparities in the discussions of the characters (McCullough 804). In Arabian Jazz, as Fatima persuades her nieces to marry their fellow Arab men and stick to their traditional norms that govern marriage, Portia undermines the cultural practices affecting the autonomy of the Arab women.


Almost all major themes are prevalent in both novels, with the Arab women struggling to survive with Americanized communities. The differences in thematic structure are minute, although they are distinctive between the two novels. In Arabian Jazz, the novelist incorporates the theme of social class. Diana Abu-Jaber demonstrates the way Arab Americans struggle to eliminate poverty with characters such as Ramoud, who live in deprived suburbs littered with dirty diapers and garbage (McCullough 809). Death is rampant within lower class schools where families of learners can barely afford proper childcare, with pupils from the rich families enjoying the good care even within their schools. Arabian Jazz explores the struggle of Arab Americans in poverty-stricken zones and the manner in which social class affects their educational progress, their source of revenue, and their interaction with the whites who they assume to be of a higher class than the Arabs do (Fadda-Conrey 208). Bosses are mainly the White Americans, while the Arab Americans seek employment from these bosses.

The issue of social class in the novel, Crescent, is miniature, as Arab entrepreneurs, such as the owner of Nadia Café, have become independent and even employers of others. There is little about the disparities in richness between the Arab Americans and the Native white Americans as people of all colours interact freely in the Arab American design café for meals. Although discussions and poetries dominate conversations and the notion of racial prejudice is eminent throughout the scenes of the novels, the aspect of social disparity is unfeasible. Members of the White origin and that of the Arab origin remain connected by the delicacies cooked in the Arabic style. Although the concept of social differences is somewhat apparent, it does not connect or relate directly to the lives of Arab Americans, but touches on common social disparities. Palestinians dominate the middle class just as other Native White American residents, and social order is unpredictable.

Disparities between Arab and American Literature

It has been an argumentative issue concerning the art of American and Arab American novelists and the differences between their literary techniques. Arab American writers have fallen under criticism due to their stand on self-censorship (Shakir 42). While the Arab Americans novelists and writers concentrate on unveiling the realities behind the struggle of the Arabs against nepotism, racial prejudice, feminism, multiculturalism, and pre-colonial historical injustice against Arabs, the style of White Americans is different (Ludescher 100). American writers engage in modern writing based on the postmodern ideology of the manner in which societies struggle to cope with modern global changes as a whole (McCullough 809). As Arab American writers demonstrate the cultural essence of Arab American background and their contributions to the American development, the American writers highlight means by which Arabs and whites tend to disagree on religious beliefs, economic development and postmodernism (McCullough 806). The Arab American literature focuses on the transition of the Arabs and acculturation crisis that they face due to their rigidity in cultural and religious norms.

While the Arab American novelists focus on demonstrating the struggle of an Arab woman in a patriarchal social order, the American literature is different as it highlights the modern woman in general and the issues affecting their growth (Naaman 268). Techniques of storytelling such as the use of metaphoric expressions are in less application in the American literature. The Arab American literature involves a controversial view about lost historical memories, cultural standards, and traditional norms, while the American literature and American writers focus on individual experiences and the way they reflect to the larger communities (Cherif 211). While Arab American writers mythologize their writing, American writers speak through their personal experiences without concentrating on the problem in a unified religious, ethnic, or social manner. Arab American writers tend to justify their stands behind their religious beliefs and the reasons behind religious unity, while American writers see religion as a personal issue (Fadda-Conrey 201). The Arab American authors focus on drawing attention on disparities between Western feminists and the Arab feminists, whereas American literature describes the plight of women universally.


The Arab American literature seems to grow at the advent of works produced by Diana Abu-Jaber, who has a different notion about Arabs and their acculturation process in the United States. Diana Abu-Jaber uses different literary tools to describe the struggle of the Arabs in acculturating in America. Using literary elements such as metaphors, juxtapositions, metonymy, storytelling, poetry, personification and hyperboles, the author manages to express the contextual situations in the novels. The use of these literary elements enables the author to demonstrate issues of cultural differences, racial and ethical disparities, social inequality, and political problems influencing the survival of Arab Americans in the United States. The elements of poetry, storytelling, and songs reveal the cultural values of the Arabs and the way they differ from that of the Native Americans. Diana Abu-Jaber, just as many other Arab American authors, contributes in showing the prevailing literary differences between Arab Americans and Americans. Her literary techniques have distinctive differences from the way other authors view culture, postmodernism, history, racial prejudice, and wealth.

Works Cited

Abu-Jaber, Diana, Arabian Jazz, New York City, United States: Norton Publishers, 2003. Print.

Abu-Jaber, Diana, Crescent: A Novel, New York City, United States: Norton Publishers, 2004. Print.

Cherif, Essayah. “Arab American Literature: Gendered Memory in Abinader and Abu Jaber.” MELUS 28.4 (2003): 207-228. Print.

El-Hajj, Hind, and Sirene Harb. “Straddling the Personal and the Political: Gendered Memory in Diana Abu Jaber’s Arabian Jazz.” MELUS 36.3 (2011): 137-158. Print.

Fadda-Conrey, Carol. “Arab American Literature in the Ethnic Borderland: Cultural intersections in Diana Abu Jaber’s Crescent.” MELUS 31.4(2006): 187-205. Print.

Field, Robin. “A Prophet in Her Own Town: An Interview with Diana Abu-Jaber.” MELUS 31.4 (2006): 207-225. Print.

Kaldas, Pauline. “Beyond Stereotypes: Representational Dilemmas in Arabian Jazz.” MELUS, 31.4 (2006): 167-185. Print.

Ludescher, Tanyss. “From Nostalgia to Critique: An Overview of Arab American Literature.” MELUS 31.4 (2006): 93-114. Print.

Hartman, Michelle. “This Sweet / Sweet Music: Jazz, Sam Cooke, and Reading Arab American Literary Identities.” MELUS 31.4 (2006): 145-165. Print.

McCullough, Kate. “Displacement as Narrative Structure: Refugee Time/Space in Diana Abu- Jaber’s Arabian Jazz.” American Literature 83.4 (2011): 803-829. Print.

Mercer, Lorraine and Linda Strom. Counter Narratives: Cooking Up Stories of Love and Loss in Naomi Shihab Nye’s Poetry and Diana Abu-Jaber’s Crescent.” MELUS 32.4 (2007):33-46. Print.

Naaman, Mara. “Post Gibran: Antology of New Arab American Writing.” MELUS 31.4 (2006): 266-271. Print.

Orfalea, Gregory. “The Arab American Novel.” MELUS 31.4 (2006): 115-133. Print.

Shakir, Evelyn. “Mothers Milk: Women in Arab American Autobiography.” MELUS 15.4 (1988): 39-50. Print.

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