Los Angeles is home to the largest population of people of Middle Eastern origin and descent in the United States. Since the late nineteenth century, Syrian and Lebanese migration, in particular, to Southern California has been intimately connected to and through Latin America. Arab Routes uncovers the stories of this Syrian American community, one both Arabized and Latinized, to reveal important cross-border and multiethnic solidarities in Syrian California.
Sarah M. A. Gualtieri reconstructs the early Syrian connections through California, Texas, Mexico, and Lebanon. She reveals the Syrian interests in the defense of the Mexican American teens charged in the 1942 Sleepy Lagoon murder, in actor Danny Thomas's rise to prominence in LA's Syrian cultural festivals, and in more recent activities of the grandchildren of immigrants to reclaim a sense of Arabness. Gualtieri reinscribes Syrians into Southern California history through her examination of powerful images and texts, augmented with interviews with descendants of immigrants. Telling the story of how Syrians helped forge a global Los Angeles, Arab Routes counters a long-held stereotype of Arabs as outsiders and underscores their longstanding place in American culture and in interethnic coalitions, past and present.
About the author
Sarah M. A. Gualtieri is Associate Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, History, and Middle East Studies at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora (2009).
"Arab Routes charts a radical new history of the early Syrian community in Southern California, revealing its fascinating cross-border, multilocal, and multiethnic networks and coalitions across the US, Latin America, and the Arab world. Drawing on a rich repertoire of archives, cultural texts, and oral histories, Sarah Gualtieri complicates and revises our understanding of Arab immigration to the Americas. An expansive, cutting-edge, and much-needed book."
—Carol W.N. Fadda, Syracuse University, author of Contemporary Arab-American Literature: Transnational Reconfigurations of Citizenship and Belonging
"This beautifully written study explores the ties between Latino/a and Syrian communities in California. Sarah Gualtieri upends standard narratives about Arabs in the United States, showing how multiple migrations and lasting ties to Latin America forged an Arab Latinidad. A wonderful and riveting book that will reshape binary understandings of US–Middle East relations."
—Melani McAlister, George Washington University, author of Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945
"In this ingenious study, Sarah Gualtieri maps hemispheric immigration histories that redress the erasure of Syrians from California history and complicate our understandings of Mexicanidad. Rigorous and creative, Arab Routes will transform how we conceptualize immigration, race, gender, and the histories and boundaries of Arab and Latin America."
—Nadine Naber, University of Illinois at Chicago, author of Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism
"Through recounting the personal stories of migrants and analyzing an expansive archive of census records, articles, letters, etc., author Sarah Gualtieri counters the narrative that Middle Eastern migrants are recent arrivals from a conflict-ridden region. Instead, she provides a new story where Syrian Americans are deeply woven into the history of California."
—Rafael Hernández, The Middle East Journal
"[Arab Routes] sits among the most important books in Middle East migration studies; in its critical rigor, it is also an essential and indispensable contribution to comparative US ethnic studies.the book will irrevocably transform the study of Arab and Middle Eastern American migration and racialization for years to come."
—Neda Maghbouleh, Mashriq & Mahjar