Isra Shadi, a twenty-one-year-old woman of mixed Palestinian and white descent, lives in California with her paternal amu (uncle), amtu (aunt), and cousins after the death of her mother and abandonment by her father at a young age. Ever the outcast in her amu and amtu's household, they eagerly encourage Isra to marry and leave. After rejecting a string of undesirable suitors, she marries Yusef, an old love from her past.
In Amreekiya, author Lena Mahmoud deftly juggles two storylines, alternating between Isra's youth and her current life as a married twentysomething who is torn between cultures and trying to define herself. The chapters chronicle various moments in Isra's narrative, including the volatile relationship of her parents and the trials and joys of forging a partnership with Yusef. Mahmoud also examines Isra's first visit to Palestine, the effects of sexism, how language affects identity, and what it means to have a love that overcomes unbearable pain.
An exploration of womanhood from an underrepresented voice in American literature, Amreekiya is simultaneously unique and relatable. Featuring an authentic array of characters, Mahmoud's first novel is a much-needed story in a divided world.
"Both wise and humorous, Mahmoud's debut novel is an intimate portrayal of an early Arab American marriage, filled with passion, loss, and ultimately forgiveness. Readers will be moved by the fierce but fragile Isra, who refuses to be defined by her family, her husband, and her society." -- Susan Muaddi Darraj, author of A Curious Land: Stories from Home
"Lena Mahmoud's novel, Amreekiya, takes us through the story of Isra, a young Palestinian American woman, as she negotiates the liminal space between cultures, generations, and gender. Mahmoud brings the past and present together, moving the novel back and forth to blur the distinctions of time. As we watch Isra grow, she becomes a catalyst for the interrogation of gender roles within the dynamics of cultural tensions. This is an honest and vulnerable story where Mahmoud manages the escalating tensions and the delicate balance of familial relationships with a skilled hand. The fabric of Palestine lives beneath this narrative, weaving into the lives of these characters as they as they struggle for place and identity in their new world." -- Pauline Kaldas, author of Looking Both Ways: An Egyptian-American Journey
"Yusef and Isra's story is relevant for people worldwide. With poignant, beautiful writing, Mahmoud quickly draws readers into the novel, portraying all her characters with a sympathetic voice. A fantastic choice for book discussions and well worth a second reading." -- Library Journal (starred review)
"Mahmoud constructs a subversive story about love and marriage in her novel Amreekiya, a feminist Palestinian project that follows its headstrong lead, Isra, through struggle and loss. This is a tense examination of what a marriage is and how gendered expectations influence love and family. It is an intimate dissection of a relationship that exists in an unequal world.Isra is a brave, uncompromising heroine who fights back against what everyone tells her sheshould be. Her character is heartbreaking: a caged bird unable to break free. Mahmoud portrays the unsettling conflict between freedom and social imprisonment in Amreekiya, an unnerving novel that encourages questioning common assumptions, no matter how deep down they rest." -- Foreword Reviews
"Beautifully composed, the novel alternates between vignettes of Isra Shadi's childhood and her journey as a fledging adult. Through the voice of Isra, an emotionally abused yet fiercely determined Arab-American, author Lena Mahmoud conveys the fraught negotiations needed to assimilate into multiple circles of belonging while asserting one's individuality. Isra proves an endearing and strong-willed narrator." -- Al Jadid