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“Homeland America, bismillah”

Mohja Kahf’s The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf and the Dissonance of Nationhood

Marta Cariello    Università degli Studi della Campania "Luigi Vanvitelli", Italia    



Mohja Kahf’s 2006 novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, follows the protagonist, Khadra, in her journey ‘back home’, to the State of Indiana, where she grew up and where she ran away from, in search of herself, her identity, and a less ‘dissonant’ existence first in her native Syria, then in Eastern US. Her personal and intimate search becomes an exploration into the multilayered and intricate articulations of the Islamic faith, of its positionings inside the US, and its negotiations with US nationhood. Kahf’s is a work of fiction that is also a (sometimes quite explicit) dissertation on Islam, the Muslim-American community, issues of inclusion, exclusion, identity, whiteness, and the national narrative of the US vis-à-vis the Ku Klux Klan, 9-11, Orientalism and patriarchy. This article looks at Kahf’s novel in the light of a critical discourse emerging in Arab-American fiction in relation to the boundaries and predicaments of US nationhood. In particular, the analysis will focus on Mohja Kahf’s poetics of dissonance that challenges dominant narratives of American national identity and its exclusionary cultural politics.

Dec. 21, 2017
Sept. 15, 2017
July 13, 2017

Keywords: Arab-American literatureFeminismDiasporic women writersIslamNationhood

Copyright: © 2017 Marta Cariello. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.