March 14, 2011 Arab-American Author Ameen Rihani Is Subject of March 29 Symposium
Event Marks Centennial Anniversary of First Arab-American Novel
Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Chris Murphy (202) 707-5676
In 1911, Dodd, Mead and Co. in New York published “The Book of Khalid” by Ameen Rihani (1876-1940). The fictional account of two Lebanese boys who immigrate to New York at the turn of the century is considered to be the first novel by an Arab-American written in English. Its themes still resonate today: ideal relations between Americans and Arabs and the rightful position of Arabs within the great American story of immigration.
Rihani—the most influential, prolific and world-renowned Arab-American author of the early 20th century— and his seminal work will be the focus of a symposium to be held at the Library of Congress from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29 in Room LJ-119, located on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C.
Sponsored and organized by the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division and the Ameen Rihani Institute, the symposium is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required but seating is limited. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.
Scholars from universities in the Middle East, Europe and the United States will discuss Rihani’s life and work. The Lebanese Ambassador to the United States, Antoine Chedid, will deliver opening remarks. Closing remarks will be made by Saad Albazei, member of the Shura Council of Saudi Arabia and the president of the Riyadh Literary Club. Todd Fine, director of Project Khalid (www.projectkhalid.org External), will discuss the centennial anniversary campaign.
The Near East Section of the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division holds Rihani’s works in Arabic; his works in English as well as many editions in other languages are held in the Library’s General Collections. Selected items will be on display in Room LJ-113 during the symposium.
Born in Lebanon in 1876, Rihani was the oldest son of a raw silk manufacturer, and his family’s commercial ambitions led to immigration to the United States. In 1888, at the age of 11, Rihani’s father sent him to America where he learned English. He entered New York Law School in 1897 but illness forced him to return to Lebanon to recuperate. There, he began teaching English in a clerical school in return for being taught his native Arabic language, and he began to study classical Arabic literature and poetry. He subsequently authored many works in both Arabic and English, including essays, literary criticism, novels, short stories, plays and works of poetry. Rihani’s lectures and publications established him as a forward thinker and visionary in the Middle Eastern intellectual world. Through his writing and political activity, he sought to educate Americans about the Arab world and enlighten Arabs about the United States.
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The African and Middle Eastern Division was established in 1978 as part of a reorganization that combined the Near East Section, the African Section and the Hebraic Section. Together they cover some 78 countries and regions from Southern Africa to the Maghreb and from the Middle East to Central Asia. For more information on the division and its holdings, visit the African and Middle Eastern Division at www.loc.gov/rr/amed/.