Language of Baklava: Discussion Questions

I hope you’re enjoying Language of Baklava, by Diana Abu-Jaber.  Below are some questions to guide your reading.  We welcome your thoughts and comments on the blog! 1. In the memoir, Abu-Jaber’s father Bud constantly uses food to reassure himself that his connection to his origins and family are not lost, and to attempt to connect his children to that heritage. Why, do you believe, does food hold power to forge such connections? What foods remind you of such connections? 2. Some immigrant children reject their ethnic foodways (at least temporarily) in an effort to become Americanized. Despite Diana Abu-Jaber’s temporary rebellions, she never does. Why might that be so, given her larger feelings about her father and her family? 3. One important theme in this book is finding one’s place as a person between cultures. Do you believe that such accommodation happens for Diana? If so, how does she accomplish it? Or does she end up identifying herself more one way than another? 4. Although the themes of The Language of Baklava are serious, the book is full of humor. What does the humor add? Do humor and food go together, in some ways, for you? 5.  How does this book compare to Girls of the Factory, by M. Laetitia Cairoli? Do the books share common themes and ideas? What are some of the differences in the books? How does The Language of Baklava add to your understanding of the Middle...

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Girls of the Factory: Discussion Questions

Dear Readers, Below is a list of questions from author M. Laetita Cairoli to help guide your reading of Girls of the Factory.  We welcome your comments about the book here on the blog and look forward to discussing the book with you on October 1!   Preface 1. What is the purpose of a book’s preface? 2. How and why did the author develop this book? How much time has elapsed between writing and research?   Introduction   (Note: As I state in the preface, the narrative portion of this text could stand alone from this introduction, which is more theoretical in nature, depending on the level of the students.)  1. In the introduction the author states her goals for the book. What are these goals? 2. Why has the author chosen the narrative style for this ethnography? 3. In what way do the book’s three sections – street, factory, home—correspond to divisions the girls themselves impose upon space? How does the factory/home dichotomy get used by theorists investigating the global factory? 5. What are some of the issues that have been raised by theorists studying the work of girls and women in factories across the globe? How does the author deal with these issues? 10. Who are the garment girls of Fes? Consider their age, educational status, family position, class status, etc. 11. What are the central values and expectations of Fes families regarding their daughters?    Chapter 1 1. Look at the map of Fes given here. Where are the Ville Nouvelle, the medina, the factory districts located relative to one another? Based on the author’s descriptions, what are the differences between these particular sections of the city? 2. The director of the Fes Chamber of Commerce does not want the author to step inside a factory, although he agrees to allow her to view them from the outside. In your opinion, what is motivating him? Is Malik’s explanation sufficient? 3. Haja and Fatima both advise the author not to return to the factory where she met them. In your opinion, why are they so certain the owner would not be happy with a repeat visit? Should the author listen to their advice? Why or why not? 4. “As job hunters in an unpredictable job market, these young women were free from their family’s watchful eyes, enjoying an autonomy that would have been unimaginable had they not been forced...

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Welcome to the Blog

Welcome to A Day in the Life: Memoirs from the Middle East blog! The genre of memoir invites the reader to share in the intimacy of memories and partake in a small part of the writer’s life story.  As the author recreates a period from her past, s/he may invoke a sense of nostalgia or wistfulness. Some memoirists may seek to share wisdom gained and lessons learned from previous experiences while others may aim to amuse and entertain. This series includes a diverse collection of memoirs, some of which are focused on the personal, some draw attention to the political, and others emphasize a nostalgic longing for history.  The books span a wide geographic range and provide male and female perspectives.  Some of the books were written in the author’s native language – whether Arabic or Turkish – and some were written in English for an American audience. This blog will provide a forum for ongoing discussion about the books read in the Day in the Life book club and the issues they raise.  We invite you to contribute your thoughts, reflections, and questions as you read the books and continue to think about themes that permeate our discussions.  To respond to a blog posting, enter your thoughts in the comment box below.  To submit a blog posting, contact Elisheva Cohen, Outreach Coordinator for the Middle East Studies Center, at e.cohen@pdx.edu. Thanks for your interested in this series; we look forward to reading your comments, feedback and thoughts!  ...

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