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Ravioli
01-07-2015, 02:03 PM
Good morning!

I'm writing a book about a young Christian Arab man and his life in a post-gonetothedogs Israel. While my grandparents were proud Arabs, I have not been raised as anything other than a single mom's phenotypically and culturally white only child in Europe. The opposite of the traditional Arab family. I don't have a lot of personal experience to work with.
So I have a few questions about specific bits in my project. The last thing I want, is to reinforce the horrid stereotypes. Hope you'd like to help :) No offense is intended, on the contrary, I'm asking for help to avoid it!

1. The protagonist often recalls his childhood. Part of it is Spiderman, the other part is his mother abusing him with a shoe. Mostly I'm using the shoe-slapping for humorous bits. I've seen Arabs joke about mothers and shoe brutality, so I guessed it's inoffensive to use that within reasonable limits, yes? I understand that shoe violence is considered rather offensive when not used affectionately. Affectionate shoe violence, I have to write that down...

2. I have often read that Arabs tend to be racist towards black people. I have personally not observed such a thing, but then again, I haven't had many opportunities. Now, my protagonist lives with his black wife in an Arab village in Israel. What would their experiences likely be?

3. Are, or aren't Christian Arab men generally circumcised? Yeah, it comes up. Google gives me conflicting intel on this.

4. How do you stop the western reader from misinterpreting some natural jealousy/possessiveness that every person scared for their relationship feels, as the stereotypical domestic-abuse-Arab?

5. What is a typically Arab sense of humor? Personally, I love merciless sarcasm and pitch-black humor, and of course, the "Your mom" comeback, but would you find it in an Arab town?

6. What are typical customs for grieving families, like condolence visits?

M.N Thorne
01-18-2015, 12:36 PM
I would answer number 2 for you about the black wife and how she would be treated. You might wanted to talk a little bit about racism in Arabic lands. Remember the Arabic slave trade was just as big as the European slave trade and it lasted longer. In addition, there is many anti-black viewpoints to be found even in traditional Arab folktales such as Palestinian folktale of Jbene. Black women are not really seen in a great light....so you should have your characters deal with that in a subtle form. In addition, you might want to hind at colorism in your story to make it a bit more realistic. Sorry, I can not help you with anything else with Arabic culture.

Here is something about racism in Arab lands:

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/06/201362472519107286.html
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/nov/23/nubian-monkey-arab-racism

Here is the Jbene folktale:
http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft4s2005r4;chunk.id=0;doc.view=print

Aphemia66
01-22-2015, 05:05 AM
Have you read Sayed Kashua? He's a '48 Palestinian who writes in Hebrew, but some of his novels have been translated into English. His humor column is in Haaretz, and he also did the screenplays for a TV comedy series "Arab Labor". He includes a lot of ethnic humor in his work.

Ravioli
01-22-2015, 03:39 PM
Thank you so much :)

Hoplite
01-27-2015, 01:18 AM
My great-grandparents emigrated from Lebanon (both were Christian), and I grew up in Saudi Arabia. Besides food non of the Arab-culture was passed down in the household. Hope my replies help.



1. The protagonist often recalls his childhood. Part of it is Spiderman, the other part is his mother abusing him with a shoe. Mostly I'm using the shoe-slapping for humorous bits. I've seen Arabs joke about mothers and shoe brutality, so I guessed it's inoffensive to use that within reasonable limits, yes? I understand that shoe violence is considered rather offensive when not used affectionately. Affectionate shoe violence, I have to write that down...


I don't know, but I recall when President Bush got a shoe thrown at him in Iraq. You might try looking further into that.


2. I have often read that Arabs tend to be racist towards black people. I have personally not observed such a thing, but then again, I haven't had many opportunities. Now, my protagonist lives with his black wife in an Arab village in Israel. What would their experiences likely be?
First off, racism is a thing that varies wildly among people and may be different depending on the region, but yes. I think it has to do with sub-saharan Africans being a distinctly different people that helps create an "other" mentality. It's also a tribal thing. Arabs can be extremely prejudiced against other Arabs if they're from another tribe. I believe native black-Arabs were their own tribe in the Southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula.

I don't know exactly what type of racism your protagonist and wife may experience that would be unique to their setting. Perhaps that the protagonist has dishonored his tribal/family roots?


3. Are, or aren't Christian Arab men generally circumcised? Yeah, it comes up. Google gives me conflicting intel on this.
I believe they are. Getting circumcised is a practice traditionally done by both Christians and Muslims, so I don't see why Christian Arabs wouldn't. Then again since your story is modern it could be done just for hygiene reasons.


4. How do you stop the western reader from misinterpreting some natural jealousy/possessiveness that every person scared for their relationship feels, as the stereotypical domestic-abuse-Arab?
You mean the western stereotype that Arab men see women as possessions? I can't think of any way other than making it plain and clear in the writing. This just might be an area where the reader's bias will affect the interpretation of events.


5. What is a typically Arab sense of humor? Personally, I love merciless sarcasm and pitch-black humor, and of course, the "Your mom" comeback, but would you find it in an Arab town?
We're in a modern setting, yes? If your asking for what kinds of humor exist today, then it's everything under the sun thanks to western media and the internet.

Traditionally though I think it's more situational, witty and play-on-words. Two stories I read recently out of a cookbook (which came from medieval texts; my paraphrasing):

1) Narud was taking an orange to the emir his offering. Along the way he came across a date farmer, who told Narud he should take the dates instead. Narud consented and took the dates. The emir was in a joyful mood when Narud arrived and took the dates with great pleasure.

The next month Narud was going to the emir again. He thought that the emir like the dates so much, that he would like the oranges even more. When Narud arrived with the oranges the emir was in a foul mood, and pelted Narud with the oranges as he ran out of the palace!

Then Narud realized the wisdom of bringing dates: if the emir was in a foul mood the dates would hurt less.

2) Koffa was wandering the streets, peering into the restaurant shops. A man stepped out and said, "Come in. Make yourself at home." Koffa followed and sat at a table. The man appeared with plates of food and said, "Help yourself." Koffa ate his fill, and then began to stuff every pocket of his with food. He bid farewell and left. The man became furious, grabbed Koffa, and dragged him to the emir. The emir declared that for his crime, Koffa would have to ride a donkey home, facing backwards, and have a musical troop follow so that all would know his shame.

As the procession led by Koffa on the donkey was making its way down the road, a friend of Koffa's yelled to him, "Koffa, what has happened?"

Koffa replied, "Oh, it has been such a wonderful day! I ate my entire fill of food, was given a free ride home, and now have music being played for me!"



6. What are typical customs for grieving families, like condolence visits?:Shrug:

Marian Perera
01-27-2015, 01:23 AM
4. How do you stop the western reader from misinterpreting some natural jealousy/possessiveness that every person scared for their relationship feels, as the stereotypical domestic-abuse-Arab?

That reminded me of Little Mosque on the Prairie, at least the season I watched. I felt the show bent over backwards to demonstrate that Yasir had his wife up on a pedestal, like any friction between them might indicate the "Arab men see their wives as possessions" stereotype.

Silenia
01-27-2015, 06:13 AM
I believe they are. Getting circumcised is a practice traditionally done by both Christians and Muslims, so I don't see why Christian Arabs wouldn't. Then again since your story is modern it could be done just for hygiene reasons.


Actually, circumcision isn't quite necessarily a practice traditionally done by Christians; that seems to mostly be the case in the USA but not elsewhere (with exception of Coptic Christianity, anyway).

Can't say one way or another in regards to Christianity in the Arab world, though it would not surprise me if it's fairly common there due to the influence of Islam.

Ravioli
07-31-2015, 10:09 PM
Wow I had failed to subscribe to this thread and somehow in my scatter-brained mind kind of lost track of it... I want to thank you all for your input; it's been very helpful. Hoplite, those stories are hysterical :ROFL:

MynaOphelia
08-02-2015, 03:51 AM
Is the MC's village in Israel itself, or the West Bank and Gaza?

Although I'm not Arab, or Muslim, my mom and all of her family are Israeli so if you need help with some geographic stuff and general things about the country, I could try and help.

As to your note about the black wife--the family might deal with some racism. In Israel there is some prejudice against black people, even black Jews, due to colorism. My safta told me a while back that the Haredim/Orthodox Jews don't see the Beta Israel Jews (from Ethiopia) as "real" Jews in part due to racism--it's stuff like that.

Siri Kirpal
08-12-2015, 03:13 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Sorry I'm so late to this thread...but I can answer the bit about circumcision. My father was Christian (not practicing) Lebanese. He was not circumcised.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Ravioli
08-12-2015, 12:20 PM
Is the MC's village in Israel itself, or the West Bank and Gaza?

Although I'm not Arab, or Muslim, my mom and all of her family are Israeli so if you need help with some geographic stuff and general things about the country, I could try and help.

As to your note about the black wife--the family might deal with some racism. In Israel there is some prejudice against black people, even black Jews, due to colorism. My safta told me a while back that the Haredim/Orthodox Jews don't see the Beta Israel Jews (from Ethiopia) as "real" Jews in part due to racism--it's stuff like that.
Thanks :) I'm born and living in Israel myself, so I know about the racism issues among the white supremacist Jewish majority. Unfortunately, I don't know much about Arab views on color though, as they're phenotypically and culturally not white, but are genetically Caucasoids as far as I know.
The story mostly takes place in the Arab town, with very few references to her previous life on "Israeli mainland".

The village is based on a Christian Arab town up north, but renamed so no resident takes offense. In the story, all Arab towns are ghettos, but without the humanitarian aid and reasonably modern technology the current Gaza Strip has. That's all been taken away. Slightly dystopian I guess. Though no more bombings. Guess that's something.


Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Sorry I'm so late to this thread...but I can answer the bit about circumcision. My father was Christian (not practicing) Lebanese. He was not circumcised.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
That's interesting. Could it have anything to do with Lebanese not considering themselves as Arabs? Because I had come to think that circumcision is a cultural thing in the Arab world rather than a religious one.

Siri Kirpal
08-13-2015, 01:43 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Don't know about that. My grandfather shortly after my father was born, and my grandmother died shortly after I was born, so all I have to go on is what Dad said. Apparently, it just wasn't done.

They do think of themselves as Arabs (at least, my batch did); but may have wished to differentiate themselves from Muslims and Jews.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

MynaOphelia
08-15-2015, 11:18 PM
Thanks :) I'm born and living in Israel myself, so I know about the racism issues among the white supremacist Jewish majority. Unfortunately, I don't know much about Arab views on color though, as they're phenotypically and culturally not white, but are genetically Caucasoids as far as I know.
The story mostly takes place in the Arab town, with very few references to her previous life on "Israeli mainland".

Oh, okay! Makes sense. Good luck with your project. : )