All American Yemeni Girls

All American Yemeni Girls: Being Muslim in a Public School

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    All American Yemeni Girls
    Book Description:

    Based on more than two years of fieldwork conducted in a Yemeni community in southeastern Michigan, this unique study examines Yemeni American girls' attempts to construct and make sense of their identities as Yemenis, Muslims, Americans, daughters of immigrants, teenagers, and high school students.All American Yemeni Girlscontributes substantially to our understanding of the impact of religion on students attending public schools and the intersecting roles school and religion play in the lives of Yemeni students and their families. Providing a valuable background on the history of Yemen and the migration of Yemeni people to the United States, this is an eye-opening account of a group of people we hear about every day but about whom we know very little.Through a series of intensive interviews and field observations, Loukia K. Sarroub discovered that the young Muslim women shared moments of optimism and desperation and struggled to reconcile the America they experienced at school with the Yemeni lives they knew at home. Most significant, Sarroub found that they often perceived themselves as failing at being both American and Yemeni. Offering a distinctive analysis of the ways ethnicity, culture, gender, and socioeconomic status complicate lives, Sarroub examines how these students view their roles within American and Yemeni societies, between institutions such as the school and the family, between ethnic and Islamic visions of success in the United States. Sarroub argues that public schools serve as a site of liberation and reservoir of contested hope for students and teachers questioning competing religious and cultural pressures. The final chapter offers a rich and important discussion of how conditions in the United States encourage the rise of extremism and allow it to flourish, raising pressing questions about the role of public education in the post-September 11 world.All American Yemeni Girlsoffers a fine-grained and compelling portrait of these young Muslim women and their endeavors to succeed in American society, and it brings us closer to understanding an oft-cited but little researched population.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9023-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Chapter 1 Introduction: Being American, Being Yemeni: Uncovering a Predicament
    (pp. 1-20)

    In 1998, Saba’s hands and fingers punctuated each thought as she spoke with the slight staccato that is characteristic of English speech influenced by Arabic.¹ Except for her face and hands, Saba’s body was completely covered as she sat across from me, explaining how difficult it is to construct an identity that makes sense in the American and Yemeni Muslim worlds she inhabits. This was not the first of our conversations on this topic, but it was the most emotional. Saba was tired, emotionally stressed to a breaking point, and depressed. Yet she shared her thoughts with me freely as...

  4. Chapter 2 American Sojourners Between Honor and Shame
    (pp. 21-45)

    There exists a strong relationship between the Yemeni American students and their land of origin. Layla, for instance, and the otherhijabatand their families are sojourners, with one foot in the United States and the other in Yemen. This connection between their country of origin and their home in the United Statesis key to understanding these Muslim youths and their families.

    The home world is much more than the physical space of a house which the girls live. Home is not only a space; it is also a set of relationships and ideas that proffer a different set of...

  5. Chapter 3 Classroom as Oasis
    (pp. 46-58)

    Webster’s New World Dictionarydefinesoasisas “any place or thing offering welcome relief as from difficulty or dullness.” Unlike the hallways or cafeteria at Cobb High, the classroom offered the Yemeni American students, boys and girls alike, a sanctuary from social and cultural norms, a place unlike any other space. Within the school setting, and foremost among the girls’ dispositions toward school and social life, was their worry of perception—how they were perceived by others. Research on adolescence and especially on girls (see Brown and Gilligan 1992; Finders 1997; Thorne 1997) suggests that this is typical of adolescent...

  6. Chapter 4 Islam and Conflicting Visions of Literacy
    (pp. 59-83)

    “In-betweenness” describes the textual space in which youth, in this case, Yemeni American girls—thehijabat—made sense of their lives as high school students and good Muslim daughters, sisters, and mothers. They employed religious, secular, and Arabic texts as a means for negotiating home and school worlds. As I mentioned earlier, home and school worlds mean the various institutional, cultural, familial, and linguistic relationships these girls had in spaces that are normatively construed as home and school. Home and school spaces often overlapped one another and were inherently related, therefore the boundaries between them shifted constantly as the girls...

  7. Chapter 5 The Tensions Teachers Face: Public Education and Islam
    (pp. 84-109)

    The growing population of Yemeni students at Cobb High led teachers and administrators to carefully consider the dilemmas of cultural pluralism within their school. In particular, it led them to struggle with the issue of accommodating the cultural traditions of Muslim students in general and Yemeni Muslim students in particular. Both at organizational and personal levels, high school and district personnel inevitably met certain challenges that called for conciliatory measures to ensure a sound learning environment for all students. With a growing population (40 percent at the time of my fieldwork) of Muslims, the majority of whom were Arab “newcomers”...

  8. Chapter 6 From Aspiration to Desperation and Living in Ambiguity
    (pp. 110-119)

    During my two years of fieldwork in Dearborn, it became clear that as thehijabatgrew older, they perceived their futures as increasingly bleak and uneventful, no matter how successful they were academically or in maintaining their cultural and religious norms. All of the high school girls I shadowed—Nadya, Nouria, Saba, Amani, Aisha, and Layla—regarded their futures with trepidation, uncertain if they would be able to realize their dreams and goals. Thehijabatintended to become nurses or teachers, occupations that met the expectations of the community and even their school. Yet for most of them developing professional...

  9. Chapter 7 Living Ethnography: Reflections on Dearborn Before and After September 11
    (pp. 120-138)

    In 1999, I ended my fieldwork at the Olive Garden restaurant in Dearborn, in the company of Saba, Aisha, Layla, Nouria, Nadya, Sabrina, Mariam, and Mrs. Dunbar, my main contact in the Yemeni community who had introduced me to thehijabatand their families. We chose the Olive Garden because it was close to the girls’ homes and because the girls said they had never been there nor had they had the opportunity to eat Italian American food. As we sampled the calamari, spinach dip, and various pasta dishes, the conversation ebbed and flowed around topics familiar to all of...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 139-144)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 145-152)
  12. Index
    (pp. 153-156)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 157-158)