San Diego City College hosted former Department of Justice Lawyer-turned-writer, Alia Malek, April 14 at Saville Theatre, where she shared her first book, “A Country Called Amreeka: Arab Roots, American Stories.”
Malek came to present a lecture and book-signing on her book during the City College Book Fair, but ultimately her focus turned to discussing the “invisibility” of Arab-Americans and to tell their stories.
She covered all demographics and aspects, capturing extremely significant moments in the lives of Arab-Americans.
The book captures a variety of people such as football players, activists, school teachers, gays, armed forces and auto-workers. She narrates their situation and how it relates to American and Arab time lines.
Malek said that all Americans have a story, but history shows that the Arab-American story is somewhat transparent.
“I wanted to write a good piece of reported narrative,” Malek said. “I wanted to help to begin to fill the vacuum that exists about Arab-American history and contemporary experiences.”
The presentation began with Arabic music, however the event truly began when Malek, herself, was introduced and followed by applause.
Shortly thereafter, English professor Virginia Escalante gave an in-depth biography about Malek, noting not only both her Syrian and American origins, but also her involvement in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Escalante also shared Malek’s educational accomplishments, including being a graduate of Johns Hopkins, Georgetown and Columbia Universities, and finally her efforts in trying to bring a voice to the Arab-American communities.
At that point, Malek took the podium and gave an overview of each chapter in her book and showed the significance to both American and Arab realms.
She began her story and discussion with the bombing of a Baptist church in 1963 in Birmingham, Ala. with Ed Salem as the main character. She begins to transcend into other characters such as Rabih, a Arab-American activist who is also gay. His story is centered around his fear to be open about himself not only with his ethnicity but with his sexuality, especially in Oklahoma City. Other characters include Alex Odeh, an Arab-American Activist who was killed in an office bombing in Santa Ana, CA.
Malek read aloud some pages of the final chapter, entitled “Native Foreigner, Foreign Native,” she depicts the true events of Abraham, a Marine who was deployed to Iraq.
His story goes as far back as to when the events of 9/11 had occurred, trying to protect his wife from any backlash and protect his fellow Marines, once in Iraq.
A major event in the chapter included when a group of Iraqi women and children were killed in a bombing of a vehicle and led him to rethink his situation because he was viewed as a traitor to his own people.