100 Years of the Arab-American Novel: Ameen Rihani's "The Book of Khalid" and Arab Life in Lower Manhattan

OCT 25, 2011 | 6:00 PM TO 7:45 PM



NYPL Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
42nd Street and 5th Avenue


South Court Auditorium


October 25, 2011: 6:00 PM-7:45 PM





New York Public Library


This talk will celebrate the centennial of the first Arab American novel. In 1911, Dodd, Mead, and Co. in New York City published Ameen Rihani’s The Book of Khalid, a story of two boys from Lebanon who immigrate to the Little Syria neighborhood in Lower Manhattan and peddle on the streets. After exposure to the New York artistic and cultural environment of the period, the two return to Lebanon where, inspired by their New York experiences, they transform into political and social revolutionaries and become in conflict with the ruling Ottoman Empire. The work is considered the foundation of Arab American literature and is seen as a crucial influence on Kahlil Gibran’s famous work The Prophet (1923). The New York Public Library is an especially appropriate venue as Rihani, who had no formal education, developed his literary knowledge from its holdings. Mr. Fine will talk about Ameen Rihani, the man, and The Book of Khalid and Dr. Khater will lecture on Little Syria at the turn of the 20th century.

Todd Fine is the director of Project Khalid, the centennial campaign for The Book of Khalid, and the editor of a new critical edition of The Book of Khalid under advance contract with Syracuse University Press.

Akram Khater is Prof. of Middle Eastern History at North Carolina State University. He is the author of Inventing Home: Emigration, Gender and the Making of a Lebanese Middle Class, 1861-1921; Sources in the History of the Middle East and numerous articles and reviews. He is currently producing a PBS documentary on the history of the Lebanese community in North Carolina.