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Beyond Univocal Baklava: Deconstructing Food-as-Ethnicity and the Ideology of Homeland in Diana Abu Jaber’s The Language of Baklava

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In this article I examine and analyze the complex configuration of diasporic/homeland relations as represented in Arab American author Diana Abu Jaber’s most recent “cookbook-memoir” The Language of Baklava. Abu Jaber’s work resists prevalent conventions of most nostalgic/ ethnic cookbook memoirs, by both diasporic authors from the Arab world who have taken up residence in the U.S., and by some Arab American authors as well. The Language of Baklava neither portrays a simplistic or reductive binary between homeland and hostland, constructing the “old country” as a locus of unambiguous authenticity and familiarity, nor the hostland as a watered-down, assimilated, or inauthentic version of “the real thing” back home, with nostalgia and alienation as the prevalent respective tropes. Instead, Abu Jaber’s work presents a far more complex and ambivalent configuration of both the hyphenated existence of Arab Americans in the contemporary U.S., and of “back home” and, very central to her work, a nuanced portrayal of interactions between the two spheres and their inhabitants as complex and inter-penetrating.<xref ref-type="fn" rid="FN1">1</xref>

Affiliations: 1: University of Michigan


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