by Diana Abu-Jaber
Here is the hyphenated-American story told with a sense of humor and bitter-sweet love. Set in a small poor-white community in upstate New York, where "ethnics" are few and far between, it is the story of the Ramoud family: Matussem, his two daughters, Melvina and Jemorah, his sister, Fatima, and her husband, Zaeed. Matussem loves American jazz standards, Arab folktales, lawn ornaments, and - above all else in the world - his daughters.
Fatima, the truest representative of the Old World in the New, is obsessed with joining the social committee of the local Syrian Orthodox Church and with seeing her nieces - Jemorah is nearly thirty! - married. Melvina, "all-Nurse, " has her mind set firmly on her work, but Jemorah will consider marrying anyone from a pool hustler to a car mechanic to a Jordanian cousin. With "Family Function Season" about to begin ("thick with the air of summer upstate and heavy, sweating relatives who thought, somehow, that this was preferable to the desert"), Arabian Jazz will explode into a hilarious, poignant tribute to family bonds, hybrid cultures, and the individual search for home.