Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Country Called Amreeka -- adds real depth to the image of the Arabs

I am working my way through an excellent dratf of "A Country Call Amreeka" and I find so much that touches on my own life as an American Arab.

Here's some information on the book from the publishers. I urge you to read it

-- Ray Hanania

What does American history look and feel like in the eyes and skin of Arab Americans? There are an estimated 3.5 million Arab Americans living in the United States today. Since 9/11, they have become the object of relentless scrutiny and suspicion, yet little is known or understood about them. For example, current statistics show that most Arab Americans (75%) are NOT Muslims, and most Muslims in America (76%) are NOT Arab.

In A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA: Arab Roots, American Stories (Free Press; October 6, 2009; $25.00), Syrian-American civil right lawyer Alia Malek weaves the stories of the Arab-American community into the story of America, using lively and moving narratives of real people who have lived history all around the country. “Infectiously readable,” says Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, “the profiles in A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA add character and texture to the history of the Arab-American community, challenging every tired stereotype and giving us new insight into what it means to be an Arab American today.”

Organized around a central timeline of events that are important from an Arab-American perspective, each chapter corresponds to one event and one Arab American, allowing readers to live that moment in history in the skin of an individual Arab American. Readers come away understanding the effect of these events not only on their vicarious guides, but also on the shaping of an entire community. From the Birmingham, Alabama church bombing in 1963 to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the book introduces an ensemble cast that represents the diversity within Arab America itself. There are Christians and Muslims; naturalized and native-born citizens; Southerners, Midwesterners, East Coasters, West Coasters, and Texans; urban, suburban, and rural residents; Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, Palestinians, Egyptians, and Yeminis, women and men; rich and poor; adults and children; lovers and fighters. “The purpose is not to separate them out,” says Malek, “but to fold their experience into the mosaic of American history and deepen our understanding of who we Americans are.”

A civil rights lawyer, Alia Malek has worked both in the U.S. and the Middle East. She also holds a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University. An accomplished speaker and writer on ethnicity and race in America, her work has appeared on, in The New York Times, The Columbia Journalism Review, and has been featured on National Public Radio and MSNBC.

For more information on A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA, or to arrange an interview with Alia Malek, please contact me at 212-698-1252 or

Advance Praise for Alia Malek’s


(Free Press; October 6, 2009)

"Alia Malek's impassioned and harrowing set of profiles of Arab-Americans gives vitality and resonance to a cause that is dear to my heart: fostering cross-cultural understanding and respect. Infectiously readable, the profiles in A Country Called Amreeka add character and texture to the history of the Arab-American community, challenging every tired stereotype and giving us new insight into what it means to be an Arab-American today. This book gives us the faces behind the names, and tells the story of a community that both enriches and embraces the American fabric. A Country Called Amreeka, and the Americans who inhabit it, are remarkable."

—Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, author of A Leap of Faith: Memoir of an Unexpected Life

“If you’re not an Arab-American, then it’s really imperative for you to read this fascinating book. You couldn’t ask for a more informative, engaging, and provocative introduction to millions of our fellow citizens. From football star to soldier, from gay activist to union leader, cheerleader, minister, Democrat, Republican, Christian, Muslim – Alia Malek brings the entire spectrum of Arab America to vivid, three-dimensional life.”

—Samuel G. Freedman, author of Letters to a Young Journalist and Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry

“In a beautifully rendered work, Alia Malek succeeds in a challenging task: restoring humanity to a community too long buffeted by the vagaries of chauvinism, bias and ignorance. Her book, written with wit, compassion and insight, is at once timeless, in its telling of immigrants in America, and unique, in its exploration of the diversity of the Arab-American community. In the end, A Country Called Amreeka is a stirring story of humor, loss, love and triumph.”

—Anthony Shadid, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of

America’s War

“Alia Malek's A Country Called Amreeka is a unique, engaging portrayal of Arab American lives. Malek deftly combines the genres of biography, history, memoir, and commentary to produce a story of Arab Americans that is nearly impossible to put down. Malek takes the reader on multiple journeys, from the Arab World to the American heartland, all the while introducing us to lovable, quirky, diverse characters who all have in common a desire to find comfortable spaces in A Country Called Amreeka. Malek does not romanticize or vilify Arab Americans. She presents them in all their complex lifeways and worldviews. The result is a book of great imagination and unusual depth.”

—Steven Salaita, author of Anti-Arab Racism in the USA: Where it Comes From and What it Means for Politics and The Uncultured Wars: Arabs, Muslims and the Poverty of Liberal Thought


Sheik Zayed Book Awards nominations end Sept. 15

Sheikh Zayed Book Award’ fourth year witnesses record number of nominations to date

Abu Dhabi, July 29, 2009 – The Sheikh Zayed Book Award, one of the world's most prestigious and well-funded prizes, has received a record number of nominations to date for its fourth session of 2009/2010. The Award has received a major 230 nominations that met the initial conditions, according to Mr. Rashed Al Oraimi, The Secretary General of Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

Mr. Al Oraimi elaborated that the nominations were distributed among all of the Award’s nine categories. The category of “Best Contribution to the Development of the Country” came first with 26.3% of the total nominations received to date, while the categories of “Literature” and “The Young Author” followed closely with 25.4% and 22.5% of total respectively. The Award also received varying number of nominations in the rest of its categories, including Children’s Literature, Translation, Literature, Fine Arts, Best Technology in the Field of Culture, Best Publishing and Distribution House, and Cultural Personality of the Year.

Commenting on the results, Mr. Al Oraimi said: “ We hope that this massive flow of nominations continue until the closing date - September 15th,2009- and we are definite that such contributions will heat up the race towards winning the Sheikh Zayed Book Awards 2010.”

A total of 20 countries contributed to this year’s session of Award so far, of which are 17 Arab countries, including UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan and Somalia. In addition, the Award received nominations from the United States of America, Germany and Turkey.


Notes to the Editor

About the Award

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award is an independent cultural award established under the patronage and support of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. The award was established in memory of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan, who served as the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE for more than 30 years. The award comprises a total monetary prize value of seven million UAE dirhams. Each prize consists of a gold medal bearing the Sheikh Zayed Book Award logo, a certificate of merit and a cash reward.

The award recognizes cultural achievement across one of the broadest and most diverse areas of any cultural awards internationally, including:

1. Contribution to the Development of the Country Award

Open to works in the fields of economics, sociology, management, politics, law and theology that contribute to the country’s advancement

2. Children’s Literature Award

Open to literary and cultural works addressing various children’s groups.

3. Young Author Award

Open to scientific, literary or cultural works produced by authors younger than 40 years

4. Translation Award

Open to translated works, either to or from Arabic

5. Literature Award

Open to works across various categories of literature including poetry, stories, novels and plays, research addressing literary theories, creative writings or works of criticism

6. Fine Arts Award

Open to books about various forms of art such as music, cinema, architecture, plastic art, calligraphy, painting, sculpture, photography and digital arts

7. Best Technology in the Field of Culture Award

Recognizes written or digital works and researches which promote the Arabic language.

8. Publishing and Distribution Award

Open to publishers, distributors, agents and research institutions which produce a diverse range of texts printed to the highest standard in the Arabic language.

9. Cultural Personality of the Year Award

Honors a prominent Arab or international figure who has contributed to the advancement of the Arabic culture, embodies through his/her work tolerance and promotes peaceful coexistence

For further information please contact:

Karin Aghadjanian

Communication and press

Mobile +971 508343823




Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review: The Iraqi Cook Book by Lamees Ibrahim

When I think about it, my love for Middle East cooking and Mediterranean recipes is what fuels my success as a political writer, reporter, comedian, radio talk show host and author. I love to cook and cooking Middle Eastern, Arab or Mediterranean recipes can be both a challenge but fun.

The differences between recipe style in the Fertile Crescent of the hardcore Arab World (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine) are subtle and sometimes lost. When making tabouli, for example, the Lebanese put more parsley, the Palestinians less. Jordanians and Palestinians add diced cucumbers, others do not and just add diced tomatoes. (Depending how much parsley one finds on an Arabs teeth after dinner could help determine their specific Arab nationality, or at least at what Arab restaurant they may have dined.

So it was with real interest that I jumped into Lamees Ibrahim's "The Iraqi Cookbook."

The similarities are amazing and yet the styles of the recipes reflect her own childhood and I think that individual experience in cooking is what really makes cooking and recipes so much more enjoyable.

This is a great book that takes you down the road of Middle East food on the Iraqi track.

-- Ray Hanania

Here's some more background information from the publishers, Interlink Books

Iraqi Cookbook, The
Lamees Ibrahim; photography by Terry McCormick

published 2009 • 7” x 10” • 312 pages • full-color photos
ISBN 9781566567480 • hardback • $35.00

"Iraqi food is often simple, homey and thanks to this rather sensibly presented cookbook, easy to prepare. Author Ibrahim—who was born in Baghdad and now lives in London—presents more than 200 recipes in what was initially an attempt to capture in written form the cooking traditions handed down orally through the generations for her children, but which has evolved into a formal compendium, illustrated by color photographs. There are earthy bean soups accented with cumin, turmeric and vermicelli; dense breads stuffed with ground meat, cheese or dates; and a host of light vegetable salads accented with lemon juice, parsley and olive oil. Ibrahim devotes an entire chapter to kubba, cracked wheat or rice flour domes that are filled with all manner of stuffings and then deep-fried, boiled or baked in sauce. Fried fresh-water fish, ground meat kebabs and cinnamon-spiked rice biryanis are other staples, followed by date and almond sweets and rosewater-doused pastries. With the easygoing style of a casual home cook, Ibrahim describes her dishes and ingredients in an appealingly narrative manner, encouraging a relaxed approach to preparation while explaining the customs and rites of Iraqi eating. Fresh and simple, Ibrahim’s cookbook is a welcome addition for those interested in exploring an intriguing cuisine through its most authentic flavors."
—Publishers Weekly

More Reviews »

A cook’s tour that brings the richness of Mesopotamia’s culinary culture to the forefront

The true richness of Iraqi culture has been hidden for many years, overshadowed by political conflict and war. Yet amid the destruction, Iraq’s culture—and not least its cuisine—has remained intact.

The Iraqi Cookbook, the first of its kind to be published in North America, is full of authentic recipes that have been handed down through the generations, developed and enriched over time, and infused with cultures of different eras. The result is a rich mixture of history, health, culture, and storytelling.

Throughout the book, Lamees Ibrahim emphasizes only those ingredients available to a Western reader, gives useful tips, and suggests appropriate alternatives where necessary. The detailed, easy-to-follow recipes are adorned with specially commissioned photography throughout, making The Iraqi Cookbook a feast for both the eyes and the diwan.

In short, in this book of masterly recipes, and beautiful photographs, Lamees Ibrahim serves up a vision of Iraq and its cuisine that stays with you long after you've left the kitchen.

Dr. Lamees Ibrahim was born in Baghdad and now lives in London. This is her first cookbook.

Click Here to view an excerpt and sample recipe

Media Reviews
"Ibrahim, who was born in Baghdad but has lived in London for many years, wrote this book for the young generation of Iraqis who, like her daughters, were born in the West and have never lived in or visited their homeland. She includes more than 200 recipes, many of them shown in color photographs. One of the few titles in English on the topic, this is sure to appeal to adventurous cooks interested in Middle Eastern cuisines, culinary institutions offering courses in ethnic cooking, and libraries serving ethnic communities."
—Library Journal

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New book details secrets of overcoming mainstream news media bias

Secrets of New Media Networking; New book released by award winning journalist and author

July 26, 2009

Book details insider tips on using the Internet to
side step the biased Mainstream American News Media

(Chicago) Veteran Journalist and award winning columnist Ray Hanania has been battling bias in the mainstream news media since the day he picked up his first newspaper in the suburbs of Chicago.

An American Arab, Hanania believed that the media was unfairly covering the Middle east conflict and was intentionally portraying American Arabs as terrorists, always ignoring their positive contributions to American society.

That battle has become his lifelong avocation and this week he announced the release of his latest book, a battlefield manual to fight against the inherent bias in the mainstream American news media using Internet networking strategies.

“Too often people in my community blame media bias on another race or religion but this is mistaken stereotyping to excuse away their lack of understanding of how the mainstream news media really works,” says Hanania who entered professional journalism in the early 1970s.

“In the past, the only way to battle mainstream media bias was to enter journalism as a profession and balance the two goals of journalism professionalism against activism. But with the rise of the Internet and the collapsing mainstream news media, you do not need to go to the mainstream news media to reach the public.

“You can do it on your own. ‘Secrets of New Media Networking’ helps you understand not only how to set up an effective Internet Media Network to promote your community, views, activities, opinions and more. But it also walks you through a real understanding of communications in America and the principles that make message compelling.”

Hanania manages a network of four major web sites, 11 blogs, writes for more than two dozen newspapers in print and online, manages several online news organizations, hosts his own morning radio show and weekly cable TV show, and uploads his radio and video broadcasts to the Internet. Merging in social networking strategies and other online assets, his network reaches millions of people every year.

“The mainstream news media is biased and they won’t change. That bias more than any other factor is what is helping to undermine the media and force many mainstream newspapers to close,” Hanania says.

“You can still use the mainstream news media, but you do not need them to get your message out. You can create your own media and my book helps you do it in a professional and effective manner.”

For more information on Secrets of New Media Networking, visit

Contact Ray Hanania at

236 Pages, $34.95. Published by Hanania Enterprises Ltd., and

# # #

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New documentary premiers on images and perceptions of ethnics in the news

With race and gender as her main interests of study, Geri Alumit Zeldes , an assistant professor in the School of Journalism at Michigan State University, is in the process of completing her first documentary on these very topics.

Called “Arabs, Jews, and the News,” the 30-minute film explores the often times tense relationship between the Arab and Jewish communities of both the Middle East and metro Detroit since the July 2006 war in Lebanon, and how the media have represented them.

“I’ve always been interested in how the media portrays people of color, because the media, as we know, is very powerful,” she said.

After almost two and a half years of working on the documentary, she recently entered it into several film festivals. It will premiere on MSU’s campus at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 21 in Room 147 of the Communication Arts and Sciences building.

“It’s always exciting to work so hard on something and it’s so exciting to share it with other people,” she said.

Alumit Zeldes will teach a new course this fall called “Reporting on Islam,” and will launch a Web site this spring called IMAJE, which stands for Islam, Muslims and Journalism Education.

For more information on the documentary “Arabs, Jews, and the News,”


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hidden Beauty a short film by Olga Sapzhnikova

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hello from Steve Thompson / Thompson Communications!

Dubai filmmaker Olga Sapozhnikova's short film "Hidden Beauty" is the story of four of her "heroes." Her first heroine is Jamilya, who is the only woman in United Arab Emirates who works with four hundred men in an ambulance service, and who has saved many people from fires, accidents and collapsed buildings.

Her story was so inspiring, that the ruler of Dubai: His Royal Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, came to her home to personally express his gratitude for her service to their country. (An event depicted in the film.) As the single mother of five children, in "Hidden Beauty" Jamilya shares her opinions on the beauty of women, especially Arabian women.

You can see Olga explain in her own words why she made this film at:

You can download a copy of our current press release at:

Olga Sapozhnikova is currently available for interview by telephone from Dubai, and will be in the Los Angeles area next week and is available for telephone interview by request.

(As always, thanks for receiving these notices. To be removed from my list for this film just return this e-mail with "Remove" in the subject line.)

Best Regards,
Steve Thompson

Thompson Communications
580 Haddon Avenue
Collingswood, NJ 08108


For Immediate Release

Press Contact:
Stephen C. Thompson
Thompson Communications

"Hidden Beauty" Profiles Four Fascinating, Determined Women:
Their Beauty, Their Accomplishments, and Their Aspirations
Within the Constraints of Contemporary Arab Society

June, 2009 -- Dubai, United Arab Emirates -- For anyone seeking genuine, first-hand insight into the role of women in today's Arab society, and what Arabic women can truly accomplish within Arabic society, "Hidden Beauty"is a powerful, must-see film.

The film begins by portraying the outward beauty of Arab women, but then transcends their physical beauty and enters the very soul of today's Arabic women.

In only twenty-six minutes, filmmaker Olga Sapozhnikova profiles the lives of four beautiful, strong, resilient women who have proven themselves on their own terms within the traditionally male dominated Arab society. Shot in Dubai, the film reveals the lives of Sapozhnikova's "heroes." The first three women profiled are Arab women who have created impressive lives for themselves. The story of the fourth woman begins with her reasons for her decision to leave her native Finland, and move to the Gulf to find an Arabic man to marry, adopting and embracing Arabic culture in the process.

Many Arab women are hesitant to discuss personal issues with anyone, much less a documentary filmmaker, but Sapozhnikova earned each woman’s trust, and helped them to open up and share their true, inner feelings. In the West, women have re-examined and questioned the role that marriage plays in their lives. But in traditional Arab culture, it is still most important for a woman to be married and have children. One of Sapozhnikova’s “heroes” has five children, yet she is recognized as one of the most respected people in the country in her field. Sapozhnikova notes “Being a mother does not stop her from being successful. On the contrary, she receives extraordinary career and personal support from her children.”

Hailing from Russia, Olga Sapozhnikova served as a Russian diplomat in Japan. After a six year stint with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Russia, she developed an interest in filmmaking.

Her first film "Harem"was about famous UAE women and has been telecast on Russian television.

Sapozhnikova is intrigued by the roles of both men and women in contemporary Arab culture. "It is a privilege to be a woman in a society where the man assumes the responsibility of protecting the woman. So no matter how successful she becomes, she still knows she can fall back on someone."

"Hidden Beauty" is a story she was compelled to tell. "My movie is an inspiration to those who feel they lack opportunities. My film will show them that anything is possible."

"Hidden Beauty" is an engaging film on many levels, one which will enlighten both men and women, providing viewers with a truly extraordinary experience.

# # # #

Olga Sapozhnikova is available for interview by telephone

and will be in the Los Angeles area next week

from Suncay June 28th through Friday July 3.

Steve Thompson / Thompson Communications
580 Haddon Avenue; Collingswood, NJ 08108

Arab play among new Steppenwolf Theater productions

Steppenwolf Presents

5th Annual First Look Repertory of New Work:

Honest, Sex with Strangers & Ski Dubai

July 22 – August 9, 2009

CHICAGO (July 1, 2009) – Steppenwolf Theatre Company presents the 5th annual First Look Repertory of New Work, featuring three developmental productions of new plays presented in rotation and accompanied by a series of events around the development of new work. First Look Repertory of New Work runs July 22 – August 9, 2009 in The Merle Reskin Garage Theatre, 1624 N. Halsted St. All tickets are $20.

The First Look Repertory of New Work 2009 productions are:


Written and directed by ensemble member Eric Simonson

Wednesday, July 22 – Sunday, August 9, 2009

Featuring Martin McClendon, Katherine Cunningham, Erik Hellman, Lucas Neff and Kelly O’Sullivan.

Guy, author of a best-selling memoir about his downward spiral into drug addiction and homelessness, comes face-to-face with a prying reporter, snooping for a scandal. Their tense showdown over truth versus creative license leads to shocking revelations that could jeopardize both their livelihoods.

Sex with Strangers

By Laura Eason

Directed by associate artist Jessica Thebus

Thursday, July 23 – Sunday, August 9, 2009

Featuring Amy J. Carle and Stephen Louis Grush.

Ethan Strange is a hot young scenester whose online journal of sexscapades have turned him into the “it” boy of the blogosphere. Olivia is an attractive 30-something whose own writing career has crapped out. After they hook up, sex turns into dating and dating into something more—but their online exploits threaten to destroy their real-life connection.

Ski Dubai

By Laura Jacqmin

Directed by Lisa Portes

Friday, July 24 – Sunday, August 9, 2009

Featuring ensemble member James Vincent Meredith with Cliff Chamberlain, Hillary Clemens, Jennifer Coombs, Sadieh Rifai and Rani Waterman.

Rachel, a young Environmental Friendliness Consultant, moves from New York to steamy Dubai to work on a man-made island teeming with skyscrapers and luxury hotels. Trying to uphold her “green” principles in a hotbed of capitalism, she navigates a stream of quirky displaced internationals battling loneliness and isolation in a flashy, modern pseudo-city.

The First Look 2009 Playwrights

Laura Eason is the author of more than 15 plays, both original works and adaptations. Previous productions at Steppenwolf include When the Messenger is Hot (also at 59E59, NYC), A Tale of Two Cities and Huck Finn. Her plays have been produced and developed in New York at New York Theatre Workshop, WET, New Georges, MCC, Andhow and Vital Theatre and produced regionally at Lookingglass, Walkabout, Two River Theater and Theatre Schmeater. Laura is an Affiliated Artist of New Georges and a playwright member of the Women’s Project Lab in New York and an Ensemble Member and the former Artistic Director of Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago.

Laura Jacqmin is the winner of the 2008 Wasserstein Prize, a $25,000 award for emerging female playwrights. Her plays have been produced and developed with Ars Nova, 2econd Stage Theatre, Aurora Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater and The 24 Hour Plays Off Broadway at the Atlantic Theater. Jacqmin will be the artist-in-residence at the Center on Age and Community in Milwaukee this fall and is an adjunct faculty member at Carthage College.

Eric Simonson, a Steppenwolf ensemble member since 1993, recently completed a documentary on the late Studs Terkel for HBO. He received a Tony® nomination for his direction of Steppenwolf's The Song of Jacob Zulu with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and directed an Oscar®-nominated documentary about the acclaimed South African singing group. Simonson received an Oscar® for Best Documentary Short for his film A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin in 2006. Other directing credits at Steppenwolf include Carter’s Way (also playwright), Slaughterhouse-Five (also adaptor) and Nomathemba (Hope). His new play Fake will be presented during Steppenwolf’s 2009-2010 Season.

The designers for First Look 2009 are: Kevin Depinet (sets), Myron Elliott (costumes), J.R. Lederle (lights) and Joseph Fosco (sound). Jonathan Templeton is the Lead Stage Manager, Jonathan Nook and Lauren Hickman are the Stage Managers, Kimberly Senior and Ed Sobel are the Program Directors and Whitney Dibo is the Program Assistant.

The First Look Repertory of New Work also includes First Look 101, a unique three-month experience that takes enrolled participants on a backstage journey through all aspects of the new play development process – from the first rehearsal to the final performance. The program is limited to 101 members and is open to anyone interested in, and wanting to know more about, creating new plays. First Look 101 runs June 1, 2009 – August 9, 2009. This year’s First Look 101 is SOLD OUT.

First Look Repertory of New Work is a developmental process that culminates in performance before an audience, rather than in a staged reading or workshop presentation. Scripts undergo significant revision during the workshop/rehearsal process and may be revised even after being publicly presented during First Look. They are presented with full, if minimal, design support because in Steppenwolf’s view, the design process is an integral aspect of play development. The intent is to prime the plays for future production at other theaters across the country.

First Look has gained both local and national recognition since its inception in 2005. Seven of the twelve plays presented during First Look’s first four seasons have enjoyed subsequent world premieres at other theaters, including: Jason Wells’ Perfect Mendacity produced at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida; Wells’ Men of Tortuga also at Asolo (followed by a second production at Profiles Theater in Chicago); Butcher of Baraboo by Marisa Wegrzyn produced by 2econd Stage Theatre in New York; 100 Saints You Should Know by Kate Fodor produced by Playwrights Horizons in New York; Spare Change by Mia McCullough produced by Stage Left Theatre in Chicago; Gary by Melinda Lopez produced by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre in Massachusetts; and When The Messenger is Hot by Laura Eason produced by 59E59 Theaters in New York.

Individual tickets to First Look Repertory of New Work cost $20. A First Look Pass to all three plays is available for $45. Tickets are available at or by calling Audience Services at 312-335-1650. First Look 101 costs $75 ($45 for students with valid ID) and includes access to all First Look 101 events, plus tickets to all three First Look Repertory productions. This year’s First Look 101 is SOLD OUT.

Steppenwolf is located near all forms of public transportation and is wheelchair accessible. Street and lot parking are available. Assistive listening devices are available for every performance.

Special thanks to The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust for supporting new American plays at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and for their sponsorship of the First Look Repertory of New Work.

Committed to the principle of ensemble performance through the collaboration of a company of actors, directors and playwrights, Steppenwolf Theatre Company's mission is to advance the vitality and diversity of American theater by nurturing artists, encouraging repeatable creative relationships and contributing new works to the national canon. The company, formed in 1976 by a collective of actors, is dedicated to perpetuating an ethic of mutual respect and the development of artists through on-going group work. Steppenwolf has grown into an internationally renowned company of 42 artists whose talents include acting, directing, playwriting, filmmaking and textual adaptation.

# # #

Saffron Dreams explores experience of Muslims in America


Kristina Lycett
PO Box 204352
Austin, TX 78720-4352


July 9, 2009

Muslim-American novelist explores identity

In the wake of the upcoming anniversary of 9/11, new novel seeks to crush stereotypes and examines the changed landscape of Muslim America

To commemorate the anniversary of the biggest catastrophe in American history, President Barack Obama signed into law an act that establishes September 11 as an annually recognized National Day of Service and Remembrance. In a few short weeks, we will be forced to ask ourselves this question again: what is that we remember? Who do we blame? Once again we will be confronted with our own perception of the actual perpetrators and those who share their race and faith.

“Saffron Dreams,” a novel by Muslim-American author Shaila Abdullah, tackles the volatile subject of Muslim identity in America at a time when it is needed the most. Arissa Illahi, the main character of Abdullah’s new novel, is a Muslim artist and writer living in New York City with her husband. On the morning of September 11, 2001, her husband goes to work never to return. Arissa, a devastated widow must await the birth of her unborn son while dealing with the after effects of a monumental tragedy and a wounded city that reacts harshly to her symbol of faith––her veil. “Saffron Dreams” allows us to see the ways in which human beings triumph over circumstances wrenched from their control and gradually find ways to re-adjust their dreams and move forward.

Hundreds of libraries have acquired “Saffron Dreams” since its release and the book has generated a great deal of interest in the book review world. “Abdullah handled a controversial subject and made the book about our common humanity, rather than about the differences that divide us,” says Swapna Krishna of S. Krishna Books. A master storyteller and an award-winning writer, Abdullah crafts her characters to enhance her themes of tolerance and hope. The novel is a memorial to the victims of 9/11, a source of strength for the survivors, and a vehicle of understanding for those struggling to make sense of the conflict between the East and West. “The author manages to tell this tale with such a delicate touch, never falling into the maudlin and never giving Arissa the powers of a superhero,” notes Jenclair in A Garden Carried in Your Pocket. “A beautifully written narrative that looks at the aftermath of September 11 with a slightly different perspective, the book unfolds and blossoms with an unexpected tenderness while never denying the myriad effects of tragedy.”

Shaila Abdullah is an award-winning author and designer based in Austin, Texas. Her debut book, "Beyond the Cayenne Wall," is a collection of stories about Pakistani women struggling to find their individuality despite the barriers imposed by society. The collection won the Norumbega Jury Prize for Outstanding Fiction and the DIY Festival Award.

Hailed as "highly recommended" by Library Journal, “Saffron Dreams” (978-1-932690-73-6 paperback, 978-1-932690-72-9 hardcover, Modern History Press, 2009) can be purchased through local and online bookstores. Review copies are available upon request. For more information and an online media kit, please visit