Friday, April 19, 2019

Book cover: "Syrian Yankee"

  • Title: Syrian Yankee
  • Author: Salom Rizk (1908-1973)
  • Dust jacket artist: Unknown
  • Publisher: Doubleday & Company
  • Publication year: 1954 for this edition. Book was first published in 1943.
  • Original price: $2.50
  • Provenance: At some point it was signed on the first page by the author. Book ended up at Canaday's Book Barn in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It had a listed price of $12.50, but I picked it up for a steep discount during the store's closing sale.
  • Pages: 317
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Front cover blurb: "This autobiography tells of the Americanization of Salom Rizk, a Syrian orphan who came from a land of poverty and oppression to the land of opportunity and freedom. One out of nameless millions, Rizk reveals why he loves his adopted country."
  • First sentence: Nearly all the things that happened when I was a boy, in the places beyond our hills — in Lebanon and Palestine and Turkey, and in the far places over the sea — I didn't know anything about or even dimly suspect because we had no books or newspapers in our village.
  • Last sentence: You can't beat the people who built and are still building this America.
  • Random segment from the middle #1: "The Republican party got the country into this fix," the Mason City businessman said.
  • Random segment from the middle #2: "Wall Street or the Republic party. What's the difference? Wall Street's got a strangle hold on the Republicans, and they run the party to suit themselves."
  • Random segment from the middle #3: "Wall Street knows there's only one way to get power and that's to get votes, farm votes and labor votes. They have to hoodwink you farmers into believing that the Republican party is the farmer's party, and they have to hoodwink the laboring man into thinking the Republican party is the laboring man's party."
  • Random segment from the middle #4: "You talk as if the Republican party was a closed conspiracy against the public interest," Larry's father retorted.
  • Random segment from the middle #5: "Sons of wild jackasses, all of them," cried the Socialist.
  • Were those actually random? No.
  • Goodreads rating: 3.27 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon rating: 5.0 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon review excerpt #1: In 2003, Thomas Leavitt wrote: "This is truly a tale of America at its best, the bright and shining beacon of hope for so many people for so long. It is sad to see how tarnished that image has become in many people's minds."
  • Amazon review excerpt #2: In 2011, Ashor wrote: "This book should taught in schools for the American youth to show them what other societies are missing, how we became a spoiled and resource-abusing society."
  • Amazon review excerpt #3: In 2017, PJ wrote: "It's amazing how ... Salom Rizk was received AND treated back then, vs. today's attitude by the WH towards Syrians. This 180 in temperament [and] acceptance of one another has become the shame of this Nation."
  • About Rizk: The well-sourced Wikipedia page on this author has a few interesting points about Rizk and Syrian Yankee:
    • "The book has been called 'a classic of the immigrant biography genre', especially for the way Rizk's story portrays the American Dream and the virtues of cultural assimilation at the expense of his home country, which he finds loathsome when he returns for a visit."
    • "Rizk's description of youth is interesting for several reasons: First, it was not common at the time for Syrian immigrants to depict their journey to the United States. Second, Rizk leaves out the obvious fact that his native language is Arabic and distances himself from the Muslim aspects of Syrian culture. Third, despite being dazzled by New York City, Rizk's depiction of America 'resembles nothing so much as Hell'; it is not until he returns to his homeland and sees the problems facing both the Middle East and Nazi-era Europe (including the large numbers of Jewish refugees to Palestine) that he recognizes the fulfillment of his American Dream and begins to become a vocal advocate for American values, using his own immigrant status as the grounds for his expertise."
    • "Eventually, with the rise of ethnic pride movements in the latter half of the century, Arab American writers realized that Rizk's willingness to criticize his native culture was counter-productive, reinforcing ugly stereotypes and making Arab American readers feel even less free. Rizk thus stands as a testament to his age, to the changing tides of Arab American history and its vacillation between assimilation and diversity."
  • Final note: Before the Trump administration began to close America's doors to immigration, many 21st century refugees from Syria, and other nations, were coming to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Nifty & historic machinery in Postcrossing card from Germany

This postcard found its way to my southcentral Pennsylvania mailbox thanks to Postcrossing. It's from Tom, a fan of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, who writes:
"Hello Chris!
Nice to meet you here. ;-) My name is Tom. I'm 58 y.y. and this card is from my hometown. The coal-mine Zollverein in Essen is UNESCO WH and it's a very interesting location. Earlier industry and today culture!"
The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, which dates to 1847 (a mere 684 years after the groundbreaking for Notre-Dame de Paris), is perhaps best known for Shaft 12, which is what's pictured on this postcard. According to Wikipedia, Shaft 12 was "built in the New Objectivity style, was opened in 1932 and is considered an architectural and technical masterpiece, earning it a reputation as the 'most beautiful coal mine in the world.'"

Zollverein is also one of the settings for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which is on my long, long, long list of books to read.