SOCIAL SCIENCES

All Strangers Are Kin: Adventures in Arabic and the Arab World

Houghton Harcourt. Jun. 2016. 336p. notes. ISBN 9780547853185. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780547853192. TRAV
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Love of the Arabic language led O'Neill (Moon New Mexico; Rough Guide to Cancún and the Yucatán) to immerse herself in its many variations through study and life in Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Morocco. Returning to language study after a hiatus, the author was determined to learn Arabic the way Arabs learned it, rather than the formal Fusha she had previously studied. She engages in Arabic with anyone she can, studies colloquial expressions, and chronicles vocabulary, usage, and contradictions. People she interacts with while picnicking, hitchhiking, even at the aftermath of a car accident are opportunities for an exchange. What emerges is the idea of language as a connection, passion, and a reflection of the lives and history of diverse Arab peoples, a view which is lacking in the general news coverage of Middle Eastern conflict. Glimpses of daily life, particularly of Arab women, are intriguing and sometimes unexpected, including the rich assortment of Lebanese cursing while driving.
VERDICT A useful complement to Middle Eastern study and essential for Arabic learners as well as an enjoyable peek into contemporary lives in the region.

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