Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us, and Why It Matters

In This Review

Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us, and Why it Matters
By James Zogby
Palgrave Macmillan, 2010
256 pp. $25.00
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Zogby is the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, a senior adviser to the polling firm Zogby International, a journalist, and an indefatigable activist, and in Arab Voices he offers a fine critique of American-Arab perceptions. Combining polling data and accounts of his experiences with representative Arabs and Americans, he has produced an informative and readable book that avoids the reductionism, demonology, and victimology that all too often taint treatment of this subject. Zogby dismantles a number of American supermyths about Arabs, including that they are all the same and unchanging. Separate chapters deal concisely with perceptions set alongside the reality in Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Palestine. Zogby’s look at Islam through American-Arab perceptions and practice is surely among the most useful ten pages available on this tormented subject. A dominant motif throughout is the need to listen to the “other” and adjust policy to factor in what one hears. The chapter titled “Arab Americans: Bridging the Divide” offers a heartening take on a venerable theme in U.S. history: those who come from another country or culture and become American.