“Her mother called her brazen, and warned that she was only eighteen and if she left she would be corrupted and never come back. But the adventure, the need to explore, was stronger than family honor. So she packed her Bible and her olive wood cross and except for the memory of the war house Qudeen, buried an ancient history and its legends of the desert deep inside, in exchange becoming a prisoner within the curving walls of steerage, where all sound distorted against the screeching of tortured metal and turning rudder; and where every motion was magnified a thousand times. IN a cellar strung with little white lights, three weeks stretched to six and six to ten as she tipped and pitched with the boat; a fearful animal holding a tin plate and cup. When she could no longer bear the odor of spoiled food and sickness, when the curls of her black hair matted with dirt and all joy of anticipation turned to despair, she fought through the mass of human cargo up to the deck, determined to throw herself into the raging sea, only to stop short when the sudden rush of frigid air slapped against her face, leaving her gasping, remembering why she was there.
Later, through the fog and rain, the statue of a woman, a miracle larger than life appeared, making her, whose ancestors built Damascus, feel at once more important than anything in the world and yet so small, so insignificant. As a skyline of towering church spires and buildings inched closer, she steadied herself at the metal rail. In port, she stepped off and marched shoulder to shoulder up a steep flight of stairs with a mass of a thousand others bringing little more than the clothes they wore, carrying all they owned in a few pieces of luggage, in baskets and bags. Clutching her silk coin purse, over and over she rehearsed the English words they all told her she would need to know if she wanted to get past the guards, “my father is waiting for me.”
Finally, the doors to her New World swung open and she walked nameless, faceless into a great hall filled with the crying, with the homeless like her, being questioned and inspected, marked with chalk, sorted out and sent over the land in different directions.”
Twelve compelling stories of young girls in conflict with their Arabic culture and the world around them.
- As religions clash, the mysterious suicide of a promising high school student leads to a young girl’s understanding of vengeance and redemption.
- A Syrian child farmed out to another family during the Great Depression brings humorous clarity to poverty and the will to survive.
- In a postwar coal town, a mischievous child discovers the secret life and dignity of a wandering violinist whose existence depends on begging.
- A daughter’s memories and a diary expose what is true and not true about her father.
- Out of a young woman’s peripheral vision pops an Arabic grandfather she hated, a ghost from the past that, like it or not, she must now deal with.
Together and separately the stories explore a complex range of universal themes and experiences common to many immigrant populations, especially those involving challenges faced by girls. Whether set in Pennsylvania or California or on a train in between, the stories in Qudeen the Magnificent are probing and entertaining, a chorus of individual voices spanning the East and West coasts and the decades of the 20th century.