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Strangers in the West: The Syrian Colony of New York City, 1880-1900

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Strangers in the West is the never-before-told story of the Arab immigrants who settled in New York City, beginning in 1880. They came primarily from what was then known as "Greater Syria," and settled in tenements on the lower west side of Manhattan, founding an Arabic-speaking enclave just south of the future site of the World Trade Center. Arriving in the New World with Strangers in the West is the never-before-told story of the Arab immigrants who settled in New York City, beginning in 1880. They came primarily from what was then known as "Greater Syria," and settled in tenements on the lower west side of Manhattan, founding an Arabic-speaking enclave just south of the future site of the World Trade Center. Arriving in the New World with little more than their resourcefulness and business acumen, these immigrants quickly built a thriving "colony" that was the cultural and economic center of the Syrian diaspora in America. Dr. Jacobs paints a vivid portrait of life in this early immigrant community, and the people who founded it. They were peddlers and merchants, midwives and doctors, priests and journalists, performers and impresarios. They capitalized on the orientalist craze sweeping the United States by opening Turkish smoking parlors, presenting belly dancers on vaudeville stages, and performing across the country in native costume. They learned English, built businesses, and became an important thread in the rich tapestry of the immigrant culture of 19th century New York. This is their story. Strangers In the West is the first and only comprehensive study of America's most important Syrian colony. Through exhaustive archival and demographic research, Dr. Jacobs has captured the identities of virtually every member of this 19th century community. In doing so, she has created an invaluable resource for historians, scholars, and others interested in the history of Arabs in America.


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Strangers in the West is the never-before-told story of the Arab immigrants who settled in New York City, beginning in 1880. They came primarily from what was then known as "Greater Syria," and settled in tenements on the lower west side of Manhattan, founding an Arabic-speaking enclave just south of the future site of the World Trade Center. Arriving in the New World with Strangers in the West is the never-before-told story of the Arab immigrants who settled in New York City, beginning in 1880. They came primarily from what was then known as "Greater Syria," and settled in tenements on the lower west side of Manhattan, founding an Arabic-speaking enclave just south of the future site of the World Trade Center. Arriving in the New World with little more than their resourcefulness and business acumen, these immigrants quickly built a thriving "colony" that was the cultural and economic center of the Syrian diaspora in America. Dr. Jacobs paints a vivid portrait of life in this early immigrant community, and the people who founded it. They were peddlers and merchants, midwives and doctors, priests and journalists, performers and impresarios. They capitalized on the orientalist craze sweeping the United States by opening Turkish smoking parlors, presenting belly dancers on vaudeville stages, and performing across the country in native costume. They learned English, built businesses, and became an important thread in the rich tapestry of the immigrant culture of 19th century New York. This is their story. Strangers In the West is the first and only comprehensive study of America's most important Syrian colony. Through exhaustive archival and demographic research, Dr. Jacobs has captured the identities of virtually every member of this 19th century community. In doing so, she has created an invaluable resource for historians, scholars, and others interested in the history of Arabs in America.

41 review for Strangers in the West: The Syrian Colony of New York City, 1880-1900

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Calla

    I found this book to be informative and authentic. As an American of Syrian descent, this book sparked my interest in many events of the time period besides the immigration, including the World Fair of 1893, Coney Island, and the dancer known as "Little Egypt." It's non-fiction and written as such, almost like a textbook, which is what I expected. I found this book to be informative and authentic. As an American of Syrian descent, this book sparked my interest in many events of the time period besides the immigration, including the World Fair of 1893, Coney Island, and the dancer known as "Little Egypt." It's non-fiction and written as such, almost like a textbook, which is what I expected.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rocky Parra

    I ordered this book as part of my genealogical research on my great-grandfather George Antoine Ristom. He immigrated from Syria/Beirut in 1904. His family stayed in Lebanon-mother and sister. He arrived in NY in 1904, was in MS in 1910 and ended up in Louisiana in the 1920s where he met abd married my great-grandmother. This book helped me reconstruct what life may have been like for him on arrival. It was well-written with lots of information about the assimilation of immigrants in the US.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Aleta Proffitt

    I couldn't get past the first few pages. Dry and sterile rendition I couldn't get past the first few pages. Dry and sterile rendition

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elias Ziade

    The book is very informative and sheds a rare light in the LEVANTINE ARABIC-SPEAKING community of New York. The author went to great lengths to gather data but the outcome is heavy on the eyes and the mind. Instead of using a flowing narrative style the individual stories are sliced for the sake of a fragmentary sectioning. I would've placed more emphasis on the people, the Arbeelys, the Mokarsels and Rihanis for example. Although most of the people who figure in the book originate from and arou The book is very informative and sheds a rare light in the LEVANTINE ARABIC-SPEAKING community of New York. The author went to great lengths to gather data but the outcome is heavy on the eyes and the mind. Instead of using a flowing narrative style the individual stories are sliced for the sake of a fragmentary sectioning. I would've placed more emphasis on the people, the Arbeelys, the Mokarsels and Rihanis for example. Although most of the people who figure in the book originate from and around mount Lebanon, the author decided, unapologetically, to ascribe the appellation of Syrians to them. I'd like to note that anyone dealing with history should strive to correct historical errors and not perpetuate them. I hoped to learn much more from this book, I was left wanting.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Linda Hanna

  6. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tamer

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ziad Djaroueh

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tom Hornback

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ruthie Desaegher

  11. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gail Okeefe

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christina Seng

  14. 4 out of 5

    A. C. H..

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carla

  16. 5 out of 5

    Micielle

  17. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Meeker

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ann Ellis

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Bradley

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zandt McCue

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Schwarzer

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Huether

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cory

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Reader

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Obrien

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stacia Chappell

  30. 4 out of 5

    Diane

  31. 5 out of 5

    Trica Johnson

  32. 5 out of 5

    Eli

  33. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Hoffman

  34. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

  35. 4 out of 5

    Anne Russo

  36. 5 out of 5

    Terry Pearson

  37. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  38. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Heare Watts

  39. 4 out of 5

    Jill Dugaw

  40. 4 out of 5

    LLL Reads

  41. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Lute

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