Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Karem, Jeff

Subject Headings

Halaby, Laila Once in a Promised Land, Halaby, Laila -- Criticism and interpretation, September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001 -- Influence, Arab Americans -- Social conditions, Prejudices -- United States


Laila Halaby's Once in a Promised Land (2007) offers instructive insight into the struggles facing Arab Americans in post 9/11 America. Specifically, Halaby inverts the Western gaze upon the Arab world in doing so, she represents an America that is conspiratorial and inundated with religious zealotry. After 9/11, Halaby's American characters become increasingly intolerant and distrustful of Arabs and Islamic cultures. Halaby, then, portrays intolerant and xenophobic American characters overwrought with suspicion and paranoia and reveals a post 9/11 America that is rife with anti-Arab racism. Halaby also suggests that the pervasive American perception of a world distinctly divided between East and West only exacerbates global crises such as drought, poverty, and war. She also intimates that the events that occurred on September 11, 2001, were a direct result of these epidemics. Moreover, Halaby proffers a perspective of Americans as ignorantly perceiving the United States as isolated from crises threatening all nations. For this reason, her novel functions as a cautionary tale--instructing Americans to transcend a binary frame of reference in order to avoid further crises from escalating either within or beyond American borders. There is also a direct correlation between Halaby's novel and Leslie Marmon Silko's 1977 work, Ceremony. Both Halaby and Silko weave traditional folktales with their own narratives. In addition, Halaby's implication that the potential for global disasters unites all global citizens in a common fate is reminiscent of Silko's warning that the possibility of nuclear annihilation affects all cultures, regardless of location. Accordingly, both authors encourage cooperation between Eastern and Western nations and put forward that it is essential for all civilizations to transcend national borders and cultural partitions in order to solve global crises