By Sayed Kashua
(Grove Press, Paperback, 9780802141262, 224pp.)
Publication Date: April 2004
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The debut novel by twenty-eight-year-old Arab-Israeli Sayed Kashua has been praised around the world for its honesty, irony, humor, and its uniquely human portrayal of a young man who moves between two societies, becoming a stranger to both. Kashua's nameless antihero has big shoes to fill, having grown up with the myth of a grandfather who died fighting the Zionists in 1948, and with a father who was jailed for blowing up a school cafeteria in the name of freedom. When he is granted a scholarship to an elite Jewish boarding school, his family rejoices, dreaming that he will grow up to be the first Arab to build an atom bomb. But to their dismay, he turns out to be a coward devoid of any national pride; his only ambition is to fit in with his Jewish peers who reject him. He changes his clothes, his accent, his eating habits, and becomes an expert at faking identities, sliding between different cultures, schools and languages, and eventually a Jewish lover and an Arab wife. With refreshing candor and self-deprecating wit, Dancing Arabs brilliantly maps one man's struggle to disentangle his personal and national identities, only to tragically and inevitably forfeit both.