As we mentioned last month, we’re thrilled to be one of 840 libraries and state humanities councils across the country selected to receive the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the American Library Association (ALA). The program aims to familiarize public audiences in the United States with the people, places, history, faith and cultures of Muslims in the United States and around the world through five themes. The first theme we’re going to explore is American Stories, which examines the roles Muslims have played in the United States throughout our history. If any of these titles interest you, you may place a hold by clicking any of the titles.

 

Prince Among Slaves by Terry Alford

In this remarkable work, Terry Alford tells the story of Abd al Rahman Ibrahima, a Muslim slave who, in 1807, was recognized by an Irish ship’s surgeon as the son of an African king who had saved his life many years earlier. “The Prince,” as he had become known to local Natchez, Mississippi residents, had been captured in war when he was 26 years old, sold to slave traders, and shipped to America. Slave though he was, Ibrahima was an educated, aristocratic man, and he was made overseer of the large cotton and tobacco plantation of his master, who refused to sell him to the doctor for any price. After years of petitioning by Dr. Cox and others, Ibrahima finally gained freedom in 1828 through the intercession of U.S. Secretary of State Henry Clay. Sixty-six years old, Ibrahima sailed for Africa the following year, with his wife, and died there of fever just five months after his arrival. The year 2007 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Prince Among Slaves, the only full account of Ibrahima’s life, pieced together from first-person accounts and historical documents gathered on three continents. It is not only a remarkable story, but also the story of a remarkable man, who endured the humiliation of slavery without ever losing his dignity or his hope for freedom. This thirtieth anniversary edition, which will be released to coincide with a major documentary being aired on Ibrahima’s life, has been updated to include material discovered since the original printing, a fuller presentation and appreciation of other African Muslims in American slavery-Ibrahima’s contemporaries-and a review of new and important literature and developments in the field.
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Since September 11, 2001, Muslims in the United States have become the subject of genuine curiosity and compassion as well as increased government surveillance and harassment. Who are these Muslims? What is their history, and where do they come from? Do they share a common culture? Do they vary in their beliefs? Bringing together an unusually personal collection of essays and documents from an incredibly diverse group of Americans who call themselves Muslims, Edward E. Curtis “finds Islam” in the American experience from colonial times to the present. Sampling from speeches, interviews, editorials, stories, song lyrics, articles, autobiographies, blogs, and other sources, Curtis presents a patchwork narrative of Muslims from different ethnic and class backgrounds, religious orientations, and political affiliations. He begins with a history of Muslims in the United States, featuring the voices of an enslaved African Muslim, a Syrian Muslim sodbuster, and a South Asian mystic-musician, along with the words of such well-known Muslims as Malcolm X. Then he follows with an examination of such contemporary issues as Islam and gender, the involvement of Muslims in American politics, and emerging forms of Islamic spirituality. In constructing his history, Curtis draws on the work of Muslim feminists, social conservatives, interfaith activists, missionaries, and politicians, as well as Muslim rappers and legal experts. He also includes records from the large-scale migrations of the 1880s; racial, ethnic, and religious trends of the 1960s; writings from second-generation and African American Muslims; and discussions of Islam in the public square. With this highly informed, real-life portrait, Curtis provides a crucial corrective to the rhetoric of suspicion and fear surrounding current discussions of Muslims in the United States and emphasizes Muslims’ continuing impact on American society and culture.
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With a new afterword Acts of Faith is a remarkable account of growing up Muslim in America and coming to believe in religious pluralism, from one of the most prominent faith leaders in the United States. Eboo Patel’s story is a hopeful and moving testament to the power and passion of young people–and of the world-changing potential of an interfaith youth movement.
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In Cairo in the 1940s, Leila Ahmed was raised by a generation of women who never dressed in the veils and headscarves their mothers and grandmothers had worn. To them, these coverings seemed irrelevant to both modern life and Islamic piety. Today, however, the majority of Muslim women throughout the Islamic world again wear the veil. Why, Ahmed asks, did this change take root so swiftly, and what does this shift mean for women, Islam, and the West? When she began her study, Ahmed assumed that the veil’s return indicated a backward step for Muslim women worldwide. What she discovered, however, in the stories of British colonial officials, young Muslim feminists, Arab nationalists, pious Islamic daughters, American Muslim immigrants, violent jihadists, and peaceful Islamic activists, confounded her expectations. Ahmed observed that Islamism, with its commitments to activism in the service of the poor and in pursuit of social justice, is the strain of Islam most easily and naturally merging with western democracies’ own tradition of activism in the cause of justice and social change. It is often Islamists, even more than secular Muslims, who are at the forefront of such contemporary activist struggles as civil rights and women’s rights. Ahmed’s surprising conclusions represent a near reversal of her thinking on this topic. Richly insightful, intricately drawn, and passionately argued, this absorbing story of the veil’s resurgence, from Egypt through Saudi Arabia and into the West, suggests a dramatically new portrait of contemporary Islam.
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Documents the author’s conversion from all-American atheist to Islam, a journey marked by her decision to relocate to Cairo, romance with a passionate young Egyptian, and her efforts to balance the virtues of both cultures.

 

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The Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys is a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities, conducted in cooperation with the American Library Association. Major support for the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf was provided by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional support for the arts and media components was provided by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.
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