Negotiating un-belonging in Arab-American writing: Laila Halaby's Once in a Promised Land

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores post-9/11 articulations of belonging in Arab-American writing, in particular Laila Halaby's novel Once in a Promised Land (2007). Alongside urgently expressing strong anti-essentialist viewpoints about Arab-American identities, Halaby's novel also confounds the expectation that there is always an empowering and nurturing ethno-national community standing offstage, ready to welcome the wayward migrant. Recent criticism in this area has examined the work of Arab-American women writers, in particular that of Diana Abu Jaber, Frances Khirallah Noble and Alia Younis, in order to further investigate this turn. Drawing on recent debates in diaspora studies with regard to the growing complexity of migrant subjectivities, this article argues that the post-9/11 moment requires the complete rethinking of national and personal allegiances. In this particular case, Halaby's Arab-American characters are forced to revisit the idealized America of their dreams and to recognize their central role in this idealization. Without falling back on rigid ethnic formulations and taking refuge in righteous rhetoric, the novel explores the unusual and unexpected allegiances forged in crises: allegiances that show themselves to be malleable and flexible in the context of radical political change. © 2013 © 2013 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • 9/11
  • Arab-American
  • diaspora
  • ethno-national
  • home and belonging
  • Laila Halaby


Dive into the research topics of 'Negotiating un-belonging in Arab-American writing: Laila Halaby's Once in a Promised Land'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this