McCullough's essay analyzes the impact of the figure of the refugee on both the story and the narrative structure of Diana Abu-Jaber's 1993 novel Arabian Jazz. What initially looks like a fairly predictable immigrant narrative rapidly engages a story of transnational movement, then, toward the novel's end, reveals an underlying refugee/exile narrative that is temporally inflected. In its simultaneous representation of exile from Palestine and emigration from Jordan, the novel employs a complex layering of spatial and temporal registers, bringing together discourses of the local (ethnic) and the global and disrupting the time/place of the nation. More specifically, Arabian Jazz offers a representation of place structured by layers of displacement, and a representation of time whose emphasis on a frozen present disrupts the teleological time of the nation. At the same time, Abu-Jaber uses the figure of the Palestinian refugee to signal the elided presence of the Native American, thus disrupting the historical homogeneity of the myth of U.S. nation formation and bringing to light instead the model of settler colonialism on which the United States is based. As such, the novel must be read as a critique of narratives of nation formation that omit the position of the indigenous.
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Kate McCullough; Displacement as Narrative Structure: Refugee Time/Space in Diana Abu-Jaber's Arabian Jazz. American Literature 1 December 2011; 83 (4): 803–829. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-1437225
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