Miss USA Rima Fakih? I turn to my library.

So a few days ago, Rima Fakih, an Arab-American from Dearborn, Michigan was crowned Miss USA.

She is, IMHO, quite lovely. And I am sort of predisposed to being all for anything that allows for greater integration of the Arab-American community into the broader American story. It’s time and past time, and well, hooray for Ms. Fakih, holder of a BA in economics and business management and an aspiring lawyer! I suppose.

It’s just that I have a very, very hard time being cool with beauty pageants. It’s the whole monetization-of-women’s-bodies-for-men’s-entertainment thingie, and the way that the objectification of the female form twists and screws and worms into the hearts and minds of women and girls, leaving us spending hours and days and years doubting our self-worth because we don’t look like… well, like Miss USA, actually.

Author Lesley Hazleton shares my ambivalence, but she makes an excellent point about it over at her place:

This is the way progress happens — in big steps and baby ones, ways we would choose and ways we would not.

And that’s just the truth — and there’s every reason to believe that the conversations sparked by this young woman’s year in the spotlight will, in fact, lead to greater understanding and integration of the Arab-American community. I would have rather that we had turned to Kathy Najimy (like Fakih, also of Lebanese descent!) to play that role, but if it’s to be Miss USA Rima Fakih? So be it.

So, rather than twist myself into Progressive knots over this one (yay for integration! boo for misogyny!), I’ll just do what I always do: Turn to my learnin’.

Here are two great books about the Arab-American community, about which very little has been written:

  1. Arab-Americans: A History – Gregory Orfalea. From my review: Arab-Americans “traces the century-long arc of Arab immigration, illuminating assimilation and ethnic politics with a loving yet candid eye as the narrative shifts between observations historical, personal and statistical. It comes as something of a surprise to learn, for instance, that only 23% of the community is Muslim. Beautifully written, the book is a much-needed entry in an all but empty field, and is blessedly free of both jargon and jingoism. By grounding the narrative with accounts of his own trips to Lebanon and Syria, Orfalea provides additional depth.”
  2. How Does it Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America – Moustafa Bayoumi. From my review: “In many ways, [Bayoumi’s] absorbing and affectionate book is a quintessentially American picture of 21st century citizens ‘absorbing and refracting all the ethnicities and histories surrounding [them].’ However, the testimonies from these young adults—summary seizures from their homes, harassment from strangers, being fired for having an Arab or Muslim name—have a weight and a sorrow that is ‘often invisible to the general public’.”

And for those who don’t know who Kathy Najimy is (Veronica’s Closet, Sister Act, Hocus Pocus, Wall-E, King of the Hill) a. I so wish that she would do stand-up again! And b. here’s a clip of her being interviewed by Chelsea Handler (I wanted to bring you a clip from The Kathy and Mo Show, but couldn’t find a really good one!).

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PS Tomorrow is yet another Jewish holiday, Shavuot, so I won’t be posting. Chag sameah, if you celebrate, and if you don’t, have a blintz anyway! It can’t hurt.