Book of the Month: Joseph Geha’s Lebanese Blonde
Sam would never mention such a thing to his cousin, how he sometimes found himself thinking – well not exactly, not consciously anyway, more like daydreaming – about what if he went back to the old country and discovered that for once in his life he actually felt as if he fit in, and the problem all along, all his growing up, had been in America? (24)
Our book recommendation of the month is Joseph Geha’s Lebanese Blonde, a 2013 Arab American award-winning book, set in Toledo, Ohio, “Little Syria” community.
Two immigrant cousins, Aboodeh and Samir, embark on a journey of the importation of the Lebanese Blonde (high-grade hashish) to the United States, using their family’s mortuary business as a cover story. Samir, as gullible as he is, gets pulled into Aboodeh’s scheme of smuggling. Later on, they will face some hurdles along the way and put their own family in jeopardy. In addition, at that time (1975-1976), Lebanon was both economically and politically wobbly and a “newly arrived refugee”. So much was at stake. On top of that, another Lebanese cousin, Teyib, shows up in Toledo not to “help them” but to stir things up. Guess what? He is a schemer too, but with an American dream and cooking skills.
The novel is divided into four parts and twenty chapters, where we can notice Samir’s growth from his old life to the new one. All he ever wanted was to fit in. It can be said that this smuggling dilemma somewhat served its purpose or led to some kind of freedom. It ruined many things; among them was the family business. Interestingly enough, Sam felt a certain joy he never felt before as if the burnt funeral house paved the way for a new beginning, a promising one. There are plenty of enriching events, but you will have to read the novel and enjoy its different flavors and immerse yourself in it. Another interesting fact is that the author, Joe Geha, came to America from Lebanon as a child and grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where his brilliant story was based. He knows his characters very well and writes about them with immense affection and humor. His description of the Lebanese dishes and its incorporation into the novel does not only bring the community’s streets to life but also makes you want to try out Lebanese food. I highly recommend it.
Geha, Joseph 2012. Lebanese Blonde. United States of America: University of Michigan Press.