Preview: Laila Lalami Lecture - Muslims in America: A Forgotten History

PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD

Laila Lalami will speak on the historical role of Muslims in America on April 5.

Laila Lalami will speak on the historical role of Muslims in America on April 5.

The [https://lsa.umich.edu/humanities|Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan] presents dozens of humanities-related events every year. A highlight of 2016 is the [https://lsa.umich.edu/humanities/news-events/all-events.detail.html/293…|Jill S. Harris Memorial Lecture] on April 5, when writer and The Nation columnist [http://lailalalami.com/about/|Laila Lalami] will talk about the long and rich history of Muslims in the United States.

Lalami is a writer whose insightful cultural commentary, literary criticism, and opinion pieces have appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post, among many other publications. She has also written three books, including the [http://www.aadl.org/catalog/record/1477405|The Moor’s Account], a 2015 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. A work of historical fiction, the book is the imagined memoir of Estebanico, a real-life Moroccan slave--and the first black explorer of America--who accompanied the Castilian conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez from Spain to the US Gulf Coast in 1527. The book gives an alternate narrative of the famed expedition, illuminating the role that black men played in exploring the New World.

In her April 5 talk, Lalami aims to illuminate the history of Muslims in America--from 14th-century Moors and Syrian auto workers in the early 1900s, to African slaves and Palestinians immigrating after the 1948 establishment of Israel. Lalami proposes that, not unlike the part Estebanico played in the New World exploration, the part Muslims have played in U.S. history is misunderstood and underestimated, and that they are often seen as “latecomers to America, recent arrivals who’ve grafted themselves into an already thriving country.”

Lalami makes direct connections between anti-Muslim sentiment--on the rise for sure, but not a new thing--with this “forgotten history” of American Muslims. But through better understanding of history and its transmission, Lalami proposes that fiction can help us fill in some of the detail missing from the mainstream narrative of Muslims in America.


Community contributor Stephanie Harrell is the communications specialist at the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan.


[https://lsa.umich.edu/humanities/news-events/all-events.detail.html/293…|Muslims in America: A Forgotten History], An evening with Laila Lalami is the 2016 Jill S. Harris Memorial Lecture, taking place Tuesday, April 5, 2016 from 4-6 pm in the Rackham Amphitheatre. The event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited; please arrive early.