cover of book

The Right Kind of Suffering: Gender, Sexuality, and Arab Asylum Seekers in America
by Rhoda Kanaaneh
University of Texas Press, 2023
Cloth: 978-1-4773-2638-1 | eISBN: 978-1-4773-2639-8 | Paper: 978-1-4773-2672-5
Library of Congress Classification HV640.4.U54K36 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 362.870973


From the overloaded courts with their constantly changing dates and appointments to the need to prove oneself the “right” kind of victim, the asylum system in the United States is an exacting and drawn-out immigration process that itself results in suffering. When anthropologist Rhoda Kanaaneh became a volunteer interpreter for Arab asylum seekers, she learned how applicants were pushed to craft specific narratives to satisfy the system’s requirements.

Kanaaneh tells the stories of four Arab asylum seekers who sought protection in the United States on the basis of their gender or sexuality: Saud, who relived painful memories of her circumcision and police harassment in Sudan and then learned to number and sequence these recollections; Fatima, who visited doctors and therapists in order to document years of spousal abuse without over-emphasizing her resulting mental illness; Fadi, who highlighted the homophobic motivations that provoked his arrest and torture in Jordan, all the while sidelining connected issues of class and racism; and Marwa, who showcased her private hardships as a lesbian in a Shiite family in Lebanon and downplayed her environmental activism. The Right Kind of Suffering is a compelling portrait of Arab asylum seekers whose success stories stand in contrast with those whom the system failed.

See other books on: Arab countries | Middle Eastern Studies | Political refugees | Sexuality | Suffering
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