Welcome to Project Khalid

The 100th Anniversary of the First Arab-American Novel

2011 brings the centennial anniversary of the publication of the first Arab-American novel: Ameen Rihani’s The Book of Khalid (1911). The story of two Arab boys who immigrate to New York City, the novel ambitiously confronts issues that concerned Rihani’s era and still confound our own: the ideal relations between Americans and Arabs, the problem of religious conflict in the Arab world and beyond, and the rightful position of Arabs within the great American story of immigration.

Ameen Rihani, one of the 20th century’s most unique and talented intellectuals, writers, and poets, is insufficiently acknowledged and appreciated within American culture. Yet, his life is a great American story. A prolific writer in both English and Arabic, he was greatly esteemed in the United States as a writer during his lifetime, and he is, to this day, still widely read and respected by people of all cultural and religious backgrounds in the Middle East.

This anniversary offers an extraordinary opportunity to raise his cultural profile and communicate his message of dialogue and unity between East and West. His body of work seems uncannily made for this moment in time, which has not lost its peril or urgent need for reconciliation. There is also a critical present need to popularize and expose the impressive history and literary creations of the early Arab-American immigrants, whose struggles and creativity fit perfectly within the great American narrative of immigration which usually focuses on other groups.

In order to pursue these aims, a group of esteemed scholars and public figures have come together to establish Project Khalid, a coordinated effort to commemorate the novel’s centennial anniversary in 2011. Activities include preparing a new edition of the novel for schools and managing its distribution, hosting an academic forum and a celebratory dinner, and using online and traditional media to promote the novel and Rihani’s life story throughout the anniversary year. Project Khalid is a program of the Ameen Rihani Institute, a registered 501(c)(3) organization, and we invite you to join us in this endeavor.


An Extraordinary Man
Through his writing and activities, Ameen Rihani integrated and transcended two cultures like no other person in history. His biography has inspired Arabs, Americans, and many others around the world to strive for cultural dialogue and peace.

 

Khalid's Call
The Book of Khalid is the story of two boys from Baalbek who immigrate to New York City in order to peddle on the streets. The lessons they learn in America evolve into a call for unity and progress in an autonomous Arab world. An e-text version is available through Project Gutenberg.

Quotations

  • Ameen Rihani was to the Arab nation what Tagore was to the Indians, and what Emerson and Thoreau were to the United States of America.

    Zaki Najib Mahmoud
  • I find in my friend Ameen Rihani a formidable national reformer and a man genuinely concerned with the Arabs and their unity. I extremely admire his literature, his knowledge, and his true national spirit.

    King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia
  • The Book of Khalid marks the beginning of an original genre both in English literature and modern Arabic letters. Not only was it the first ‘Arab narrative’ authored in English by an Arab (as opposed to Western representations of Arabs), but also because of its novelistic form….

    Nijmeh Hajjar
  • The Book of Khalid shall impress modern readers of all ages, especially students, because the protagonist, Khalid, represents all of us.

    Naji Oueijan
  • Ameen Rihani was a towering intellectual and a pioneer of Arab-American literature. His tireless and exemplary efforts to bridge cultures and civilizations are sorely needed in any age, especially our own.

    Waïl Hassan
  • The anniversary of the book’s first publication should help us all to discover a thirst for the cross-cultural in our lives.

    Geoffrey Nash
  • The centennial anniversary of the first Arab-American novel pays homage to the ‘roadmap’ Rihani designed a century ago to help the nations of the world foster mutual understanding and achieve peaceful relations.

    Nuwar Diab
  • The Book of Khalid remains a seminal yet still neglected work in the intellectual and literary history of both the Arab world and North America, and its republication is long overdue.

    Stephen Sheehi
  • Rihani’s work helps me connect my young students to an Arab past from a Western space. He is the embodiment of Arab awakening and national spirit, and indeed, an industriousness that is both Arabic and Islamic in its essence.

    Hani Bawardi
  • Project Khalid, which celebrates a key work by a distinguished Arab philosopher, will be a major contribution to link Arab-Americans to the roots and causes of their forefathers’ immigration to the United States.

    Clovis Maksoud
  • The Book of Khalid’s description of the iconic immigrant journey … allowed me to connect my own Mexican immigrant heritage to the wave of Arab-Americans who came at the turn of the 20th century.

    Lizeth Lara