Joseph Geha discusses ‘Lebanese Blonde’ in Toledo ‘Blade’

by Brianne Johnson on November 13, 2012

In a recently published interview with the Toledo Blade, author Joseph Geha discusses the personal experiences that informed his new novel, Lebanese Blondefrom feeling like an outsider as an Arabic-speaking child in Toledo, Ohio, to seeing gun-toting men guarding hashish fields while visiting Lebanon in the early 1970s.

Set primarily in the Toledo, Ohio, “Little Syria” community in the mid-1970s–right at the beginning of Lebanon’s sectarian civil war–Lebanese Blonde tells the story of two immigrant cousins, Aboodeh, a self-styled entrepreneur, and Samir, his young, reluctant accomplice, who concoct a scheme to import Lebanese Blonde, a potent strain of hashish, into the United States, using the family’s mortuary business as a cover. When Teyib, a newly arrived war refugee, stumbles onto their plans, his efforts to gain acceptance raise suspicion. Aboodeh and Samir’s problems grow still more serious when a shipment goes awry and their links to the war-ravaged homeland are severed.

“Samir comes from a part of me that holds back for fear of losing that which immigration and naturalization will eventually take away from us–language, customs, food, culture, even family and a sense of home,” Geha, who arrived in America with his family when he was two years old, told the Blade. “Little Syria was never meant to be a permanent refuge, and by 1975 it’s fast disappearing. Therefore, Samir, who’s not at all savvy to start with, must make the journey toward knowledge of the greater world and of himself.” Geha added that Teyib “arose out of a part of me that remembers what it was like to be an alien, speaking and thinking my thoughts in Arabic, and trying, maybe too eagerly, to adapt to this new, American world just outside my doorstep. He is both savvy and clumsy, just as I was.”

You can read the full interview here, and read more about Lebanese Blonde here.

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