Living in New York City after graduating college in 2004, Todd Fine was disturbed by the war in Iraq and the apocalyptic tension that had followed September 11, 2001. Believing that literature was an invaluable tool to learn about history and culture, he investigated Arab-American literature written in English as a possible vehicle to better understand historical relations between the United States and the Arab world. After a few internet searches, he discovered that there was an entire cohort of writers in New York City who dedicated their lives to such cultural experimentation through art.
Learning about the first Arab-American novel, The Book of Khalid (1911) by Ameen Rihani, a story of immigration to New York City, he was eager to read it, but found it was unfortunately out-of-print. Hence, he travelled to the Rose Reading Room of the New York Public Library on 42th Street to find a rare copy of the first edition. After reading just a few pages, he was shaking in amazement from its sense of humor, sophistication, and continued relevance. He determined to return the novel to print and raise the cultural profile of its remarkable author Ameen Rihani, who was a singular personality in many respects.
After making a free e-book of the novel for Project Gutenberg, he became in contact with the Ameen Rihani family and the Ameen Rihani Institute. With their support, he began “Project Khalid,” an effort to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the novel’s publication in 2011 as an important touchstone for Arab-American relations and history. During 2011, he coordinated dozens of events for the novel around the world, most prominently a symposium at the Library of Congress, conferences at the New York Public Library and the City University of New York, and a speaking tour with the United States Department of State across the Middle East.
During that year, he also found two publishers for The Book of Khalid: Melville House in Brooklyn, which published a popular paperback edition under their Neversink Library series, and Syracuse University Press, which eventually published a critical edition of the novel containing chapters from the leading scholars of Ameen Rihani.
You can purchase copies of the novel here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EVT79ZE/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
Todd Fine is also available to give talks about Ameen Rihani and The Book of Khalid for classrooms and public events. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 857-234-0920.
Voice of America, August 19, 2010: https://www.voanews.com/usa/century-old-novel-us-arab-harmony-still-resonates
BBC News, April 9, 2011: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-13017564
The Washington Post, April 15, 2011: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-the-arab-revolutions-echoes-of-a-100-year-old-book/2011/04/13/AFFbdakD_story.html
Brooklyn Rail, March 2012: https://brooklynrail.org/2012/03/books/resurrected-fiction
U.S. Library of Congress, January 9, 2017: https://blogs.loc.gov/international-collections/2017/01/the-book-of-khalid-an-arab-american-tale/