Strangers in the West is the never-before-told story of the Arab-speaking immigrants – primarily from the region known as “Greater Syria – who, beginning in 1880, settled in New York City. The center of their community was “Little Syria,” an area on the lower west side of Manhattan just south of the future site of the World Trade Center, as well as just a few blocks from the future home of The Skyscraper Museum.
Linda Jacobs paints a vivid portrait of life in this early immigrant community and the people who founded it. They were peddlers and merchants, midwives and doctors, priests and journalists, performers and impresarios. They capitalized on the orientalist craze sweeping the United States by opening Turkish smoking parlors, presenting belly dancers on vaudeville stages, and performing across the country in native costume. Through exhaustive archival and demographic research, Dr. Jacobs has captured the identities of virtually every member of this 19th-century community to fill in details about the rich tapestry of the immigrant culture of 19th century New York.
Linda Jacobs is a New York-based scholar and author. She holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Archaeology/Anthropology and spent many years working on archaeological excavations and economic development projects in the Middle East. She is the author of Digging In: An American Archaeologist Uncovers the Real Iran (2012) and a series of articles about the nineteenth-century Syrian Colony in New York. In 2011, she founded Kalimah Press to promote understanding about Middle Eastern culture in the United States. All four of her grandparents were members of the New York Syrian Colony.