"Re-Encountering Scheherzade": Gender, Cultural Mobility, and Narrative Transformations in Alia Yunis's The Night Counter

  • Pauline Homsi Vinson
Keywords Alia Yunis, Arab American literature, The Night Counter, gender and racial formations, Scheherazade, transnational literature, Thousand and One Nights, comedic articulation, cultural mobility, novel, Arab American, history, migration, cultural exchange, translation, counternarrative
Keywords Alia Yunis, Arab American literature, The Night Counter, gender and racial formations, Scheherazade, transnational literature, Thousand and One Nights, comedic articulation, cultural mobility, novel, Arab American, history, migration, cultural exchange, translation, counternarrative

Abstract

This paper explores the manner in which Alia Yunis's novel The Night Counter evokes the figure of Scheherazade from the Thousand and One Nights. First, the paper looks at Yunis's comedic articulations of cultural mobility in her description of her childhood attachment to Scheherazade in her essay "My Arabian Superheroine." Next, the paper examines how the novel reconfigures those childhood articulations to present a "reverse 1001 Nights," transforming Scheherazade from a storyteller to a listener that elicits stories of more than a century of Arab American history. Through these stories, the novel foregrounds questions of migration, cultural exchange, and translation while exposing the performative dimensions of gendered and racialized configurations of cultural identity. In so doing, this paper suggests, Yunis's novel not only "counters" narratives of distorted views of Arabs but also promotes a type of "coming out" that embraces the plurality of Arab American stories and modes of belonging.

Section
Special Section: Gender and Diaspora