Syrian Yankee

Date: 1943

 

Description: This is a signed copy of the book Syrian Yankee, written by Salom Rizk. The book is an autobiography of Rizk’s immigration to the United States from his homeland of Syria, and his slow Americanization as he adjusted and grew to love his new homeland. His American mother died when he was young, and he was raised by a grandmother who did not tell him of his heritage. Soon he learned of his heritage and became preoccupied with stories of the Americas and what opportunities might await him there. He lived through the horror of Syria during World War I, and he came to the United States soon after. He located his family in Sioux City, Iowa and headed to the Midwest, finally meeting his family for the first time. After Syrian Yankee was published in the 1940s Rizk toured around the nation giving lectures and promoting what he called the “American Dream”, a familiar concept but one that Rizk felt had lost its meaning to those born here. He described the “American Dream” not as an idea but as a real goal, and something that immigrants actually do achieve. Thus his view of immigration and assimilation is a rather optimistic one, where immigrants and native-born people live together and share a common goal. Rizk is also unique among Arab-Americans and immigrants in general in that he was less concerned with describing the heritage of his home country and more concerned with describing the United States and what he hoped to achieve here. In the latter half of the century ethnic pride movements would disagree with Rizk’s theology, and it was a more common trend to celebrate one’s heritage rather than sweep it under the rug. Rizk therefore stands as a unique testament to his age.

 

Rizk lived out his later years in Silver Spring, Maryland, but he continued to be a vocal advocate of his ideals of the “American Dream”. Much of Rizk’s family, who immigrated before him, lived out their lives right here in Sioux City. Many known members of Rizk’s family are buried here in Graceland Cemetery.

 

Donor: Purchased by the museum

 

On display