In “Just Off Main Street” author Elmaz Abinader depicts the physical and social barrier between Americans and hyphenated Americans such as Arab-Americans who live in dual sensitivity facing identity crisis, racism and other various problems living in America. In the first part of the story “Crossing The Threshold” we learn of young Abinader, her family, their customs and how they are separated from the rest of the families in their town.
In the second part of the story “Making A Writer“Abinader explains how entering college changes her view on her identity that lead to the person she is today. Abinader grew up in a small Pennsylvanian town, her father and uncle ran three businesses through which they served the neighborhood. From the store gate Abinader saw no difference between her father and the people on the streets.
This idea soon changed when she met the two Barbie like girls in school, she realized there was nothing in common between her and the other kids. Even though they didn’t know how her lifestyle was, they made fun of her. After she reaches home she understands her life and that of her peers are separated by the “magic door”. Since it’s a Wednesday Abinader’s mother prepared Arab delicacies which have “hypnotic” effect on her. The three boys and three girls of the Abinader family had after school duties, devotion to God, obedience to parents, and good school grades dominated the family.
They gave little importance to interactions that took place outside the house. On holidays, relatives visited, they ate together, danced and enjoyed but Abinader knew that her life inside and outside the “magic door “would always clash, she would never be accepted by her peer and felt like an outcast. Abinader went to university of Pittsburgh when she grew up. That had nationality classrooms which represented different cultures. The Syrian-Lebanese room, one she wanted to see was locked and required permission to access.
When she finally got into it, the royal furnishing and exoticness of the room made her feel proud. Soon she wrote about her heritage culture but she realized the Americans “exoticized” her. Focused on her writing, she wrote about her family and their history that was suppressed inside. Her writing was still inside the door.Outside the door she felt unwelcomed. Abinader didn’t give up and continued writing about the issues on identity, culture, etc. She participated in activism as a U.S citizen, marched, protested and created committees. Her writing made her feel like an activist as it conveyed her message more directly.