A compelling and illuminating call for recognizing America’s earliest Muslims.



A work of historical criticism advocates a thorough investigation of Islam’s impact on U.S. slavery.

Most people probably don’t associate American slaves with Islam. But as Karim explains in his debut book, Islam was an influential force within Africa and a continuing presence in the lives of many African American slaves. “The study of African Muslim slaves and their impact upon the various aspects of slave culture, African-American and American culture in general, has remained wanting,” writes the author in his introduction, arguing that ignoring this area of history simplifies African American identity and reinforces Orientalist notions of a clear divide between East and West. After offering an account of the way that various figures within academia have been receptive or hostile to investigating the Islamic faith among some American slaves, Karim goes into a history of the religion in Africa and its state at the time of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. He then profiles three known Muslim slaves in America: Job Ben Solomon (Ayyub bin Suleiman), who was born in Senegal and ended up in Maryland; ’Abd al-Rahman Ibrahima, a nobleman from Guinea who was known as “the Prince of Natchez” during his time in Mississippi; and Ben Ali (Salih Bilali), born in Mali and transported to Georgia. By examining their narratives and highlighting their relationships to their faith, the author sheds light on a long-overlooked corner of the American experience. Karim concludes the book by examining the complex place Islam holds in American life today, within the black community and outside of it. Islam continues to be depicted as a boogeyman by Donald Trump and his political allies even as opponents of the president who wish to counter that narrative hold up Muslims as increasingly valued participants in American life. The author’s prose is scholarly without being dry, and during the slave narratives, in particular, he reveals himself to be an adept storyteller: “We also know that he wore a fez and long coat in the style of Muslims in Africa and fasted in Ramadan. He had at least twelve sons and seven daughters, all of whom bore Islamic names. He was a powerful and inspiring man, whose capabilities were recognised by his owner, Thomas Spalding.” Karim successfully weaves a number of historical trends together, from Yarrow Mamout to Muhammad Ali to 9/11 to Khizr Khan, showing how often Islam has been seen by its practitioners and opponents as something at odds with the American status quo. The author’s perspective is fairly Islamocentric, and he is perhaps more interested in establishing the existence of a Muslim tradition within the U.S. than in, say, resurrecting the backgrounds of these slaves for the mere sake of accuracy or multiculturalism. While Karim makes no pretense of objectivity, his arguments are persuasive and expose a significant hole in the mainstream view of American slavery. History fans of all backgrounds should be intrigued to learn of the surprises and complexities still hidden in this nation’s past.

A compelling and illuminating call for recognizing America’s earliest Muslims.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-912892-23-5

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Diptote Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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