Americanness and the American Dream in Laila Halaby’s Once in a Promised Land (2007)


  • Hafiza Sarwat Fatima Writer
  • Ayesha : Assistant Professor, Area Study Centre for Africa, North and South America, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.



The notion of the American Dream is grounded in a promise of equality, opportunity, and prosperity for all through hard work and perseverance. Regardless of birth, social status, gender, race, or ethnicity, America, it is presumed, offers equal opportunity to immigrants from all corners of the world to materialize their ideals of happiness and prosperity. However, despite being hailed as the panacea for all, the mythical nature of the American Dream has been vigorously debated and critiqued over the last hundred years. In particular, the political and economic crises at the turn of the twenty-first century have further exposed the fault lines of the American Dream (Archer 2014). While literary critiques of the materialistic nature of the American Dream can be traced back to classics such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), Laila Halaby’s Once in a Promised Land (2007) is a contemporary exploration of the meaning of “Americanness” from the perspective of an Arab American couple in the aftermath of 9/11. Through a critical analysis of the representation of Americanness in Once in A Promised Land, the paper argues that the already elusive nature of the American Dream becomes further complicated in an America unsettled by the 9/11 event; as such, rather than reinforcing their American identity, for Arab Americans, the notion of Americanness becomes a source of disillusionment and alienation.

Keywords: American Dream, Americanness, Post 9/11, Once in a Promised Land