Jonathan Curiel

Jonathan Curiel is a journalist in San Francisco and the author of Al’ America: Travels Through America’s Arab and Islamic Roots. The book, published by The New Press in November of 2008 (and republished in paperback in November of 2009), details the historic influence of Arab and Muslim culture on America, from the time of Columbus to the modern age. Among the areas covered: Islamic architecture and its melding into San Antonio’s historic Alamo building and New York’s World Trade Center; Arab music and its impact on The Doors, Bob Dylan, and the Jefferson Airplane; Persian poetry and its sway over Ralph Waldo Emerson; Americans’ love for Arabic tattoos and Persian carpets; New Orleans’ French Quarter and its link to Islamic aesthetics; and Elvis Presley’s and P.T. Barnum’s connections to Arab and Muslim culture. The book received a 2008 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, was named one of 2008’s Top 10 books by London journalist Joel Schalit, and was chosen as an "Outstanding Academic Title of 2009" by Choice magazine, the review journal of the Association of College and Research Libraries. More than 700 libraries around the world -- including the British Library; Canada's national library; the National Library of Australia; the National Library of China in Beijing; National Chengchi University in Taiwain; Germany's Universitatsbibliothek Erlangen-Nurnberg and Goethe University in Frankfurt; and libraries at Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, MIT, the U.S. Army War College, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, the University of Toronto, Cambridge University, the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, the American University in Cairo, the University of Bahrain, and Turkey’s Middle East Technical University in Ankara -- have the book, which was translated into Arabic by Arab Scientific Publishers, the Beirut publishing house that also brought out The Da Vinci Code. (For more about Al’ America – including images, and excerpts of reviews by the Washington Post, which called it “a pleasurable read”; Choice magazine, which described it as "essential (reading)"; and Publishers Weekly, which said “Curiel’s cultural odyssey moves swiftly and engagingly across time and geography” – click here.) From October of 2005 to April of 2006, Curiel was a Reuters Foundation Fellow at Oxford University in England, where he researched and wrote a 10,000-word paper on the historic impact of Islamic architecture on synagogue and church architecture. The paper featured research and reporting from England and southern France. During the 1993-1994 academic year, Curiel lived in Lahore, Pakistan, where he taught journalism as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of the Punjab. In 2005, Curiel's work for the San Francisco Chronicle was honored by Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. (Curiel, a staff writer at the Chronicle from April of 1985 to August of 2009, was one of a select number of American journalists -- including CBS's Ed Bradley -- cited by Columbia University for doing outstanding articles or programs on race and ethnicity.) Curiel has written freelance stories for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Columbia Journalism Review, American Journalism Review, Salon, GlobalPost (the foreign affairs site), Trouw (a prominent Netherlands newspaper based in Amsterdam, which translated his opinion piece into Dutch), Ode magazine, the Advocate magazine, Tablet (the online magazine devoted to Jewish Life and culture), Saudi Aramco World (the bimonthly magazine that spotlights the Arab and Muslim world and its connection with the West), Los Angeles Times, Detroit Free Press, the Bay Citizen (the news and culture site that covers the San Francisco Bay Area) and The Wire (a London music magazine), and has done freelance work for Sight & Sound, TV Guide, Maclean's magazine (Canada's equivalent of Time and Newsweek), and True/Slant, where he was a blogger from March of 2009 to July of 2010. Curiel's articles have been reprinted in such publications as The Globe and Mail (Canada's national daily newspaper), Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Orange County Register, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Hartford Courant, New York Post and New York Daily News. Besides the United States, Curiel has reported from Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Japan, Egypt, Morocco and Mali. For the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival (the oldest film festival in the Americas) he was a juror for the $10,000 Skyy Prize. For Harlan Jacobson’s Talk Cinema, he has spoken about such films as The Kite Runner, The Triplets of Belleville, and the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others and An Inconvenient Truth. Curiel has been interviewed by National Public Radio affiliates, by the BBC/PRI radio show "The World" (click here to listen), and by BBC radio from London about the life and death of Ravi Shankar (click here to listen to the interview with BBC Newsday), and has been a moderator, panelist or speaker at the Commonwealth Club (click here to see appearances shown on, click here to see him on C-SPAN); the World Affairs Council; Columbia University; Stanford University; Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union; the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Town Hall Seattle; the Humanities Institute at the University of South Florida; the Jackson, Mississippi conference, "Islamic West Africa's Legacy of Literacy and Music to America and the World" (sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, hosted by Tougaloo College and the International Museum of Muslim Cultures); the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford (England); the Foundation Royaumont outside of Paris; and Allameh Tabatabai University in Tehran (a talk given during a 1993 visit to Iran). In Tangier, Morocco, he gave a keynote address at Performing Tangier 2008: Borders, Beats and Beyond, an academic conference organized by the Tangier-based International Centre for Performance Studies. In the Fall 2009 semester, Curiel taught a journalism course at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music in Los Angeles. In February of 2010, he was an O’Donnell Visiting Educator at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. In May of 2010, he became art critic for SF Weekly. Also in 2010, Curiel was named a contract writer for the United Nations Development Programme in New York, an arts blogger for KQED (the main San Francisco affiliate of PBS and NPR), and a journalism juror for World Hunger Year's annual Harry Chapin Media Awards.

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Muslim Roots, U.S. Blues
To many the idea that American blues music has its origins...