Aside from two pioneering anthropological works done in the 1960s,1 a completely different era from the present one, Walbridge has written the first book-length study of an immigrant American Muslim community. And she has picked perhaps the most interesting one of them: Dearborn, Michigan, a town of nearly 100,000 population that is mostly Arab and largely Muslim. It is a place where "recently arrived villagers [from Lebanon] can manage adequately ... without ever tasting a hamburger or uttering a word of English." Walbridge is not only a keen observer of Dearborn but brings the added insight of having lived earlier in Lebanon itself, and so can compare the peoples she encounters in the suburbs of Detroit with their relatives back home.
Her years of research in 1987-91 and "vast amounts of time" spent with the subjects of her study have permitted a subtle and convincing portrait of a people still very much outside the mainstream of American life. Take the distinctly Shi`i institution of temporary marriage (mut`a in Arabic): Walbridge tells of a young man, hoping for sex with a woman without breaking the rules of his religion or forming a permanent bond with a non-Muslim. He propositioned a number of American women with the prospect of a temporary marriage and "all of them laughed at him except one," and she ended up converting to Islam and getting permanently married to him. Among the most valuable information here is a careful review of Islamic practices; Walbridge finds the avoidance of pork to be most widespread and the full complement of prayers perhaps the least.
1 Abdo A. Elkholy, The Arab Moslems in the United States: Religion and Assimilation (New Haven: College and University Press, 1966) and Atif A. Wasfi, An Islamic-Lebanese Community in U.S.A.: A Study in Cultural Anthropology (Beirut: Beirut Arab University, 1971).