Arab American Heritage Month Reads and Resources

Arab American Heritage Month

Arab American Heritage Month takes place annually in April. It celebrates the achievements, language, culture, and histories of the 3.7 million Arab Americans in the United States today. Arab-Americans come from over 20 different countries including: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Contrary to many misconceptions, Arab-Americans are not necessarily Middle Eastern and over 60% of Arab-Americans identify as Christian. Some famous and notable Arab-Americans are: Gigi Hadid, Jerry Seinfeld, Alia Shawkat, Salma Hayek, Hoda Kotb, Rami Malek, Rashida Tlaib, and Steve Jobs. Below are books and resources to read and learn from to celebrate Arab-American Heritage month. For more titles, check out our lists for middle grade and children's books.

Books

 

Cover of Not the Girls You're Looking For by Aminah Mae SafiLeila "Lulu" Saad is a high school, Iraqi-American girl in Texas, just waiting for senior year to be over, so she can graduate with her three best friends. But, life is never that simple and readers will relate and empathize with Lulu's struggles to find her place in a world that tries to tell her who she is. Lulu and her friends are flawed characters, like any human, experiencing life in a 'real' world. Not the Girls You're Looking For makes space for the complexities and diversity that exists in the Arab-American community.

 

Cover of A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth LairdA Little Piece of Ground is an introduction for teens into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Karim lives in Ramallah, Palestine with his family. He likes video games, soccer, and got to go to school until the building was destroyed by the occupiers. Karim's life is defined by the curfews, but he finds a little piece of ground with friends to call their own. The author takes time to show the realities of living in an occupied land and portrays what feels like an honest look at how one can find a community amongst conflict.Although not an Arab-American story, Karim's life illustrates the conflicts that have brought many Palestinian Arabs to America. 

 

 

Cover of All American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie CourtneyIn All-American Muslim Girl, Allie has it all. She's a straight-A student, has good friends, and her family is close. Oh, and she's got a cute, sweet boyfriend, Wes. The only problem is that Wes doesn't know she's Muslim. As she begins to witness more Islamophobia in her community, she begins to embrace her faith and wonder what it means for her "perfect, American" life. This is a relevant story for teens felt caught between two worlds and features a host of diverse, well-developed teen characters.

 

Cover of Here to Stay by Sara FarizanBijan is a varsity athlete in Boston who likes school, reads comics, and hang out with his friends. When he's finally called off the bench at a basketball game and scores the winning basket, he's thrust into the spotlight. And not everyone is happy about that. An anonymous cyberbully sends the whole school a picture of Bijan altered to "look like a terrorist." Here to Stay tackles many serious topics, punctuated by Bijan's entertaining commentary. It is a worthwhile, exceptional read for all teens.

 

Cover of We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah FaizalInspired by the ancient history of Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a fantasy novel about Zafira, the Hunter and Nasir who is the Prince of Death, a deadly assassin assigned to kill his royal father's enemies. When war begins to brew, Zafira sets out to uncover a lost artifact that may save her home. The only problem is that Nasir is sent to follow her and destroy Zafira and the artifact. A delightful teen fantasy and romance for teens who enjoy either.

 

Cover of Ronit and Jamil by Pamela L. LaskinA modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet, Ronit & Jamil is the love story of an Israeli girl and a Palestinian boy written in prose. As their families are on two-sides of an intense, personal war, Ronit and Jamil are never meant to be together, despite falling in love at first sight. It is a quick read that bounces between the two perspectives, yet it finds an intimate feel in the poetic language. This very typical Shakespearean love story will be enjoyed by lovers of teen romance.

 

 

Cover of Here We Are Now by Jasmine WargaTaliah Abdallat has been sending Julian Oliver, a famed rockstar, letters since she was a 13. Still, when he shows up at her door, she's shocked. She's even more shocked when he says he's her father and asks that she comes with him to Indiana to see her grandfather. What follows is an adventure of sorts where Taliah learns even more than she bargained for. Here We Are Now is an engaging story about parental love, family drama, and discovering who you are.

 

 

 

Cover of I Was Their American Dream by Malaka GharibI Was Their American Dream is a graphic novel memoir about Malaka Gharib, who is half Filipino, half Egyptian, and 100% American. The novel follows her life as she spends school years in California and summers in Egypt. Gharib provides an emotional, detailed look at the difficulties of balancing such polar identities. The illustrations remind readers of popular Instagram artist, Mari Andrew, and immigrant families and children of the pre-internet era will relate to many of the author's experiences. Gharib's thoughtfulness, insights, and struggles make this memoir a worthy read.

 

Learn Arabic

Arabic is one of the fastest growing languages in the United States. Through Transparent Language, the Library District offers four different dialects of Arabic to learn: Modern Standard Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, Iraqi Arabic, and Levantine Arabic. Use the image below to access Transparent Language. You can also view our extensive Arabic language learning books, eBooks, and eAudiobooks.

 

Transparent Language Online

 

Additional Resources

Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan offers virtual video tours of its core exhibits: Contributions from the Arab World, Coming to America, Living in America, and Making An Impact.

Arab American Stories  an Emmy Award-winning 13 part video series from Detroit Public Television that illustrates the incredible diversity of the Arab-American experience.

Amer Zahr is an Arab-American comedian and professor. His TED Talk describes his life experience as an Arab-American with humor and honesty.

Unsettled Lives from the University of Michigan's Center for Arab American Studies explores the stories of Iraqi Americans living in Detroit, MI.

Arab America is devoted to representing the Arab-American community and maintains a list of resources to learn and enjoy Arab-American food, music, dance, literature, language, and art.