Arab – American Heritage Month  

The month of April is Arab – American Heritage Month. This month exists to acknowledge, uplift, and celebrate our Arab community. To celebrate and highlight this beautiful culture, we have curated a list of works created by Arab authors that we recommend.  

Minor Detail by Arabia Shibli describes the Palestinian experience of life under occupation in this haunting story. This tale takes place in the summer of 1949 – one year after 700,000 Palestinians were displaced and expelled during the Nakba. The main character, a woman in Ramallah, becomes nearly obsessed with the capture and murder of a Palestinian woman at the hands of Israeli soldiers. A young woman in Ramallah becomes obsessed with telling this story from the victim’s point of view. Though this novel is only 112 pages, it conveys the story from two points of view and gives readers a glimpse into the Palestinian experience under occupation.  

The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar tells the story of Nour – who has just lost her father to cancer. Nour and her family move from New York to Syria to be closer to their family. However, the country her mother once knew is changing before their eyes and violence in the region drives Syrian families to become refugees. As Nour makes this journey and struggles to find a home, Rawiya lives 800 hundred years earlier and seeks to help her impoverished and widowed mother. Longing to see the world, Rawiya disguises herself and leaves to find a way for her to achieve a fortune. She becomes an apprentice to al-Idrisi, who gets commissioned to create a map of the world. Rawiya then begins a journey through the Middle East and North Africa. Taking identical paths 800 years apart, Rawiya and Nour’s stories deeply immerse the reader in the culture of the region.  

A Woman is No Man is the debut novel of Palestinian American author Etaf Rum. It alternates between the perspectives of a mother and daughter – Isra and Deya – as they meet suitors for their arranged marriages. This narrative discusses conservative Arab practices through the lens of the young women whose lives they change. Deya is raised to believe her parents died in a car accident but when she finds a letter from an unknown source, she questions everything she has believed about her past.  

I was their American Dream is a graphic novel memoir written and illustrated by Malaka Gharib. With witty banter and a colorful art style, this story gives the viewer a glimpse into the lives of immigrant families. Gharib seeks to answer questions about identity and culture in this tale of self-discovery. A celebration of cultural heritage and family bonds, this illustrated memoir is a love letter to immigrant communities.  

Hijab Butch Blues is another memoir by Lamya H. It details the significant moments of a young queer person’s journey to self-acceptance through essays that thoughtfully compare the author’s life to stories from the Quran. Exploring life through the lens of a devout Muslim queer person, the book shows how faith has helped the writer make sense of their personal story.  

Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America by Laila Lalami is a story that illuminates what it means to be American. It explores the author’s journey of a Moroccan immigrant’s journey to becoming a United States Citizen. This open the conversation to discussing the rights and liberties associated with American citizenship and how birthplace, gender, and race once defined who is seen as American and remain as the shadows of our history, literature, and politics today.  

Check out these books and more in the Oxford College Library or online with Overdrive. 

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