April is Arab American Heritage Month in the United States.
We will be celebrating with more Arab crafts but also wanted to share some books on our book shelf. We hope you can also use them to learn about the contributions Arabs have provided in American society.
Instead of just concentrating on children’s books for this list, I wanted to showcase a wide range of topics. (Okay, yes, I did sneak in one children’s book. I can’t stop myself!)
Please be sure to stop by A Crafty Arab on Pinterest for other Arab world book suggestions.
A children’s book that teaches Arab American history:
Many Americans, educators included, mistakenly believe all Arabs share the same culture, language, and religion, and have only recently begun immigrating to the United States. A Kid’s Guide to Arab American History dispels these and other stereotypes and provides a contemporary as well as historical look at the people and experiences that have shaped Arab American culture. Each chapter focuses on a different group of Arab Americans including those of Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian, Iraqi, and Yemeni descent and features more than 50 fun activities that highlight their distinct arts, games, clothing, and food. Kids will love dancing the dabke, constructing a derbekke drum, playing a game of senet, making hummus, creating an arabesque design, and crafting an Egyptian-style cuff bracelet. Along the way they will learn to count in Kurdish, pick up a few Syrian words for family members, learn a Yemeni saying, and speak a little Iraqi. Short biographies of notable Arab Americans, including actor and philanthropist Danny Thomas, singer Paula Abdul, artist Helen Zughaib, and activist Ralph Nader, demonstrate a wide variety of careers and contributions.
A book to remind us how thankful we are for coffee:
The Arab World Thought of It: Inventions, Innovations, and Amazing Facts
Ink-filled pens, mattresses, and bars of soap—these are only some of the inventions and innovations that have been passed down through the millennia from the peoples of Arab lands. Readers may be surprised to learn that they have also given us: the scalpel, planetariums and three-course meals. The Arab World Thought of It uses stunning photos and well-researched information to provide an overview of contributions made in the fields of medicine, architecture, food, and education. Also included are accomplishments in the areas of engineering, transportation, and oil production. Complete with maps, timeline, index, and a list of further reading, this book is an excellent starting point for the exploration of a thriving culture.
An adult book that teaches Arab American history:
The Arab Americans – A History
Americans of Arab heritage have made major contributions to U.S. society, and this is a timely and unique overview of their immigration patterns, settlement, adaptation, and assimilation for a general audience. The first wave of Arab immigrants, mostly Christian men from Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria, arrived in the United States between 1880 and 1925. This book discusses their history as it looks at the successive waves of immigrants, including the post-1965 immigrants, who have brought more diversity to the Arab American community. The latest immigrants have included more Muslims, many are from Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan. The continuing interest in the Middle East, Islam, and the Muslim way of life make this a must-have source for those seeking to understand current events and our multicultural society.
Learn about the American debutante who became an Arab queen:
Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life
Born into a distinguished Arab-American family and raised amid privilege, Lisa Halaby joined the first freshman class at Princeton to accept women, graduating in 1974 with a degree in architecture and urban planning. Two years later, while visiting her father in Jordan, she was casually introduced on the airport runway to King Hussein. Widely admired in the Arab world as a voice of moderation, and for his direct lineage to the prophet Muhammad, Hussein would soon become the world’s most eligible bachelor after the tragic death of his wife. The next time they met, Hussein would fall headlong in love with the athletic, outspoken daughter of his longtime friend. After a whirlwind, secret courtship Lisa Halaby became Noor Al Hussein, Queen of Jordan.
Enlighten yourself with poetry from the heritage that also gave us Rumi:
Grape Leaves – A Century of Arab-American Poetry
Arab-American poetry is an especially rich, people-involved, passionate literature that has been spawned, at least until recently, in isolation from the American mainstream. This anthology, reflects the current renaissance in the literature of what may be the latest ethnic community to assert itself. Twenty poets are represented in this collection, fifteen of them living, five of them women. They start with Ameen Rihani and Kahlil Gibran and include celebrated contemporaries who write in Arabic or English or both.
These short stories are a wonderful way to learn about a new world, a few moments at a time:
Dinarzad’s Children: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Fiction
The first edition of Dinarzad’s Children was a groundbreaking and popular anthology that brought to light the growing body of short fiction being written by Arab Americans. This expanded edition includes sixteen new stories —thirty in all—and new voices and is now organized into sections that invite readers to enter the stories from a variety of directions. Here are stories that reveal the initial adjustments of immigrants, the challenges of forming relationships, the political nuances of being Arab American, the vision directed towards homeland, and the ongoing search for balance and identity. The contributors are D. H. Melhem, Mohja Khaf, Rabih Alameddine, Rawi Hage, Laila Halaby, Patricia Sarrafian Ward, Alia Yunis, Diana Abu Jaber, Susan Muaddi Darraj, Samia Serageldin, Alia Yunis, Joseph Geha, May Monsoor Munn, Frances Khirallah Nobel, Nabeel Abraham, Yussef El Guindi, Hedy Habra, Randa Jarrar, Zahie El Kouri, Amal Masri, Sahar Mustafah, Evelyn Shakir, David Williams, Pauline Kaldas, and Khaled Mattawa.
Learn more about the Arabic language, and it’s beautiful letters, in one of the world’s oldest art forms, calligraphy:
Arabic Script: Styles, Variants, and Calligraphic Adaptations
This enlightening book helps us discover an alphabet that throughout the centuries has been linked to the secular and religious worlds of Islam. The text explains the history and meaning of each letter, as well as its philosophical, theological, and cultural significance, and 300 two-color and black-and-white pictures illustrate the letters, their variants, and calligraphic adaptations. An ideal book for linguists, graphic designers, and collectors of Islamic art, Arabic Script will also prove handy for travelers who wish to become familiar with the rudiments of the alphabet.
Feeling overwhelmed with the script? Enjoy some relaxation with some simple geometric designs that showcase Arab art:
Arabic Patterns Stained Glass Coloring Book
Sixteen elaborate Arabic patterns ready to glow with color! Forbidden by their religion to depict the human figure, Islamic artists developed different motifs from those displayed in European art. Intricate patterns, created over the centuries by Muslim artists, depict — among other designs — a dazzling array of geometric figures. This striking collection incorporates a wide range of these designs: pentagons, squares, octagons, combinations of stars and rosettes, and more. Colorists of all ages can show off their creativity by filling in the designs with hues of their choice. Placing the finished work near a source of bright light will produce a lovely stained glass effect.
No book list on heritage is ever fully complete unless it includes the cuisine of the region:
The Arab Table: Recipes and Culinary Traditions
It is one of the world’s oldest and most intriguing cuisines, yet few have explored the diverse dishes and enchanting flavors of Arab cookery beyond hummus and tabbouleh. In 188 recipes, The Arab Table introduces home cooks to the fresh foods, exquisite tastes, and generous spirit of the Arab table. This book takes you along a reassuringly down-to-earth and warmly personal path through exciting culinary territory. The Arab Table focuses intimately on the foods of Arab countries such as Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria.
We hope you enjoyed visiting our book shelf. If you’d like to know when future lists go live, be sure to sign up for the mailing list.
Be sure to stop by A Crafty Arab on Pinterest to see more books that teach about the Arab world & its diaspora.