In honor of Arab American Heritage Month, we are highlighting books about the diverse experiences, cultures, and contributions of Arab American people. These works of fiction and nonfiction were written by authors who challenge notions of rigid racial identities—there is no single Arab American person, but a multitude. To place a hold, click the link.
HOMELAND ELEGIES BY AYAD AKHTAR
A deeply personal work about identity and belonging in a nation coming apart at the seams, Homeland Elegies blends fact and fiction to tell an epic story of longing and dispossession in the world that 9/11 made. Part family drama, part social essay, part picaresque novel, at its heart it is the story of a father, a son, and the country they both call home.
THE WRONG END OF THE TELESCOPE BY RABIH ALAMEDDINE
Mina Simpson arrives at the infamous Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, after being urgently summoned for help by her friend who runs an NGO there. Alienated from her family except for her beloved brother, Mina has avoided being so close to her homeland for decades. But with a week off work and apart from her wife of thirty years, Mina hopes to accomplish something meaningful, among the abundance of Western volunteers who pose for selfies with beached dinghies and the camp’s children. Soon, a boat crosses bringing Sumaiya, a fiercely resolute Syrian matriarch with terminal liver cancer. Determined to protect her children and husband at all costs, Sumaiya refuses to alert her family to her diagnosis. Bonded together by Sumaiya’s secret, a deep connection sparks between the two women.
SALT HOUSES BY HALA ALYAN
On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia and her children; she also sees travel, and luck. While she chooses to keep her predictions to herself that day, they will all soon come to pass when the family is up rooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967. Salma is forced to leave her home in Nablus; Alia’s brother gets pulled into a politically militarized world he can’t escape; and Alia and her gentle-spirited husband move to Kuwait City, where they reluctantly build a life with their three children. When Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait in1990, Alia and her family once again lose their home, their land, and their story as they know it, scattering to Beirut, Paris, Boston, and beyond.
BUNNY BY MONA AWAD
Samantha Heather Mackey couldn’t be more of an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at New England’s Warren University. A scholarship student who prefers the company of her dark imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort–a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other “Bunny,” and are often found entangled in a group hug so tight they become one. But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation to the Bunnies’ fabled “Smut Salon,” and finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door–ditching her only friend, Ava, a caustic art school dropout, in the process.
WHAT STRANGE PARADISE BY OMAR EL AKKAD
More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another over-filled, ill-equipped, dilapidated ship has sunk under the weight of its too many passengers: Syrians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives in their homelands. And only one has made the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who has the good fortune to fall into the hands not of the officials but of Vänna: a teenage girl, native to the island, who lives inside her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though she and the boy are complete strangers, though they don’t speak a common language, she determines to do whatever it takes to save him.
SPARKS LIKE STARS BY NADIA HASHIMI
An Afghan American woman returns to Kabul to learn the truth about her family and the tragedy that destroyed their lives in this brilliant and compelling novel from the bestselling author of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, The House Without Windows, and When the Moon Is Low.
THE OTHER AMERICANS BY LAILA LALAMI
The suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant impacts the lives of a diverse cast of characters including his jazz-composer daughter, an undocumented witness and an Iraqi War veteran.
THE MAP OF SALT AND STARS BY ZEYN JOUKHADAR
The Map of Salt and Stars follows the journeys of Nour and Rawiya as they travel along identical paths across the region eight hundred years apart, braving the unknown beside their companions as they are pulled by the promise of reaching home at last.
THE ARDENT SWARM BY YEMEN MANAI
Sidi lives a hermetic life as a bee whisperer, tending to his beloved “girls” on the outskirts of the desolate North African village of Nawa. He wakes one morning to find that something has attacked one of his beehives, brutally killing every inhabitant. Heartbroken, he soon learns that a mysterious swarm of vicious hornets committed the mass murder–but where did they come from, and how can he stop them? If he is going to unravel this mystery and save his bees from annihilation, Sidi must venture out into the village and then brave the big city and beyond in search of answers.
SADNESS IS A WHITE BIRD BY MORIEL ROTHMAN-ZECHER
Four days after his nineteenth birthday, Jonathan is sitting in a military jail in Israel. Languishing in the dark cell, he recalls the series of events that led him to this point. It all began when he returned to Israel after being raised and educated in Pennsylvania. He knows that he will soon be drafted as a soldier, called upon to preserve and defend the Jewish state. With an intense drive to know more about the plight of the displaced and occupied Palestinians, he encounters Laith and Nimreen–the twin daughter and son of his mother’s friend. From that summer afternoon on, the three become inseparable. But with his draft date rapidly approaching, Jonathan wrestles with the question of what it means to be proud of your heritage while also feeling love for those outside of your own tribal family.
A WOMAN IS NO MAN BY ETAF RUM
Three generations of Palestinian-American women in contemporary Brooklyn are torn by individual desire, educational ambitions, a devastating tragedy, and the strict mores of traditional Arab culture.
HOW TO BE A MUSLIM: AN AMERICAN STORY BY HAROON MOGHUL
Reveals a young man coping with the crushing pressure of a world that fears Muslims, struggling with his faith and searching for intellectual forebears, and suffering the onset of bipolar disorder. This is the story of the second-generation immigrant, of what it’s like to lose yourself between cultures and how to pick up the pieces.
CONDITIONAL CITIZENS: ON BELONGING IN AMERICA BY LAILA LALAMI
What does it mean to be American? In this starkly illuminating and impassioned book, Pulitzer Prize Finalist Laila Lalami recounts her unlikely journey from Moroccan immigrant to U.S. citizen, using it as a starting point for her exploration of the rights, liberties, and protections that are traditionally associated with American citizenship. Tapping into history, politics, and literature, she elucidates how accidents of birth–such as national origin, race, or gender–that once determined the boundaries of Americanness still cast their shadows today.
INVASIVE SPECIES BY MARWA HELAL
In Invasive species, Marwa Helal’s searing politically charged poems touch on our collective humanity and build new pathways for empathy, etching themselves into memory. This work centers on urgent themes in our cultural landscape, creating space for unseen victims of discriminatory foreign (read: immigration) policy: migrants, refugees–the displaced. Helal transfers lived experiences of dislocation and relocation onto the reader by obscuring borders through language.
THE WRONG END OF THE TABLE: A MOSTLY COMIC MEMOIR OF A MUSLIM ARAB AMERICAN WOMAN JUST TRYING TO FIT IN BY AYSER SALMAN
What happens when a shy, awkward Arab girl with a weird name and an unfortunate propensity toward facial hair is uprooted from her comfortable homeland of Iraq, and thrust into the cold, alien town of Columbus, Ohio, with its Egg McMuffins, Barbie dolls, and kids playing doctor everywhere? This is Ayser Salman’s story.
THAT HOME WAS OUR COUNTRY BY ALIA MALEK
In The Home that Was My Country, Syrian-American journalist Alia Malek chronicles her return to her family home in Damascus and the history of the Jabban apartment building. Here, generations of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Armenians lived, worked, loved, and suffered in close quarters. In telling the story of her family over the course of the last century, Alia brings to light the triumphs and failures that have led Syria to where it is today.
SON OF ELSEWHERE: A MEMOIR IN PIECES BY ELAMIN ABDELMAHMOUD
Like all teens, Abdelmahmoud spent his adolescence trying to figure out who he was, but he had to do it while learning to balance a new racial identity and all the false assumptions that came with it. But after many years spent trying on different personalities, he now must face the parts of himself he’s kept suppressed all this time. He asks, “What happens when those identities stage a jailbreak?” In his debut collection of essays, Abdelmahmoud gives full voice to each and every one of these conflicting selves.
GIRL DECODED BY RANA EL KALIOUBY
Rana el Kaliouby is a rarity in both the tech world and her native Middle East: a Muslim woman in charge in a field that is still overwhelmingly white and male. Growing up in Egypt and Kuwait, el Kaliouby was raised by a strict father who valued tradition-yet also had high expectations for his daughters-and a mother who was one of the first female computer programmers in the Middle East. Even before el Kaliouby broke ground as a scientist, she broke the rules of what it meant to be an obedient daughter and, later, an obedient wife to pursue her own daring dream.
THIS IS WHAT AMERICA LOOKS LIKE: MY JOURNEY FROM REFUGEE TO CONGRESSWOMAN BY ILHAN OMAR
Ilhan Omar was only eight years old when war broke out in Somalia. The youngest of seven children, her mother had died while Ilhan was still a little girl. She was being raised by her father and grandfather when armed gunmen attacked their compound and the family decided to flee Mogadishu. They ended up in a refugee camp in Kenya, where Ilhan says she came to understand the deep meaning of hunger and death. Four years later, after a painstaking vetting process, her family achieved refugee status and arrived in Arlington, Virginia. Aged twelve, penniless, speaking only Somali and having missed out on years of schooling, Ilhan rolled up her sleeves, determined to find her American dream.
WE ARE NOT HERE TO BE BYSTANDERS: A MEMOIR OF LOVE AND RESISTANCE BY LINDA SARSOUR
Women’s March co-organizer Linda Sarsour shares how growing up Palestinian Muslim American, feminist, and empowered moved her to become a globally recognized and celebrated activist on behalf of marginalized communities across the country.
FALASTIN BY SAMI TAMIMI AND TARA WIGLEY
A soulful tour of Palestinian cooking today from the Ottolenghi restaurants’ executive chef and partner-120 recipes shaped by his personal story as well as the history of Palestine.
EAT, HABIBI, EAT! FRESH RECIPES FOR MODERN EGYPTIAN COOKING BY SHAHIR MASSOUD
Discover innovative, flavour-packed recipes for Middle Eastern dishes, inspired by author Shahir Massoud’s Egyptian upbringing. From home-friendly adaptations of street foods and casual everyday staples, to new interpretations of traditional recipes, ‘Eat, Habibi, Eat!’ encourages you to explore delicious new dishes at home.