The words “Arab American Heritage Month” in yellow text on a black background surrounded by a circle of books

Arab American Heritage Month ()

April is Arab-American Heritage Month and one way you can celebrate is by curling up with a good book by an Arab-American author.

“Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story” by Reem Faruqi and Lea Lyon (Illustrator) (2015) (Children’s) (Picture Book)

Lailah is excited to finally be old enough to celebrate Ramadan but isn’t sure how to explain the fasting part to her classmates and teacher at her school in Atlanta, Georgia. She finds an ally in her school librarian. Your entire family can celebrate Lailah’s first Ramadan with her. Enjoy a YouTube read-along of the book here. In 2024, Ramadan ends on April 9.

Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists” by Joanna Kadi (Editor) (1994) (Non-Fiction) (Feminism) (Poetry) (Essays)

This book was “groundbreaking” when it was originally released. The author talks about the importance of food and generational knowledge and sharing in the Arab culture. The book is divided into six sections represented by typical Arab food and ingredients. says, “For example, ‘thyme’ represents ‘Growing Against the Odds: Surviving the Gulf War,’ and ‘grapeleaves’ represents ‘Tangled Identities: Claiming Ourselves.’”

Amreekiya: A Novel” by Lena Mahmoud (2018) (Contemporary Fiction)

A 21-year-old woman of mixed Palestinian and white descent, Isra Shadi, marries her ex, Yusef, after dating a string of unsuitable men because of pressure from her aunt and uncle to move out of their house. The novel bounces between two timelines, during Isra’s turmoil-filled childhood before and after the loss of her parents and her experience now forging a new life with Yusef.

Tagging Freedom” by Rhonda Roumani (2023) (Middle Grades) (Realistic Fiction)

Kareem is inspired to become a graffiti artist in Syria after his school is “tagged” with subversive slogans and another boy is killed while in custody. He is then sent to America to live with his cousin Samira, who is just trying to fit in and at her high school by joining the Spirit Squad. See what unfolds as their world and cultures collide and Samira must decide to stand by her cousin or enjoy her new popularity (and accepted) social status.

The Other Americans” Laila Lalami (2019) (Fiction) (Mystery)

This book is a love story, murder mystery and family saga all wrapped up in one novel. A Moroccan immigrant is killed in California by a speeding car and this event is the catalyst for a varied cast of characters to share (or not share) their stories. An undocumented witness fears deportation if he comes forward with information. The immigrant’s widow is grieving not only for her spouse but life in her old country. The immigrant’s daughter is forced to return when she thought she never would. Solve the mystery with the rest of the characters as you read.

How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America” by Moustafa Bayoumi (2008) (Non-Fiction) (Race)

This book follows the lives of seven 20-somethings in post-9/11 Brooklyn, New York City, home to the most Arab-Americans in the U.S. The people must navigate everyday life of work, relationships and seeking opportunities while simultaneously experiencing the realities of discrimination, wars in their countries of origin, friends and family members disappearing, government surveillance and much more.

Yes, I’m Hot in This: The Hilarious Truth about Life in a Hijab” by Huda Fahmy (2018) (Graphic Novel) (Non-Fiction)

I first discovered Fahmy and her comics on Instagram and went down the rabbit hole of her graphic novels. “Yes, I’m Hot in This” explores her everyday life as a hijab-wearing woman in America. You can also follow her adventures navigating school in her Middle-Grade series beginning with “Huda F Are You?

The Language of Baklava: A Memoir” by Diana Abu-Jaber (2005) (Memoir)

Jaber discusses her life in New York and Jordan through stories about memorable meals. Through these stories, the readers learn about Jaber’s culture, eccentric family and straddling life between two worlds. Readers will also appreciate that each chapter contains recipes for the mouth-watering food described.

Brother Alive” Zain Khalid (2022) (Contemporary Fiction) (LGBT) (Magical Realism)

Dayo of Nigerian origin, Iseul of Korean origin, and Youssef from the Middle East are adopted as infants in 1990 by Imam Salim. They spend their childhood living above a mosque in Staten Island, New York. Imam Salim is known for his radical sermons and decides that they must relocate back to Saudi Arabia and the boys must come to terms with the decision. Imam Salim is hiding secrets, but so is Youssef: He sees a realistic imaginary shapeshifting figure he calls “Brother.” What secrets will be revealed as the boys prepare for the move and what is “Brother’s” role in all of this?

A Woman Is No Man” by Etaf Rum (2019) (Historical Fiction)

18-year-old Deya is being pressured by her conservative grandparents to find a husband, despite the fact that she does not want to get married. Deya realizes that history is repeating itself because her mother Isra, who has since died in a car accident, did not want to get married either when she came of age. The book follows the stories of Deya and Isra’s lives as Deya uncovers years of family secrets.

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Tamala Malerk is a writer and editor with Stars and Stripes Europe. She has been with SSE since April 2022 writing articles all about travel, lifestyle, community news, military life and more. In May 2022, she earned her Ph.D. in History and promises it is much more relevant to this job than one might think.

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