April is Arab American Heritage Month!
Did you know?
- Arab American Heritage Month was just recognized federally by President Biden in 2021, but the grassroots movement to get the month recognized started years earlier, and the CA State Senate recognized it in 2018.
- Arab people have been migrating to the United States since the 1800s.
- Arab is a linguistic term – defined by being from or having heritage from one of the 22 Arabic-speaking countries. There are approximately 300 million Arabic speaking people in these countries, and millions more in the Diaspora.
- SWANA, which stands for Southwest Asian and North African, is a relatively new, decolonial term, which describes the region in geographical terms rather than political terms like “Middle East”. It’s considered more inclusive of the various ethnic groups, languages, religions, and cultures of this region, so we decided to rename our book list to Arab American/SWANA.. We hope that this still honors the spirit of Arab American Heritage Month but also allows us to include more books by authors from the regions who aren’t Arab.
The Arab American/SWANA Book List
We are thrilled that there are so many new children’s books coming out by Arab American and SWANA authors! Our list has grown to 54 books, and almost half of those were published in 2021-2023. There are also a number of new graphic novels on this list – we love the diverse representation happening in graphic novels these days.
Here are a few that we’re excited about:
For young children and preschoolers, Arab, Arab, All Year Long, by Lebanese American author Cathy Camper, is a month by month picture book that celebrates the beauty and diversity of life in the Arab diaspora.
“Wrapping grape leaves, playing doumbek, drawing henna tattoos,
we’re Arab, Arab, Arab, the whole year through!”
For early elementary readers, The Night Before Eid, by Aya Khalil, tells the story of a family celebrating the end of Ramadan with a visit from Egypt from grandmother “Teita”, who brings all the ingredients to make ka’ak, a special sweet treat.
For middle grades, A Rover’s Story, by Jordanian American author Jasmine Warga, is a science fiction story about a Mars rover, named Res, a machine who begins to have human emotions on their space mision. There is also a subplot about an Arabic-speaking NASA coder, Rania, which develops through her daughter Sophia’s letters to Res.
For young adult readers, It Won’t Always Be Like This, by Egyptian and Philipina author Malaka Gharib, is a graphic novel memoir centering on the author’s yearly summer visits to Cairo as her family life changes when her father remarries and she struggles to find her place and identity.
Have you read any of these books and loved them too? Have other recommendations for our book list? Share them with us by tagging us @oaklitcoalition @oaklandreads