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Book Recommendations for Arab Heritage Month

National Arab American Heritage Month has been celebrated since the 1990s, with 2021 being the first time it was recognized by a US President. In celebration of this month, we’ve put together some book recommendations by Arab authors that we hope you will enjoy.  

 

Children’s Picture Books 

Lailah’s Lunchbox  

by Reem Faruqi; illustrated by Lea Lyon 

Now that she is ten, Lailah is delighted that she can fast during the month of Ramadan like her family and her friends in Abu Dhabi, but finding a way to explain to her teacher and classmates in Atlanta is a challenge until she gets some good advice from the librarian, Mrs. Scrabble. 

Halal Hot Dogs  

by Susannah Aziz ; illustrated by Parwinder Singh 

Every Friday Musa’s family takes turns picking out a Jummah treat which they use to try all different foods, but when it is Musa’s turn, he sticks to his favorite halal hot dogs to share. 

The Cat Man of Aleppo  

by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha; illustrated by Yuko Shimizu 

A Caldecott Honor winner for 2021, this book tells the true story of Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, who saved and tended to stray cats in the middle of the Syrian Civil War. 

King for a Day  

by Rukhsana Khan; illustrations by Christiane Krömer 

Using his wheelchair, a Pakistani boy tries to capture the most kites during Basant, the annual spring kite festival, and become “king” for the day.  

Sugar in Milk  

by Thrity Umrigar ; illustrated by Khoa Le 

A young immigrant girl joins her aunt and uncle in a new country that is unfamiliar to her. She struggles with loneliness, with a fierce longing for the culture and familiarity of home, until one day, her aunt takes her on a walk. As the duo strolls through their city park, the girl’s aunt begins to tell her an old myth, and a story within the story begins 

 

Middle Grade Books 

Silverworld  

by Diana Abu-Jaber 

Desperate to help her ailing grandmother, Sami consults Sitti’s spell book and falls into the magical Silverworld, where she must try to save the enchanted city and, perhaps, Sitti, too. 

Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices 

edited by Aisha Saeed and S.K. Ali 

Day of Joy is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid! The anthology will also include a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations 

The Shape of Thunder  

by Jasmine Warga 

Estranged from the best friend whose brother killed her sister in a school shooting, a grieving Cora receives a message on her twelfth birthday from her friend, asking for her help with creating a time portal to prevent the tragedy. 

Everything Sad is Untrue 

by Daniel Nayeri 

At the front of a middle school classroom in Oklahoma, a boy named Khosrou stands, trying to tell a story. But no one believes a word he says. But Khosrou’s stories, stretching back years, and decades, and centuries, are beautiful, and terrifying, from the moment his family fled Iran in the middle of the night with the secret police moments behind them, back to the sad, cement refugee camps of Italy, and further back to the fields near the river Aras, and further back still to the Jasmine-scented city of Isfahan. 

Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria 

by George Jreije 

After twelve-year-old Lebanese-American Shad Hadid discovers he is an Alchemist; he receives an invitation to the Alexandria Academy where he discovers not everything is as it seems and shadowy figures are lurking around every corner. 

 

Young Adult Books 

Dead Flip  

by Sara Farizan 

Eighteen-year-olds Cori and Maz, once inseparable best friends, reunite to solve the mystery of what happened to their other friend Sam–who disappeared five years ago and has now returned, not having aged at all 

Darius the Great is Not Okay  

by Adib Khorram 

Clinically-depressed Darius Kellner, a high school sophomore, travels to Iran to meet his grandparents, but it is their next-door neighbor, Sohrab, who changes his life. 

Jasmine Zumideh Needs a Win  

by Susan Azim Boyer 

After lying on her college admissions, seventeen-year-old Jasmine needs to win her senior class election, but the Iran Hostage Crisis explodes across the nightly news and her opponent begins to stir up anti-Iranian hysteria at school causing Jasmine to reconcile with her identity in way she never has before. 

This Woven Kingdom  

by Tahereh Mafi 

To all the world, Alizeh is a disposable servant, not the long-lost heir to an ancient Jinn kingdom forced to hide in plain sight. The crown prince, Kamran, has heard the prophecies foretelling the death of his king. But he could never have imagined that the servant girl with the strange eyes, the girl he can’t put out of his mind, would one day soon uproot his kingdom–and the world 

Queen of the Tiles 

by Hanna Alkaf 

Fifteen-year-old Najwa Bakri is forced to investigate the mysterious death of her best friend and Scrabble Queen, Trina, a year after the fact when her Instagram comes back to life with cryptic posts and messages. 

Honorable Mention:

Ms. Marvel. V. 1, Destined  

writer, Saladin Ahmed; penciler, Minkyu Jung; inker, Juan Vlasco with Minkyu Jung (#5-6); colorist Ian Herring; letterer, VC’s Joe Caramagna 

Ms. Marvel is back – and she’s magnificent! But there’s no such thing as business as usual in Jersey City. Aliens are wreaking havoc in Kamala’s corner of the world, and they seem weirdly interested in Ms. Marvel…and her family! 

 

Adult Books 

The Thirty Names of Night 

by Zeyn Joukhadar 

From the author of the acclaimed and award-winning debut The Map of Salt and Stars, a remarkably moving and lyrical novel following three generations of Syrian Americans who are linked by the truths they carry close to their hearts. Five years after a suspicious fire killed his mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. 

The Stardust Thief 

by Chelsea Abdullah 

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. In a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything-her enemy, her magic, even her own past-is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality 

The Arsonists’ City  

by Hala Alyan 

A rich family story, a personal look at the legacy of war in the Middle East, and an indelible rendering of how we hold on to the people and places we call home. 

You Exist Too Much 

by Zaina Arafat 

Told in vignettes that flash between the U.S. and the Middle East–from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine–Zaina Arafat’s debut novel traces her queer protagonist’s progress from blushing teen to sought-after DJ and aspiring writer.  

The Final Strife 

by Saara El-Arifi 

Sylah dreams of days growing up in the resistance, being told she would spark a revolution that would free the Empire from the red-blooded ruling classes’ tyranny. That spark was extinguished the day she watched her family murdered before her eyes. As the Empire begins a set of trials of combat and skill designed to find its new leaders, the stage is set for blood to flow, power to shift, and cities to burn.