Water cooler: family reads for Arab American Heritage Month
Arab-American Heritage Month is new to many, but luckily there is already a wide variety of great children’s books that capture Arab and Arab-American experiences and culture. If you and your family want to share the celebration of Arab American Heritage Month together in April, here are a few books you can check out for your next story hour or night of reading.
“Baba, what does my name mean ?: A trip to Palestine”, by Rifk Ebeid – Saamidah’s friends asked him what his name meant. She wasn’t sure of the answer. To find out, Saamidah takes a journey into her heritage and her life before her family emigrated to the United States, all animated by whimsical illustrations.
“Day of Ahmed’s Secret”, written by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, and illustrated by Ted Lewin – Ahmed spends the day delivering butane gas to customers in the Egyptian city of Cairo. Skillfully moving through busy streets and between millennial buildings, he holds a special and wonderful secret. He decides to keep it inside until he gets home at the end of the day, and then reveals it to his family.
“Everybody Bakes Bread”, written by Norah Dooley and illustrated by Peter J. Thornton – Searching for a “three-handled rolling pin,” Carrie and her mother travel from neighbor to neighbor and discover different smells of homemade bread along the way. They appreciate all the delicious variety of bread from each house, all from the different countries of origin of its neighbors.
“Sugar Comes from Arabic A Beginner’s Guide to Arabic Letters and Words” by Barbara Whitesides – For young readers whose interest is piqued by different languages, this is a great book to read. Each Arabic letter is introduced in the order of the Roman alphabet, with explanations and information in English. Learn how to spell your own name in Arabic and gain insight into the linguistic links between the Arab world and the Western world.
“Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose”, by Naomi Shihab Nye – Author, poet and composer Naomi Shihab Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother, and much of her work is inspired by childhood memories. She won the 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature for her work. This collection of poems and prose by Nye is perfect for springtime reading as it revolves around the work of a bee and the life of its community.
“The Cat Man of Alep”, written by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha and illustrated by Yuko Shimizu – Alaa loves animals so much that he decides to stay home after his neighbors flee the war so that he can take care of any pets left behind. Soon it becomes too much, and Alaa must seek help from others to keep her new friends safe.
“Map of Salt & Stars A Novel”, written by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar – This coming-of-age novel captures the experiences of second-generation immigrants as they leave New York City for Syria to reunite with their families after their father’s death.
“Grape leaves: a century of Arab-American poetry”, edited by Sharif Elmusa and Gregory Orfalea – A collection of contemporary Arab-American poetry that captures a people-centered and passionate literary and cultural renaissance in a community that has been largely isolated from the American mainstream.