Celebrating Arab American Heritage Month

In celebration of April’s Arab American Heritage Month, Allison Al-Masri and Jenny Waldmann put together a few resources and recommendations. “Americans whose heritage connects to one or more of the 22 Arab countries have a rich history in this country dating back to 1527 when, according to the U.S. Department of State, the first people from Morocco and Lebanon immigrated to this country. Those two men… were considered the first ‘Arab Americans.’ “ (PBS)

  • An article from Al Jazeera about the struggles Arab Americans have faced for representation and why progress like the recognition of Arab American Heritage Month is so important: “Advocates say Arab Americans – who number approximately 3.7 million in the US, according to the AAI – have faced government discrimination, including racial profiling, surveillance and restrictive immigration policies for decades.” Arab Americans are not even classified as their own group on the Census; they are labeled as “white.”
  • A playlist of Arab musical artists from Radio Milwaukee: “Part of the fabric of the culture is our music; typically, Arabic music focuses on melody and rhythm rather than harmony. The richness of Middle Eastern sound has also been a critical component in shaping Western music.”
  • Films and documentary episodes viewable on PBS’s website: in one of the films, Natour’s Grocery, “filmmaker Nadine Natour turns her lens on her parents and her hometown, Appomattox, VA, to capture the story of her parents’ emigration from Palestine to the United States.”
  • Information about the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, MI: “the first and only museum of its kind in the United States devoted to recording the Arab American experience. Since opening in 2005, AANM’s mission has been to document, preserve and present the history, culture and contributions of Arab Americans.”
  • The Hulu show Ramy: The Golden Globe-winning show, airing since 2019, features comedian Ramy Youssef as a first generation Egyptian-American trying to navigate life while balancing the expectations of his family, friends, and multicultural heritage. The Guardian calls it “the smartest, darkest TV comedy that you’re not watching.”
  • The graphic novels of Leila Abdelrazaq: Her most well-known work, Baddawi, is about her father’s childhood as a Palestinian refugee growing up in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Still Born is a powerful illustrated short set to excerpts from an essay written by Abdelrazaq’s mother (“How to Be the Mother of a Stillborn Baby”). Curious to learn more? You can read the chapter Allison wrote on Abdelrazaq and her work during her previous life as an academic in Graphic Novels and Comics as World Literature.
  • The poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye: Gate A-4 is full of hope: “She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—from her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament.”
  • The novels of Hisham Matar and Rabih Alameddine. Matar’s debut novel, In the Country of Men, describes the rise of Qaddafi in Libya from the perspective of a 9-year-old boy. A small taste: “How readily and thinly we procure these fictional selves, deceiving the world and what we might have become if only we hadn’t got in the way, if only we had waited to see what might have become of us.”
  • Children’s books featuring Arab Americans and/or Muslim Americans: Lailah’s Lunchbox, about the experience of celebrating Ramadan (which falls in April this year) in America; The Proudest Blue, by Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad; and Big Red Lollipop.