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The BIM Bulletin

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The Student News Site of BASIS Independent McLean

The BIM Bulletin

The Student News Site of BASIS Independent McLean

The BIM Bulletin

Arab-American Heritage Month Book List


Editorial Note: The works selected for this piece represent the columnist’s choices based on her reading experiences. 

Happy Arab-American Heritage Month! First launched in 2017 by the Arab America Foundation, nonprofits, and grassroots organizations have championed the implementation of a national heritage month for Arab Americans until April was finally federally recognized as National Arab American Heritage Month in 2023. Now, this month gives us the chance to recognize the achievements and contributions of Americans who trace their ancestry back to one of the 22 Arab nations. Here is a collection of books by Arab American authors to help you honor the Arab America Foundation’s 2024 theme of “Celebrating Arab American Resilience and Diversity”. From comedic, relatable graphic memoirs to fantastical thrillers packed with demigods and winged beasts, the books on this list showcase a vast array of cultures, genres, and perspectives. 

Please note that not all of the books on this list may be appropriate for every age group. Books that contain mature themes that may be best suited for high school readers will be denoted with an asterisk (*) next to the title.

Other Words For Home (2019)

In her Newbery winning middle grade debut, Jasmine Warga tells the story of twelve-year-old Syrian refugee, Jude. Told in free verse, the story chronicles her journey from watching American movies with her cousin Fatima to starting school across the world in Cincinnati while her brother and father are thousands of miles away in war-torn Syria. The story’s format allows for a heartbreaking depth of emotion as Jude navigates the prejudice, grief, friendship, and community that define the experience of many immigrants and refugees. Jude’s story of learning a new language and finding her place in a brand-new culture while simultaneously longing for a home and family captures all the contradictions that come from belonging to two worlds at once.



The Other Americans (2019)*

In her award-winning novel, The Other Americans, Laila Lalami tells the story of the aftermath of a hit-and-run that left Moroccan immigrant Driss Gueraoui dead. The story unfolds through nine intertwining perspectives as Driss’ heartbroken family seeks to unravel the mystery of Driss’ death. Tackling themes of grief, community, and identity, Laila Lalami guides her readers through the twisting, heart-wrenching story of a family marred by tragedy as paths cross and conflicting narratives become entangled while the search for the killer reveals more and more about the haunted pasts of these characters and the deceptive nature of the small town where they live.




City of the Plague of God (2021)

Written just before the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic, City of the Plague God tells the story of Sik Aziz, an Iraqi-American teenager who is plunged into a fantastical world of Mesopotamian mythology when he’s suddenly attacked by two demons one night. After the attack, a deadly plague begins to spread through New York City, forcing Sik to plunge into a world filled with demons, demigods, ninjas, magical gardeners, and ancient curses. Through this fantastical, fast-paced novel, Sarwat Chadda revives the wonder, horror, and glory of ancient Mesopotamian mythology while crafting deeply relatable characters in Sik and his best friend, Belet.




Food for Our Grandmothers (1994)

Originally written in 1994, Food for Our Grandmothers was one of the first feminist anthologies written by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian women and remains a towering feat nearly thirty years later. This anthology showcases a host of diverse writers from a multitude of religions, nationalities, and races writing recipes, poetry, and personal essays. Their work explores identity, stereotype, and feminism in their worlds of blended cultures, countering archetypes and sharing deeply personal stories rooted in heritage and family.





The Poisoned Well: Empire And Its Legacy In The Middle East (2016)

In this deeply detailed, well-researched book, Roger Hardy explores the way post-World War I colonialism contributed to the shaping of the modern Middle East. From the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Iran’s relationship with the West coinciding with the ideology of Sayyid Qutb, European meddling in the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire has planted the seeds of the conflicts and ideological shifts that define the region and its interactions with the world. With an expansive perspective and meticulous detail, Hardy details the host of ways in which the shadow of European colonialism continues to haunt this large swath of area, entangled with the fate of regimes and policies from the independence of these nations all the way into the tumultuous present-day situations gripping a multitude of nations.



I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Novel (2019) 

In this graphic memoir, journalist and cartoonist Malaka Gharib utilizes her signature wit and emotion to tell a story both highly personal and deeply relatable. Using creative infographics and miniature “zines” alongside her distinct drawing style, Gharib recounts her childhood growing up between cultures, as an American-born daughter of a Filipino mother and Egyptian father. Balancing humor and sincerity, she details her parents divorce, her childhood struggles to navigate the different facets of her cultural identity, and all the highs and lows of her version of the American dream.

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About the Contributor
Alina A.
Alina, who is currently a sophomore, has attended BASIS since its founding year. Her interests include reading, including genres from fantasy and short fiction to nonfiction books covering history, economics, psychology, and social sciences. Politics fascinates her, and she is passionate about getting involved in current issues through her participation in organizations such as Impact Ink. In her free time, she enjoys oil painting, rock climbing, and piano. She plans to incorporate her extracurricular interests and personal passions into her writing for the BIM Bulletin.