7 Books to Celebrate Arab American Life

In love, off camping, eating hot dogs, and getting ready for school pictures, these stories of Arab American life are relevant to every reader.

From hot dogs that are halal to a romance that comes up against racism, these are funny, compassionate, and loving celebrations of Arab American life.


Picture Books

Halal Hot Dogs by Susannah Aziz. illus. by Parwinder Singh. Little Bee. 2021. ISBN 9781499811575.
Gr 2-4–It’s Friday, Musa’s favorite day of the week—the day his family, including his mother, father, siblings, and grandfather walk together to attend Jummah prayer service at a local masjid and have a special meal together afterward. An enjoyable tour of food, faith, and family.

Amira’s Picture Day by Reem Faruqi. illus by Fahmida Azim. Holiday House. 2021. ISBN 9780823440191.
K-Gr 2–Amira feels conflicted when she realizes that school picture day is the same day as Eid. Spotting the crescent moon marking the end of Ramadan, Amira and her brother Ziyad know it means that there will be prayers, celebrations, and skipping school the following day. Back matter features an author’s note and glossary of terms, referencing Urdu and Amira and her family’s Pakistani roots in this lovely addition to the collection of books about Eid that can be used all year long.

The Ghoul by Taghreed Najjar. illus. by Hassan Manasra. Crocodile. 2020. ISBN 9781623719258.
Gr 2–A young boy goes in search of a fearsome monster but finds a friend instead in this modern folktale about prejudice. Translated from Arabic, this is the story of Hasan the Brave, who, like everyone in his village, lives in constant fear of a “scary, ugly” monster. Despite some flaws, the message is sincere and the book is a very welcome representation of a traditional Arab tale.

Salma the Syrian Chef by Danny Ramadan. illus. by Anna Bron. Annick. ISBN 9781773213750.
K-Gr 2–Facing loss and change, Salma wants to cheer up her mother, who is working hard in Vancouver while Salma’s father is still in Syria. Members of a community center rally around her, and a message of love and acceptance is served up right on schedule.

Fatima’s Great Outdoors by Ambreen Tariq. illus. by Stevie Lewis. Kokila. 2021. ISBN 9781984816955.
Gr 4–After a trying week of microaggressions and outright harassment from students at school and a bad grade on a math test, Fatima Khazi can’t wait to get away for her family’s first camping trip. The book beautifully reflects Fatima’s feelings of distress at school and the freedom, happiness, and belonging that she finds in nature. Though the text does not explicitly name the family as Muslim, naming conventions and the family cooking halal beef bacon, provide clues to their background.


Older Readers

Silverworld by Diana Abu-Jaber. Crown. 2020. ISBN 9780553509670.
Gr 3-5–Sami’s Lebanese grandmother Sitti’s health is declining, and she is saying things that only Sami seems to understand. Sami’s father has died, and now her family wants to move Sitti into a home. But Sitti has always told Sami stories of magic, and the young girl believes that, with that magic, she can change things. The author’s note emphasizes the importance of story and giving a voice to those trying to fit between cultures, there are other examples of this done much more successfully. But it may fill a gap in collections.

Misfit in Love by S.K Ali. S. & S. (Saints and Misfits). 2021. ISBN 9781534442757.
Gr 9 Up–Changes are underway in Janna’s life: She is preparing for college, her mother appears to have a love interest, and Nuah returns but his coolness startles Janna. As Janna’s brother Muhammad’s nikah, or marriage, draws nearer, a startling conversation with her dad about racism strains their relationship. A realistic story of faith, family, and friendships.


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