Arab American National Museum issues book awards

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Dearborn, MI (June 24, 2009) – Established American literary luminaries and compelling new voices inspired by global events are represented among the winners of the 2009 Arab American Book Award presented by the Arab American National Museum.
This national literary competition, the only one of its kind in the U.S., is designed to draw attention to books and authors dealing with the Arab American experience. The program has attracted increasing numbers of submissions in its three-year history and this year, a new award category was added for poetry.

Four winners emerged from the 35 books published during 2008 that were submitted for consideration; two honorable mentions were also selected, all by genre-specific review committees:

Winner – Fiction

A Map of Home: A Novel by Randa Jarrar

Winner – Non-Fiction

How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi
Winner – Poetry (new category this year)

breaking poems by Suheir Hammad
Winner – Children/Young Adult

Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose by Naomi Shihab Nye

Honorable Mentions (both Non-Fiction)

Encyclopedia of Arab American Artists: Artists of the American Mosaic by Fayeq Oweis and

Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation by Saree Makdisi

Descriptions of this year’s winning books and short biographies of their authors appear below. All of these titles are available for purchase in the Museum Store, while Museum Members may check out these titles free from the AANM Library & Resource Center.

An invitation-only gala award ceremony for the winning authors, publishers and their guests will be held at the Arab American National Museum on November 7, 2009.

Submissions are currently being accepted for the 2010 Arab American Book Award. Authors and publishers may call 313.624.0223 or email for nomination forms and criteria.

The Arab American Book Award program encourages the publication and excellence of books that preserve and advance the understanding, knowledge, and resources of the Arab American community by celebrating the thoughts and lives of Arab Americans. The purpose of the Award is to inspire authors, educate readers and foster a respect and understanding of the Arab American culture.

The winning titles are chosen by groups of selected readers including respected authors, university professors, artists and AANM staff. The AANM first gave these awards in 2007 for books published in 2006.

2009 Arab American Book Award Winners

(presented to books published in 2008)

Winner: Adult Fiction

A Map of Home: A Novel
By Randa Jarrar
Other Press

Funny, charming and heartbreaking, A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar is the kind of book Tristram Shandy or Huck Finn would have narrated had they been born Egyptian-Palestinian in the 1970s. The novel features Nidali, the rebellious daughter of an Egyptian-Greek mother and a Palestinian father, who narrates the story of her childhood in Kuwait, her teenage years in Egypt (to where she and her family fled the 1990 Iraq invasion), and her family’s last flight to Texas. Jarrar mixes humor with a sharp, loving portrait of an eccentric middle-class family with a daughter who endures several hardships throughout her life’s story, including the humiliation of going through a check point on a visit to her father’s home in the West Bank; the fights with her father, who wants her to become a famous professor and stay away from boys; the end of her childhood as Iraq invades Kuwait on her 13th birthday; and the scare she gives her family when she runs away from home.

Randa Jarrar grew up in Kuwait and moved to the U.S. after the first Gulf War. Her award-winning fiction has appeared in the Oxford American, Ploughshares, and numerous journals and anthologies. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, where this book won a Hopwood Award. She currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A Map of Home is her first novel.

Winner: Adult Non-Fiction

How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America By Moustafa Bayoumi Penguin Press
How does it feel, to be a problem? W.E.B. Du Bois first posed this question in his seminal treatise The Souls of Black Folk, and now, over a century later, Moustafa Bayoumi explores the same question through the first-hand accounts of seven young Arab Americans living in Brooklyn. Their answers reveal the passions, frustrations, struggles, aspirations, and ultimately, the undeterred hope harbored by the inspiring young people featured in Bayoumi’s portraits. How Does It Feel to be a Problem? is an important and necessary book, in which Bayoumi’s subjects answer Du Bois’century-old question, just as they start to grasp how it feels to be a part of the solution.

Moustafa Bayoumi is coeditor of The Edward Said Reader and an associate professor of English at Brooklyn College, the City University of New York, where he lives. His writing has appeared in The Best Music Writing 2006, The Nation, The London Review of Books, and The Village Voice, among several other publications.

Winner: Children or Young Adult

Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose
By Naomi Shihab Nye
Greenwillow Books

Honey. Beeswax. Pollinate. Hive. Colony. Work. Dance. Communicate. Industrious. Buzz. Sting. Cooperate. Where would we be without them? Where would we be without one another? In 82 poems and paragraphs, Naomi Shihab Nye alights on the essentials of our time – our loved ones, our dense air, our wars, our memories, our planet – and leaves us feeling curiously sweeter and profoundly soothed.

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet, essayist, and novelist. She has received a Lannan Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and four Pushcart Prizes. Her collection 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is the author of two acclaimed novels for teens, Habibi and Going Going, and her essay “Maintenance” appeared in The Best American Essays, 1991, edited by Joyce Carol Oates. School Library Journal said of her collection of essays, Never in a Hurry, “The author has the ability to perceive and describe her surroundings so skillfully that readers are drawn into these experiences and are enriched in the process.” Naomi Shihab Nye describes herself as “a wandering poet.” She calls San Antonio, Texas, home.

Winner: Poetry

breaking poems
By Suheir Hammad
Cypher Books

In breaking poems Suheir Hammad departs from her previous books with a bold and explosive style to do what the best poets have always done: create a new language. Using “break” as a trigger for every poem, Hammad destructs, constructs, and reconstructs the English language for us to hear the sound of a breath, a woman’s body, a land, a culture, falling apart, broken, and put back together again.

Suheir Hammad’s work has appeared in dozens of anthologies and numerous publications. She was a co-writer and original cast member in the Tony-award winning Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway. An Amherst College Aaron Copeland Fellow, she stars in the movie Salt of this Sea. The author of Born Palestinian, Born Black; Drops of This Story and Zataar Diva, Suheir has won several awards for her writing, including The Audre Lorde Poetry Award, a Van Lier Fellowship and a Sister of Fire Award.

2008 Honorable Mentions

Honorable Mention: Non-Fiction

Encyclopedia of Arab American Artists: Artists of the American Mosaic By Fayeq Oweis Greenwood Press

The Encyclopedia of Arab American Artists is an exceptional volume of reference that focuses on the contribution of Arab American artists across the mediums. The book includes profiles and interviews of well known Arab American artists that have been featured in museums and galleries throughout the world, but have never before been featured in a reference book. Whether they be in traditional media such as painting and calligraphy, or more sophisticated media such as digital work and installation, the pieces highlighted in the Encyclopedia of Arab American Artists represent the rich culture of Arab Americans which attempt to capture the beauty of heritage, the struggles of growing up in war-torn countries, the identity conflicts of female artists in male-dominated societies, and the issues surrounding migration to a Western culture very different from one’s own.

Fayeq Oweis is an Arab American artist and a professor of Arabic language and culture at Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California. He has a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on Arabic and Islamic arts. As an artist, he designed the exterior entranceway murals and the calligraphy of the dome interior of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. He has also exhibited his Arabic calligraphic compositions throughout the United States and was an artist-in-residence at the Art Institute of Chicago in February 2007.

Honorable Mention: Non-Fiction

Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation By Saree Makdisi W.W. Norton

Palestine Inside Out by Saree Makidisi depicts the day to day life of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank, and their often shocking existence under Israeli control. Through eye-opening statistics and day-by-day reports, Makdisi shows how Palestinians have seen their hopes for freedom and statehood culminate in the creation of abject “territories” comparable to open-air prisons. In devastating detail, Palestine Inside Out reveals how the “peace process” institutionalized Palestinians’ loss of control over their inner and outer lives.

Saree Makdisi is a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

The Arab American National Museum documents, preserves, celebrates, and educates the public on the history, life, culture, and contributions of Arab Americans. It serves as a resource to enhance knowledge and understanding about Arab Americans and their presence in this country. The Arab American National Museum is a project of ACCESS, a Dearborn, Michigan-based nonprofit human services and cultural organization. Learn more at and .

The Arab American National Museum is a proud Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Read about the Affiliations program at .

The Museum is located at 13624 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, MI, 48126. Museum hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday, Tuesday; Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is $6 for adults; $3 for students, seniors and children 6-12; ages 5 and under, free. Call 313.582.2266 for further information.


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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

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Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

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