Book Recommendations for Pre-K to Grade 2

This list was compiled from a multitude of sources including outreach programs at the University of Arizona and the University of Portland, as well as the Middle East Outreach Council and independent research. MEOC book award recipients are noted with an *.  Please note that there are overlaps across grade levels; appropriate age and grade levels are listed for the elementary and middle school levels but one should use discretion when considering these ranges as individual reading ability, interest area, and maturity will impact suitability. Books are placed in the low range of the appropriate grade/age suggestions; some texts are cross-referenced across categories while others are not.

We suggest looking at each of the lists as not all age/grade range appropriate works are cross-listed; for instance, a book deemed appropriate for grades 6 & up could also appeal to older readers but may not necessarily be listed in the high school compilation. Some of the texts are dated but have been included for their underlying value and contribution to children’s literary material on the Middle East and Islam. We remain available to assist you in your search if there is a subject or country area not addressed within these lists.

REFERENCE & NON-FICTION

encyclopedia_*The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arabia by Mary Beardwood, 2008. This encyclopedia focuses on the geography, cultures, and, especially, the flora and fauna of the Arabian Peninsula. With many photographs, charts, maps, figures, asides, this illustrated text will answer every question you never knew that you had about Arabia on subjects from pearling to fossils, migratory birds to the many uses of the date palm. The breadth of information will eliminate the narrow geographic and social stereotypes so many students have about the Middle East.

8Arab Science and Invention in the Golden Age by Anne Blanchard (author) and Emmanuel Cerisier (illustrator), 2008. The first third of this book, a quality overview of the building of the Muslim Empire, is the strength of the work. It is followed by chapters covering specific scientists and mathematicians from each century, which are not as strong, partly due to their organization. Each section describes the relevant location and time period in as many as three pages of text before introducing the subject. The book is a good introduction to the era. – School Library Journal Review.

What You Will See Inside a Synagogue by Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman PhD (Author), Dr. Ron Wolfson (Author), Bill Aron (Photographer), 2008. A colorful, fun-to-read introduction that explains the ways and whys of Jewish worship, faith, and religious life.

abamhxA Kid’s Guide to Arab American History: More Than 50 Activities by Yvonne Wakim Dennis & Maha Addasi,, 2013. Appropriate for grades 2-4. Each chapter focuses on a different group of Arab Americans including those of Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian, Iraqi, and Yemeni descent. More than 50 fun activities highlight arts, games, clothing, and food.

mosque1The Most Magnificent Mosque by Ann Jungman and Shelley Fowles, 2007. This is a beautifully illustrated book about medieval Spain and its Muslim heritage. Appropriate for grades 1 and above.

mosque2Mosque by David Macaulay, 2008. Macauley’s book provides step-by-step details and diagrams of the construction of a fictional sixteenth century Ottoman mosque. As the author walks the reader through the engineering and artistry of the structure, he reveals the mosque’s diverse functions in the community.

RELIGION

These books offer age-appropriate stories about the religious experience in the Middle East and also provide basic factual information about Islam and Judaism.

time to pray2*Time to Pray by Maha Addasi, 2010. This story provides a clear explanation of Muslim prayers and aspects of Islamic practice in a story that revolves around a loving relationship between a girl and her grandmother. Appropriate for grades 1-4.

white nights_The White Nights of Ramadan by Maha Addasi (Author), Ned Gannon (Illustrator), 2008.  In this beautifully illustrated story, Noor is looking forward to the festival known as Girgian that comes in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan. These middle days are known as “the three whites,” because they include the day of the full moon, the day before, and the day after. It’s a time when children, dressed in traditional clothes, go from house to house collecting treats from their neighbors. Appropriate for grades 1-4.

Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunnane and illustrated by Hoda Hadadi, 2013. “Poetic language, attractive illustrations and a positive message about Islam, without any didacticism: a wonderful combination,” declares Kirkus Reviews in a starred review. Appropriate for pre-K through 2nd grade.

demi*Muhammad written and illustrated by Demi, 2003. Demi portrays the Prophet Muhammad’s life in a richly colorful, two-dimensional Persian style, respecting Islamic tradition by omitting depictions of the Prophet and his family. Appropriate for grades 2-5.

ramadan_Ramadan by Susan L. Douglass and Jeni Reeves, 2003. This is an introduction to Islamic observances during the month of Ramadan and the subsequent festival of Eid al-Fitr. Appropriate for grade 2 and above.

ramadanagainRamadan by Suhaib Hamid Ghazi and Omar Rayyan, 1996. This book also describes the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. Appropriate for K through 3rd grade.

zakiZaki’s Ramadhan Fast by Ann P. El-Moslimany, Erica Butler (Illustrator), 1994. This story glances at a day in the life of a little Muslim boy who is fasting for the first time. Though he is still not required to fast everyday for the month of Ramadan, his family gives him their support to achieve his goal of fasting one day. Grades K-3.

Celebrate Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr with Praying, Fasting, and Charity (National Geographic, “Holidays Around the World” series) by Deborah Heiligman, 2006.  Although it is at a low reading level, this book vividly describes the customs and beliefs surrounding the Muslim month of fasting. Appropriate for grades 1-4.

Sound the Shofar!: A Story for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by Leslie Himmelman and John Himmelman, 1998. This book focuses on the high holy days of Judaism and how one family celebrates together by helping out the less fortunate. Ages 3-6.

*Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan (Author) and Mehrdokht Amini (illustrator), 2012. This is a book about Islam for early elementary students. The beautiful pictures and simple rhyming prose make it interesting to young children, while the glossary at the end assists teachers in introducing  Muslim culture and practices. Appropriate for preschool through 2nd grade.

nightNight of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story by Hena Khan and Julie Paschkis, 2008. A seven-year-old Pakistani-American girl celebrates Ramadan. Appropriate for preschool to 3rd grade.

passoverPassover by David F. Marx, 2001. This book gives religious and historical information about the Jewish Passover holiday. Appropriate for grade 1 and above.

eid*The Best Eid Ever by Asma Mobin-Uddin, illustrated by Laura Jacobsen, 2007. The Eid al-Adha is the biggest holiday in the Islamic calendar, but this year Aneesa hardly feels like celebrating because her parents are in far away Saudi Arabia making the pilgrimage to Mecca. Then, Aneesa meets two young refugees who have just arrived in the U.S., and she decides to help the girls celebrate and make it the best Eid ever. Appropriate for Kindergarten through grade 4.

*The Camel in the Sun by Griffin Ondaatje, illustrated by Linda Wolfsgruber, 2013. Inspired by a retelling of a traditional Muslim hadith, or account of the words or actions of the Prophet, which the author first heard in Sri Lanka, this is the story of a camel whose cruel owner only realizes what suffering he has caused when the Prophet appears and shows love to the animal. Appropriate for Kindergarten and above.

It’s Ramadan, Curious George by H.A. Rey, Hena Khan, 2016. It’s the first day of Ramadan, and George is celebrating with his friend Kareem and his family. This playful tabbed board book, with a foil-stamped cover, makes a great holiday gift for all fans of Curious George—those who celebrate Ramadan, and those who are learning about it for the first time!

image031*What’s the Buzz? Honey for a Sweet New Year by Alison Ofanansky, photographs by Eliyahu Alpern, 2012. This book provides information on the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah traditions, the bee industry, and life in Israel. Written for young children, it fills a huge hole in non-fiction for early grade levels. Reviewers especially loved the photographs showing real Israeli children in everyday life.

GENERAL/MULTIPLE COUNTRIES

The books in this category and in the following individual country sections contain both fictional and non-fictional works.

onegreenappleOne Green Apple by Eve Bunting, 2006. It’s hard to be the new kid in school, especially when you look different and don’t speak English, but on a school field trip to pick apples and make cider, Farah begins to feel she can fit in. Appropriate for Pre-K through 3rd grade.

talesTales Told in Tents by Sally Pomme Clayton and Sophie Herxheimer, 2005. This is a collection of short stories from Central Asia. Appropriate for grade 2 and above.

Nadia’s Hands by Karen English and Jonathan Weiner (illustrator), 2009. Nadia has been chosen to be the flower girl for Auntie Laila’s traditional wedding. She’ll have her hands decorated with the mehndi, a dark red henna paste swirled into intricate designs, flowers, and stars. Everyone assumes that Nadia is thrilled, but she’s worried about Monday, when she’ll have to go to school with the indelible designs still on her hands. Includes glossary. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.

count

Count Your Way through the Arab World by Kim Haskins and Dana Gustafson, 1987. The picture book gives an introduction to Arab life and beliefs through the numeric system. This is an older work and may not accurately reflect contemporary life in the Arab world. Appropriate for grades 1-4.

The Color of Home by Mary Hoffman, Karen Littlewood (illustrator), 2002. This picture book follows first-grader Hassan through his first few days at school. Hassan has only recently arrived in the United States after his family was forced to flee Somalia, and he deeply misses the colorful landscape of his former home in Africa. Together art and text make this poignant story accessible and affecting for a young audience. Kindergarten and above.

Goha, the Wise Fool by Denys Johnson-Davies and Hag Hamdy Hany, 2005. This is a brief, illustrated book of Arab folk tales. (Note: Goha is called Nasreddin Hodja in the Turkish world. The stories are beloved classics in the entire region.)

Big Red Lollipop by Ruhksana Khan, Sophie Blackwell (illustrator), 2010. Siblings will relate to this story, even though it is rooted in the experience of an immigrant family. Rubina is invited to a birthday party; her mother, Ami, insists that she take her little sister Sana along, despite Rubina’s vigorous protests, and the party turns out as badly as Rubina worries it will. Issues of generational shifts, assimilation and cultural difference come through in this tale. Preschool-Grade 2.

Never Say a Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain by Jacqueline Jules and Durga Yael Bernhard, 2014. This story tells of a conundrum faced by a boy named Samuel. With illuminating details—such as the boys’ headwear, backdrops of thick stone walls or heavy wooden doors, geometric patterns in mauves and browns, and a vine and flower motif—Bernhard’s illustrations convey an elegant, multicultural castle environment. Appropriate for preschool through 3rd grade.

camel

How the Camel Got its Hump by Rudyard Kipling and Lisbeth Zwerger, 2001. This is one of a Little Golden Book’s “Tales from Around the World.” Appropriate for Pre-K through 2nd grade.

habibi

What’s the Matter, Habibi? by Betsy Lewin, 2004. This is a warm and funny story of a boy and his pet camel. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 2nd grade.

donkeys

How Many Donkeys? An Arabic Counting Tale by Margaret Read McDonald, Nadia Jameel Taibah (authors) and Carol Liddiment (Illustrator), 2012. This humorous tale offers a great introduction to Arabic numbers for younger readers, as well as introducing the Joha/Goha/Hoca character known throughout the region. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.

parrot

The Rich Man and the Parrot by Suzan Nadimi and Ande Cook, 2007. Available as e-book. A folktale once told by the famous thirteenth-century poet Rumi is retold again in this attractive picture book. It is a story about a man and his parrot who longs to be free. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.

AFGHANISTAN

caravan

Caravan by Lawrence McKay, Jr. and Darryl Ligason, 2008. A 10-year-old Uzbek boy makes his first caravan trip through the mountains of Afghanistan. Appropriate for grade 1 and above.

woodensword

The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan by Ann Redisch Stampler, illustrated by Carol Liddiment, 2012. This is a charming story with “vibrant illustrations with rich, sensuous colors that epitomize the beauty of the Middle East.” Reviewers also loved the repetition of the phrase “I have faith that everything will turn out just as it should,” which is reassuring to children. It is well written, engaging, and colorful. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.

twosandals

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Doug Chayka, 2007. This lovely story, set in a refugee camp, tells of two Afghani girls who share one pair of sandals. Appropriate for grade 1 and above.

nasreen

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter, 2009. A story of education during Taliban rule, this book follows young Nasreen whose family is devastated by conflict. Winter artfully distills enormous concepts into spare, potent sentences that celebrate Herat’s rich cultural, Islamic history (“art and music and learning once flourished here”), even as they detail the harrowing realities of Taliban rule. Grades 2-4.

EGYPT

handlibraryHands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books by Karen Leggett Abouraya (author) and Susan L. Roth (illustrator), 2012. This children’s picture book tells the true story that took place during the Egyptian uprising (during the Arab Spring) when demonstrators joined together to protect the library of Alexandria. It’s a story that helps young children to think about current events – and the importance of books and libraries in society. Appropriate for preschool through 1st grade.

kidancientegyptIf I Were a Kid in Ancient Egypt by Cobblestone Publishing, 2007. If I Were a Kid in Ancient Egypt takes readers through daily life in a vibrant culture that pioneered paper, linen, irrigation, medicine, and much more, and shows how these inventions came about and how they affected the culture’s younger citizens. Appropriate for grades 1-5.

bill and pete go down to the nileBill and Pete Go Down the Nile by Tomie De Paola, 1996. On a class field trip to Egypt, Bill & Pete not only learn a lot about ancient Egypt, but they also confront the Bad Guy. Appropriate for preschool-3rd grade.

illustratornotebookThe Illustrator’s Notebook by Mohieddine Ellabbad, 2006. Through simple words and gorgeous images, the author reflects on his childhood and on the cultural influences that led him to become one of Egypt’s finest illustrators. Appropriate for kindergarten and above.

The Hundredth Name by Shulamith Oppenheim and Michael Hays, 1997. This nicely illustrated story tells of friendship and Muslim faith set in a village in Egypt. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.

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The Day of Ahmed’s Secret by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, 1995. This nicely written story with vivid descriptions and illustrations is about a young Egyptian boy who is learning to read while working to help his family in lively Cairo. Appropriate for grades 1-4.

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IRAN

mystery bottleMystery Bottle by Kristen Balouch, 2006. Mystery Bottle is a tale of fantasy and imagination as a little boy in New York blows into a bottle and is carried to Iran where his father was born. Appropriate for preschool – 3rd grade.

blackfishThe Little Black Fish by Samad Behrangi, multiple editions. This classic Iranian short story is made to be read aloud for any age group. It has many different levels of meaning – about breaking out of one’s narrow environment and learning about the wider world. This small book is also written in Persian allowing readers to learn about how language and culture intersect.

legendpersiancarpetThe Legend of the Persian Carpet by Tomie dePaola, 1993. Based on a Persian folktale, this beautifully illustrated story contains valuable moral lessons for young readers. When King Balash’s precious diamond is stolen, the grief-stricken king can no longer rule, and the country falls into chaos, until a clever young boy comes up with a scheme to bring the jewel’s radiance back into the palace. Appropriate for preschool through grade 3.

countiranCount Your Way through Iran by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson, illustrated by Farida Zaman, 2006. This is an excellent, apolitical introduction to Iran’s culture. Appropriate for grade 2 and above.

Celebrating Norouz (Persian New Year) by Yassaman Jalali, 2003. This book provides a description of the most popular Iranian holiday, Persian New Year, celebrated March 21st, the first day of spring.

norouz

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The Secret Message by Mina Javaherbin, 2010. This book retells a story taken from an ancient Persian poem, “Parrot and the Merchant,” by Jalaledin Rumi. It is the tale of a wealthy merchant who keeps a parrot in his shop whose colorful feathers, singing, and talking attract many customers. When the merchant travels to India on a shopping trip, he promises to bring something home for each family member, including the parrot, whose unusual request leads to his own freedom. Appropriate for preschool – 2nd grade.

The New Year’s Goldfish: A Nowruz Story by Solmaz Parveen and Tata Bobokhidze, 2016. It was the morning before Nowruz and Keyan could barely contain his excitement. His entire family was busy preparing for their celebration… and Keyan thought of one very important way he could help as well.

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IRAQ

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The Girl Who Lost Her Smile by Karim Alrawi and Stefan Czernecki, 2000. This Arab tale tells about a girl who lost her smile and the people of Baghdad who help her find it. Appropriate for Kindergarten through grade 3.

houseThe House of Wisdom by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, 1999. A young boy in 9th century Baghdad (the golden age of Islamic civilization) is inspired by his scholar father to go on a search for knowledge and wisdom. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

5144WssoZwL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_A Fistful of Pearls and Other Tales from Iraq by Elizabeth Laird, 2008. Award-winning novelist Elizabeth Laird has gathered together the very best Iraqi stories during her time in the Middle East ? stories ranging from thieving porcupines who get their come-uppance to the hilarious tale of the chaos caused by a handsome stranger who knocks at a house inside which lurks a marriageable daughter. Meticulously researched and elegantly retold, the stories reveal the true, traditional heart of Iraq, far removed from today’s news headlines. Appropriate for grades 1-7.

51t1hgV-F3L._SY374_BO1,204,203,200_*Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad written and illustrated by James Rumford, 2008. This celebration of writing and art involves a young Iraqi boy in contemporary Baghdad and the story of a master calligrapher, who lived eight hundred years before, also during a time of war. Appropriate for preschool through grade 3.

61mMV3VfS7L._SX392_BO1,204,203,200_Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq by Mark Alan Stamaty, 2010. A graphic novel telling the true story of a woman’s struggle to save the books in the Basra library during the 2003 war in Iraq. It’s a simple story, but the graphic novel style would appeal to upper elementary and middle school readers. Appropriate for K-3.

51EHNamczJL._SX375_BO1,204,203,200_The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter, 2005. Another tale of Alia Mohammed Baker, this picture book is another take on the true story of one woman’s struggle to save the books in the Basra library during the 2003 war in Iraq. Appropriate for K-3rd grade.

JORDAN

The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio, 2010. Salma and Lily are best friends who like doing everything together. They also eat lunch together every day, but Salma always eats hummus and Lily eats peanut butter and jelly. One day, Lily tells Salma her sandwich looks yucky, and before they know it, the girls have started a school-wide food fight. Feeling ashamed, Salma and Lily try each other’s sandwiches, and find them delicious! Then, they help organize a picnic so everyone at school can try each other’s food and learn about each other’s culture. Appropriate for preschool through grade 2.

LEBANON

Lebanon A-Z: A Middle Eastern Mosaic by Marijean Boueri, Jill Boutros, and Joanne Sayad, illustrated by Tatiana Sabbagh, 2006. Kareem, an eleven year-old Lebanese boy, and his friends of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, proudly introduce readers to the history, culture, and daily life of their country. Appropriate for preschool to grade 3.

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Sami and the Time of the Troubles by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, 1995. This haunting and beautifully illustrated story tells of a 10-year-old boy during the fighting in Beirut, Lebanon. Appropriate for preschool to grade 3.

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The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston (Author), Claire Ewart (Illustrator), 2014. Using the backdrop of the Lebanese War, the Olive Tree follows two children as they learn to share and work together by looking past their differences. It shows young readers that compassion and understanding lie at the heart of all friendships. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.

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MOROCCO

The Butter Man by Elizabeth Alalou and Ali Alalou, 2008. This story provides an introduction to the culture of the Amazigh indigenous population, also known as Berbers, of Morocco. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 4th grade.

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Mirror by Jeannie Baker, 2010. This quiet, inventive, mostly wordless picture book follows two boys on opposite sides of the world through a single day, highlighting the differences and universalities in their lives. Meant to be read simultaneously, the stories appear side by side as separate mini-books bound within the same covers, while brief, introductory lines of text in English and Arabic introduce the boys, one in urban Australia and one in rural Morocco. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 4th grade.

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The Storytellers by Ted Lewin, 1998.  This is a gentle story with beautiful illustrations, telling of a young boy and his grandfather who carry on the tradition of storytelling in the market place of Fez, Morocco. Appropriate for age 5 and up.

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PALESTINE / ISRAEL

Snow in Jerusalem by Deborah Da Costa, 2008. An Israeli and a Palestinian boy must work together to save a stray cat that both have befriended. Appropriate for grades 1-5.

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Sitti’s Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1997. A girl raised in the US goes to visit her grandmother in a Palestinian village. Appropriate for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.

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One City, Two Brothers by Chris Smith, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty, 2007. Written by a former worker with UNICEF and Oxfam in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, this re-telling of a traditional story from the time of King Solomon serves as a metaphor for the “wish for the people of Israel and Palestine to find peace.” Appropriate for grade 1 and up.

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TURKEY

The Hungry Coat: A tale From Turkey by Demi, 2004. A man is judged by his appearance. Appropriate for grades 1 – 5.

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Nassredin Hodja Stories, various. This is a collection of short (often humorous) anecdotes about an early 13th century Turkish figure. This digital resource also includes the original publications’ fun illustrations. (Note: Nasreddin Hodja is called Goha in the Arab world and Mullah Nasreddin in the Persian world. The stories are beloved classics in the entire region.)

Folktales from Turkey: From Agri to Zelve by Serpil Ural, illustrated by Dilara Arin, 2012. This book is a wonderful combination of folktales and stories in combination with historic, geographic, and cultural content. Evaluators especially enjoyed the format: short stories with side panels that offer information on a wide variety of topics. The book is well-written, nicely illustrated, and offers teachers many opportunities for follow-up research or art projects.

SERIES

The classic Cinderella story has been retold to fit numerous Middle Eastern traditions, including the following:

The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley ClimoRuth Heller (illustrator), 1992.
The Persian Cinderella by Shirley ClimoRobert Florczak (illustrator), 2001.
Cinderella: An Islamic Tale by Fawzi Gilani, 2011.
The Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story by Rebecca Hickox, Will Hillenbrand (illustrator), 1999.
The Way Meat Loves Salt: A Cinderella Tale from the Jewish Tradition by Nina JaffeLouise August (illustrator), 1998.

PUBLISHERS SPECIALIZING IN CHILDREN'S GLOBAL LITERATURE

Annick Press

Annick Press is recognized as one of the most innovative and cutting-edge publishers of fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults.

Charlesbridge Books

Charlesbridge publishes high-quality books for children, with a goal of creating lifelong readers and lifelong learners. Our books encourage reading and discovery in the classroom, library, and home. We believe that books for children should offer accurate information, promote a positive worldview, and embrace a child’s innate sense of wonder and fun. To this end, we continually strive to seek new voices, new visions, and new directions in children’s literature.

Groundwood Books

Groundwood Books is an independent children’s publisher based in Toronto Our authors and illustrators are highly acclaimed both in Canada and internationally, and our books are loved by children around the world. We look for books that are unusual; we are not afraid of books that are difficult or potentially controversial; and we are particularly committed to publishing books for and about children whose experiences of the world are under-represented elsewhere.

Kids Can Press

At Kids Can Press, we take pride in producing innovative and eye-catching picture books, entertaining and thought-provoking fiction, and curriculum-based non-fiction that opens children’s eyes to the world around them. Every season, we publish a diverse range of titles for children from birth to age 16. To find out about the wide array of free materials available on-line related to their books, click here. Items are well-organized by reading level, genre, age and grade group, curriculum, and theme, and there are a number of series available.

Wisdom Tales

Wisdom Tales is the name of the children’s book imprint of the award-winning publishing house, World Wisdom, which was founded in 1980. Wisdom Tales publishes both children’s and teen titles and was created for the purpose of sharing the wisdom, beauty, and values of traditional cultures and peoples from around the world with young readers and their families. The content, illustrations, and production quality of these books is intended to assure them a lasting value for children, parents, teachers, and librarians.

Book Recommendations for Intermediate Elementary School Grades 3-5

This list was compiled from a multitude of sources including outreach programs at the University of Arizona and the University of Portland, as well as the Middle East Outreach Council and Middle East Policy Council research.  MEOC book award recipients are noted with an *.  Please note that there are overlaps across grade levels; appropriate age and grade levels are listed for the elementary and middle school levels but one should use discretion when considering these ranges as individual reading ability, interest area, and maturity will impact suitability. Books are generally placed in the low range of the appropriate grade/age suggestions, though some texts may be cross-referenced.

We suggest looking at each of the lists as not all age/grade range appropriate works are cross-listed; for instance, a book deemed appropriate for grades 6 & up could also appeal to older readers but may not necessarily be listed in the high school compilation. Some of the texts are dated but have been included for their underlying value and contribution to children’s literary material on the Middle East and Islam. We remain available to assist you in your search if there is a subject or country area not addressed within these lists.

REFERENCE

encyclopedia_

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arabia by Mary Beardwood, 2008. This detailed encyclopedia entry focuses on the geography, cultures, and, especially, the flora and fauna of the Arabian Peninsula. With many photographs, charts, maps, figures, asides, this exhaustive and beautifully illustrated text will answer every question you never knew that you had about Arabia on subjects from pearling to fossils, migratory birds to the many uses of the date palm. The sheer breadth of information will eliminate the narrow geographic and social stereotypes so many students have about the Middle East.

HISTORY

51IyysKCQFLThe Genius of Islam: How Muslims Made the Modern World by Bryn Barnard, 2011.  This is a wonderfully readable book about medieval achievements in the Muslim world. It is divided into short sections on topics such as paper, math, band music, etc. Appropriate for grades 3-7.

*Kings and Carpenters: One Hundred Bible Land Jobs You Might Have Praised or Panned by Laurie Coulter and Mary Newbigging, 2010. This is a great introduction to archaeology and an overview of jobs that existed during biblical times. Appropriate for grades 3-6.

*The Arab World Thought of It: Inventions, Innovations, and Amazing Facts by Saima Hussain, 2013. This is a compelling book with “sufficient text to explain the beautiful photography.” Students in intermediate grades, middle school, and even high school will love learning about developments in the medieval Islamic world that affect our lives today. Teachers will love the accompanying map, timeline, and index, which make the book useful and informative as well as fun. Appropriate for grades 5-7.

61IAtqCg3EL._SX368_BO1,204,203,200_Middle Eastern Migration by Deborah Kent, 2011. This upper elementary book has wonderful photos and descriptions of displaced people in the Middle East. It also has ideas for what children can do to help. Appropriate for grades 3 and above.

1001 Inventions and Awesome Facts from Muslim Civilization by National Geographic, 2012. We often think that people from a thousand years ago were living in the Dark Ages but from the 7th century onward in Muslim civilization there were amazing advances and inventions that still influence our everyday lives. People living in the Muslim world saw what the Egyptians, Chinese, Indians, Greek, and Romans had discovered and spent the next one thousand years adding new developments and ideas. Appropriate for grades 3-7.

mosque2Mosque by David Macaulay, 2008. Macauley’s book provides step-by-step details and diagrams of the construction of a fictional sixteenth century Ottoman mosque. As the author walks the reader through the engineering and artistry of the structure, he reveals the mosque’s diverse functions in the community.

16centmosqueA 16th Century Mosque by Fiona MacDonald and Mark Bergin, 1994. This book describes medieval architecture, culture, and religion in the 16th century Ottoman Empire.

61y2VJUK8lL._SY427_BO1,204,203,200_*The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews during the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix, 2010. When the Nazis occupied Paris, no Jew was safe from arrest and deportation. Few Parisians were willing to risk their own lives to help. Yet during that perilous time, many Jews found refuge in an unlikely place–the sprawling complex of the Grand Mosque of Paris. Beautifully illustrated and thoroughly researched. Appropriate for grades 3 and above.

51POLJXz+EL*Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta, 1325-1354 by James Rumford, 2004. This book chronicles the adventures of 14th century Arab explorer Ibn Battuta. Appropriate for grades 3 and above.

61vwqmzGLGL._SX472_BO1,204,203,200_*The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela by Uri Shulevitz, 2005. This book is a true account of the twelfth-century journeys of a Jewish traveler throughout the then-known world, including Constantinople, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Persia, and Egypt. Appropriate for grades 3-8.

61Lu9RPcsGL._SX386_BO1,204,203,200_Seven Wonders of the Ancient Middle East by Michael Woods and Mary B. Woods, 2009. This is a nicely illustrated book about the ancient Middle East. It provides history of the societies of the time.

11The Tomb of King Tutankhamen: Unearthing Ancient Worlds by Michael Woods and Mary B. Woods, 2007. Nicely illustrated and contains great photographs, this book gives a lot of history about King Tutankhamen as well as ancient Egypt in general. Appropriate for grades 5 and above.

RELIGION

These books offer age appropriate stories about the religious experience in the Middle East as well as factual information about Islam and Judaism.

12Judaism by Douglas Charing, DK Eyewitness Books, 2003. Discover the history, faith, and culture that have shaped the modern Jewish world.. Appropriate for grades 3-7.

Celebrating-Ramadan-9780823417629*Celebrating Ramadan by Diane Hoyt Goldsmith, with photographs by Lawrence Migdale, 2002. This photo-essay follows a fourth-grade Muslim boy living in New Jersey as he celebrates the holy month of Ramadan. Appropriate for grade 3 and above.

61k5suEIyIL._SX372_BO1,204,203,200_Muslim Child: Understanding Islam through Stories and Poems by Rukhsana Khan, 2002. A collection of Muslim stories with sidebars explaining important terms and issues. Contains universal values and lessons. Appropriate for grades 3-7.

51+e6N6qhYL._SX368_BO1,204,203,200_Magid Fasts for Ramadan by Mary Mathews and E.B. Lewis, 1996. Told from the perspective of an 8-year-old Egyptian who boy wants to fast like the grown-ups, this book explores the Muslim month of Ramadan. Though nearly 20 years old, Majid Fasts for Ramadan still resonates with its playful language and expressive illustrations. Glossary of Arabic terms is included. Appropriate for grades 4-6.

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*Islam by Sue Penney, 2007. From the “Introducing Religions” series, this gives an overview of the Muslim faith. Appropriate for grade 5 and above.

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Judaism by Sue Penney, 2003. Discover the rich cultural background behind this major world religion. Find out where Judaism originated, trace its history, and explore the meanings. Appropriate for grade 5 and above.

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Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry by Daud Sutton, 2007. Focusing on Islamic geometric patterns, simple and complex, man-made and in nature, this book offers unique insight into Islamic culture.

The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia, 2016. Aliya already struggles with trying to fit in, feeling confident enough to talk to the cute boy or stand up to mean kid–the fact that she’s Muslim is just another thing to deal with. Should she fast for Ramadan? Should she wear the hijab? She’s old enough for both, but does she really want to call attention to herself. Grade 3-7.

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Judaism by Sue Penney, 2003. Discover the rich cultural background behind this major world religion. Find out where Judaism originated, trace its history, and explore the meanings. Appropriate for grade 5 and above.

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Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry by Daud Sutton, 2007. Focusing on Islamic geometric patterns, simple and complex, man-made and in nature, this book offers unique insight into Islamic culture.

GENERAL/MULTIPLE COUNTRIES

Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi and Lea Lyon (Illustrator), 2015. This gentle, moving story from first-time author Reem Faruqi comes to life in Lea Lyon’s vibrant illustrations. Lyon uses decorative arabesque borders on intermittent spreads to contrast the ordered patterns of Islamic observances with the unbounded rhythms of American school days.

The Pearl Diver by Julia Johnson, illustrated by Patricia Al Fakhri, 2003. This is the story of Saeed, a six year old boy and his father Abdullah, one of the finest pearl divers in the Arabian Gulf. We follow Saeed on his first adventure out to sea with his father and the rest of the divers. Saeed learns to dive and discovers the beauty and danger of the world beneath the waves. Gracefully told with fine details of the pearl diving tradition, the story is amply illustrated with dream-like water colors and contains a glossary of Arabic terms. Appropriate for grades 3 and above.

61e5GZsXv5L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Figs and Fate by Elsa Marston, 2005. This is a wonderful collection of short stories about teens growing up in the Arab world. Appropriate for grades 3 & above.

51YEm-oXRcLA Hen in the Wardrobe (Cinnamon Grove) by Wendy Meddour, September 2012. This is a funny, heart-warming family story set in Britain and Algeria, with fascinating glimpses of traditional Berber culture and lots of colorful characters. Appropriate for grades 3-7.

52 Days by Camel: My Sahara Adventure (Adventure Travel Series) by Lawrie Raskin and Debora Pearson , 2008. Readers will discover first-hand what it’s like to travel over vast seas of orange sand. Raskin’s evocative photographs, including scenes of modern-day life, reflect the many faces of Africa. His enthusiasm and wit shine through as he invites readers to share in his extraordinary adventures and eye-opening discoveries. This revised edition features new text and photographs showcasing how contemporary Africa, from cell phones to skyscrapers, lives alongside the ancient among the sands of the Sahara. Appropriate for grades 4-8.

AFGHANISTAN

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Afghanistan Series by Erinn Banting, 2003. This series contains photos and descriptions of Afghanistan with volumes on the land, culture, and people. Appropriate for grade 4 & above.

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 *Extra Credit by Andrew Clements, 2002. Abby Carson is a sixth grade student in rural Illinois whose head is everywhere but her schoolwork. In order to be spared the embarrassment of being left behind a grade, she agrees to an extra credit assignment involving writing to a pen pal in another country and so she meets Sadeed Bayat and his sister Meriem in rural Afghanistan. As their friendship flourishes, problems arise on both sides. Appropriate for grades 3-7.

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5120mjFkbqL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)The Breadwinner Series by Deborah Ellis. This series features 4 books about childhood in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. The Breadwinner (2001) is about Parvana, an 11-year-old girl who has to disguise herself as a boy to support her family. Sequel Parvana’s Journey (2003) follows 12-year-old Parvana, separated from her family, as she sets off to find them. Appropriate for grade 5 & up.

ShootingKabul

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai, 2011. An 11-year-old Afghani boy struggles to adjust to life in the U.S. – and tries to continue the search for his missing younger sister after fleeing his war-torn country. Appropriate for grades 3-7.

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Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan, 2010. Set in 2001, this compelling story is based on real incidents. Jameela’s matter-of-fact, first-person narrative will awaken young readers to life and conditions in Afghanistan. The story is packed with Pushto words that may slow some readers, but a helpful glossary is included. Appropriate for grades 4-9.

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*Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of Education by Elizabeth Suneby, illustrated by Suana Verelst, Kids Can Press, 2013. Based on a true story, Razia’s Ray of Hope offers a view of Afghan culture in real world context, emphasizing the role of family members in problem-solving and the importance of education.  This book provides a vehicle for discussing current events and cultural issues with younger students. The author has included background on the actual story and efforts to promote education in developing nations, a glossary, and teaching activities. Appropriate for grades 3-7.

EGYPT

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Egypt: The Culture by Arlene Moskovitch, 2008. This book describes and shows the culture of Egypt. It is 1 part of a series of three which also includes Egypt: The People and Egypt: The Land. Appropriate for grade 4 and above.

IRAN

blackfishThe Little Black Fish by Samad Behrangi, multiple prints – 1971, 1997, 2008, 2015. This classic Iranian short story is made to be read aloud for any age group. It has many different levels of meaning – about breaking out of one’s narrow environment and learning about the wider world. This small book is also written in Persian allowing readers to learn about how language and culture intersect.

norouzCelebrating Norouz (Persian New Year) by Yassaman Jalali, 2003. Description of the most popular Iranian holiday, Persian New Year, celebrated March 21st, the first day of spring.

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Iran: The People by April Fast, 2010.  This book describes and shows lifestyles in Iran. Part of series that includes Iran: The Culture and Iran: The Land. Appropriate for grade 4 and above.

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Shahnameh by Elizabeth Laird and Shirin Adl, 2014. The Shahnameh is a collection of stories and myths from ancient Iran, filled with kings, heroes, princesses, magical animals, and demons. Written as an epic poem by the poet Ferdowsi in the 10th century, it is one of the great classics of Persian literature. Appropriate for grades 4-8.

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Foods of Iran by Barbara Sheen, 2006. Beautiful photographs and clear prose show a lot about Iranian culture through a description of the food. There are recipes, cultural descriptions, and details about how the food is grown and sold. Appropriate for grade 3 & up.

IRAQ

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Iraq: The Culture by April Fast, 2010. This book describes and shows the culture of Iraq. Part of series that includes Iraq: The Culture and Iraq: The Land. Appropriate for grade 4 and above.

516A6CTND8L._SX386_BO1,204,203,200_*Lugalbanda, The Boy Who Got Caught Up in a War: An Epic Tale From Ancient Iraq by Kathy Henderson, illustrated by Jane Ray, 2006. This five thousand-year-old story from the land of ancient Sumer, now Iraq, focuses on the boy Lugalbanda who assists his father, the king, during a military campaign. Appropriate for grades 4-7.

51Pw7JcosSL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_Dawn and Dusk by Alice Mead, 2010. A 13-year-old Kurdish boy and his family struggle to survive during the time of the Iran-Iraq War (and the Iraqi poison gas attack on some Kurdish villages). Appropriate for grades 5-9.

KUWAIT

41DD2taRYsL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Kuwait: Picture Book by Planet Collection, 2012. This book discusses the land, natural world, government, industry, religion and culture of Kuwait.

51Fhotacn7L._SX430_BO1,204,203,200_Kuwait by Liz Sonneborn, 2014. As a part of the updated Planet Collection, this book offers facts, descriptions and thought inspiring questions alongside amazing photographs of Kuwait.

PALESTINE/ISRAEL

Where-the-Streets-Had-a-Name

Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah, 2010. 13-year-old Hayaat, believing that a handful of soil from her grandmother’s ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her grandmother’s life, travels with her friend Samy across Israeli checkpoints to reach the village. The story is one of humor, adventure, family love, and vivid characters (including a Jewish Israeli couple who assist the young people). Appropriate for grades 5-8.

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If You Could Be My Friend by Litsa Boudalika, 1998. Two teenagers, Mervet Akram Sha’ban and Galit Fink, one Palestinian and one Israeli teenager, corresponded with each other for three years when “introduced” by a Belgian film director, producing a documentary in Israel. Appropriate for grade 5 & up.

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The Shepherd’s Granddaughter by Anne Laurel Carter, 2010. Palestinian teen Amani tends her extended family’s sheep until Israeli settlers encroach on their land. The family’s resistance – with the help of sympathetic Israelis – forms the underpinning of this coming-of-age story. Appropriate for grades 5-8.

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A Stone in My Hand by Cathryn Clinton, 2010. This is a story about an 11-year-old Palestinian girl who has to deal with her father’s disappearance in Israel and her 12-year-old brother’s desire for revenge. Appropriate for grade 5 and above.

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Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak by Deborah Ellis, 2006.  This is a collection of accounts of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by children ages 8-18. Appropriate for grade 5 & up.

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A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird, 2006. A 12-year-old Palestinian boy tries to find a place to play soccer. Appropriate for grades 4-10. Adult language is used.

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Israel: The Culture by Debbie Smith, 2008. This book describes and shows the culture of Israel. Part of a series, also including Israel: The People and Israel: The Land. Appropriate for grade 4 and above.

TURKEY

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*Folktales from Turkey: From Agri to Zelve by Serpil Ural, illustrated by Dilara Arin, 2012. This book is a wonderful combination of folktales and stories in combination with historic, geographic, and cultural content. Evaluators especially enjoyed the format: short stories with side panels that offer information on a wide variety of topics. The book is well-written, nicely illustrated, and offers teachers many opportunities for follow-up research or art projects.

shakoSister Shako and Kolo the Goat: Memories of My Childhood in Turkey by Vedat Dalokay, 1994. The author writes of his childhood in eastern Turkey. Appropriate for age 10 and above.

zeynepZEYNEP: The Seagull of Galata Tower by Julia Townsend, 2011. This book offers a birds-eye view of Istanbul. Appropriate for grades 4-7.

51PMQSCYPYL._SX381_BO1,204,203,200_Watermelons, Walnuts and the Wisdom of Allah and Other Tales of the Hoca by Barbara Walker, 1991. This book is collection of Turkish tales about the legendary Nasreddin Hoca (called Goha in Arabic). The book has short, humorous stories with illustrations. Appropriate for grades 4-7.

YEMEN

41wBFpiXhZLYemen: Picture Book by Planet Collection, 2012. This book discusses the land, natural world, government, industry, religion and culture of Yemen.

51Kk93hTIsL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Motoring with Mohammed: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea by Eric Hansen, 1992. In 1978 Eric Hansen found himself shipwrecked on a desert island in the Red Sea. When goat smugglers offered him safe passage to Yemen, he took his place alongside the animals on a leaky boat bound for a country that he’d never planned to visit.

Book Recommendations for Middle School 6th-8th Grade

This list was compiled from a multitude of sources including outreach programs at the University of Arizona and the University of Portland, as well as the Middle East Outreach Council and independent research. MEOC book award recipients are noted with an *.  Please note that there are overlaps across grade levels; appropriate age and grade levels are listed for the elementary and middle school levels but one should use discretion when considering these ranges as individual reading ability, interest area, and maturity will impact suitability. Books are automatically placed in the low range of the appropriate grade/age suggestions; some texts are cross-referenced across categories while others are not.

We suggest looking at each of the lists as not all age/grade range appropriate works are cross-listed; for instance, a book deemed appropriate for grades 6 & up could also appeal to older readers but may not necessarily be listed in the high school compilation. Some of the texts are dated but have been included for their underlying value and contribution to children’s literary material on the Middle East and Islam. We remain available to assist you in your search if there is a subject or country area not addressed within these lists.

GEOGRAPHY

encyclopedia_The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arabia by Mary Beardwood, 2008. This detailed encyclopedia entry focuses on the geography, cultures, and, especially, the flora and fauna of the Arabian Peninsula. With many photographs, charts, maps, figures, asides, this exhaustive and beautifully illustrated text will answer every question you never knew that you had about Arabia on subjects from pearling to fossils, migratory birds to the many uses of the date palm. The sheer breadth of information will eliminate the narrow geographic and social stereotypes so many students have about the Middle East.

41WQCPR5NmL._SX372_BO1,204,203,200_Atlas of the Middle East by National Geographic, 2008.  This is an excellent resource in teaching geography and history.

HISTORY & REFERENCE

Al-Kindi: The Father of Arab Philosophy by Tony Abboud, 2006. This book is part of a 6-volume series “Great Muslim Philosophers and Scientists of the Middle Ages.”

Suleyman and the Ottoman Empire by John Addison, 2005. This is brief overview of the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent along with a series of short, primary source documents. Appropriate for age 11 and above.

Al-Khwarizmi: The Inventor of Algebra by Corona Brezina, 2005. This book is part of a 6-volume series “Great Muslim Philosophers and Scientists of the Middle Ages.”

Avicenna (Ibn Sinna): Muslim Physician and Philosopher of the 11th Century by Aishe Khan, 2005. This book is part of a 6-volume series “Great Muslim Philosophers and Scientists of the Middle Ages.”

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Oil in the Middle East by John King, 2005. This book contains beautiful photos and well-written narrative about modern diplomatic and political developments in the Middle East.

The Apprentice’s Masterpiece: A Story of Medieval Spain by Melanie Little, 2009. A young adult novel set in 14th-century Spain tells the story of a family with a secret at a time when the Inquisition brings intolerance and torture. Written in elegant free verse, this is a dramatic story set in a troubling time. Appropriate for grades 7 & up.

Extraordinary Women from the Muslim World by Natalie Maydell and Sep Riahi, 2005. Also available as e-book. This book, introduces readers to 13 Muslim women in history who have lived extraordinary lives and influenced their communities in a positive way, often overcoming extreme hardship and inaccurate stereotypes that have been placed on the role of women in Islam.

Historical Atlas of Islam by Malise Ruthven and Azim Nanji, 2004. This is a beautifully illustrated, informative atlas.

Albucasis (Abu Al-Qasim Al-Zahrawi): Renowned Muslim Surgeon of the 10th Century by Fred Ramen, 2014. This book is part of a 6-volume series “Great Muslim Philosophers and Scientists of the Middle Ages.”

Al-Biruni: Master Astronomer and Muslim Scholar of the 11th Century by Bill Scheppler, 2014.This book is part of a 6-volume series “Great Muslim Philosophers and Scientists of the Middle Ages.”

*The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela by Uri Shulevitz, 2005. This book is a true account of the twelfth-century journeys of a Jewish traveler throughout the then-known world, including Constantinople, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Persia, and Egypt. Appropriate for grades 3-8.

Mesopotamia by Jane Shuter, 2005. This is a beautifully illustrated, well organized short book about Mesopotamia from the “Excavating the Past” series.

Averroes (Ibn Rushd): Muslim Scholar, Philosopher, and Physician of the 12th Century by Liz Sonneborn, 2005. This book is part of a 6-volume series “Great Muslim Philosophers and Scientists of the Middle Ages.”

RELIGION

Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam by Sumbul Ali-Karamali, 2013. Author offers her personal account, discussing the many and varied questions she fielded from curious friends and schoolmates while growing up in Southern California—from diet, to dress, to prayer and holidays and everything in between. She also provides an academically reliable introduction to Islam, addressing its inception, development and current demographics; readers will gain a better understanding of the everyday aspects of Muslim American life. Grade 6+. 

Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs by Sarah Conover, Freda Crane, and Valerie Wahl, 2010. A treasury of Islamic wisdom for children and parents, the book contains pictures, folk tales, Quran readings, and poems from the Muslim world. Appropriate for ages 9 and above.

Culture by Country

GENERAL/MULTIPLE COUNTRIES

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah, 2008. Amal Abdel-Hakim is, a seventeen year-old Australian-Palestinian-Muslim trying to come to grips with her various identities. It’s hard enough being cool as a teenager when being one issue behind the latest Cosmo is enough to disqualify you from the in-group. Try wearing a veil and talking intimately about personal issues and you know you’re in for a tough time at school in Australia. Appropriate for grade 7 & above.

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Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah, 2010. Jamie just wants to fit in. She doesn’t want to be seen as a stereotypical Muslim girl, so she does everything possible to hide that part of herself. Even if it means pushing her friends away because she’s afraid to let them know her dad forbids her from hanging out with boys or that she secretly loves to play the darabuka. Appropriate for grade 7 & up.

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A Game for Swallows: to Die, to Live, to Return by Zeina Abirached, 2012. This graphic novel chronicles the experiences of Zeina and her younger brother during the Lebanese Civil War. Appropriate for grade 6 & up, younger depending on maturity.

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The Girl Who Fell to Earth by Sophia Al-Maria, 2012. With poignancy and humor, Al-Maria shares the struggles of being raised by an American mother and Bedouin father while shuttling between homes in the Pacific Northwest and the Middle East. Part family saga and part personal quest, The Girl Who Fell to Earth traces Al-Maria’s journey to make a place for herself in two different worlds.

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Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos, 2007. In a moving first-person, present-tense narrative, Nadira, 14, relates how her family left Bangladesh, came to the U. S. on a tourist visa, and stayed long after the visa expired. Their illegal status is discovered, however, following 9/11, when immigration regulations are tightened. When the family hurriedly seeks asylum in Canada, they are turned back, and Nadira’s father, Abba, is detained because his passport is no longer valid. The teen voice is wonderfully immediate, revealing Nadira’s mixed-up feelings as well as the diversity in her family and in the Muslim community. Readers will feel the heartbreak, prejudice, kindness, and fear. Grade 7-10.

 

Arab Folktales by Inea Bushnaq, 1988. Out of alleys of Cairo and Bedouin tents, from the Moroccan laborers and Syrian peasants, this collection of 130 tales comes from the Arab world from North Africa to the Holy Land.

Skunk  Girl by Sheba Karim. Sixteen-year-old Nina Khan feels like an outsider, and there are two things that particularly set her apart from others in her small town: her perfect older sister, Sonia, and the fact that she has inherited the “Pakistani hairy gene.” Nina is a Muslim Pakistani-American, and her parents have very firm views on social behavior: she is not allowed to date or attend parties. Nina stages a mild rebellion, which ends with deepened appreciation for her family’s cultural views. Karim’s first novel provides a rare exploration of Muslim culture and is a welcome addition to teen collections. Grade 7+.

Santa Claus in Baghdad and Other Stories about Teens in the Arab World by Elsa Marston, 2008. This is a wonderful collection of short stories. The title story, “Santa Claus in Baghdad,” can be compared with “The Gift of the Magi.” Appropriate for grade 6 & up.

 

Amina: Through My Eyes by J.L. Powers, 2013. The book follows the eponymous Amina as her family struggles through war in Mogadishu, Somalia. “This book is rich with realistic, complex details about Islam, agency, urban life, and friendship. Amina’s story is at once culturally specific, unique and universal, so that readers from all walks of like will find moments of connection. Politically relevant, this timely story offers many opportunities for classroom discussion.” —Booklist

Beneath My Mother’s Feat by Amjed Qamar, 2008. Growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Karachi, Pakistan, Nazia has always been a dutiful daughter. After eviction from their home, Nazia and her mother take positions as live-in servants in a wealthy Karachi suburb, and Nazia begins a life of labor, leaving school behind. With rich detail, Qamar’s heartrending novel explores the cultural and economic pressures facing a young girl in contemporary Pakistan. Qamar shows the surprising freedom and courage that can come with losing everything, and she creates in Nazia a courageous, fascinating character whose eye-opening life choices will inspire readers. Grades 7-10.

I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister by Amelie Sarn, 2016.  In France, 18-year-old Sohane—the “intelligent one,” and her 16-year-old sister, Djelila—the “beautiful one,” are as close and as opposite as can be. Since their family is Muslim, Sohane tries to dress modestly, follow the rules, respect her faith, and obey their parents while Djelila questions authority. In smooth translation from French to English, and in seamless chapters transitioning between present and past, this short, fast-paced, tragic story contrasting two clearly drawn Muslim sisters explores contemporary cultural and religious issues  Grade 7+.

My Name is Aram by William Saroyan, originally published 1940. William Saroyan’s most celebrated work of short fiction- a boy’s view of the American Dream. Aram Garoghlanian was a Californian, born in Fresno on the other side of the Southern Pacific tracks. But he was also part of a large, sprawling family of immigrant Armenians–a whole tribe of eccentric uncles, brawling cousins, and gentle women. Through these unforgettable, often hilarious characters Aram comes to understand life, courage, and the power of dreams.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, 2012. In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients — dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups — from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble.

AFGHANISTAN

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Kids of Kabul by Deborah Ellis, 2012. The author returned to Afghanistan in 2011 to find out how young people’s lives have changed since the Fall of the Taliban. Twenty-seven teens and preteens were interviewed and describe growing up in Afghanistan’s endless war, explain their current situations, and share their hopes for the future. Appropriate for grade 6 and above.

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The Fear of Beauty by Susan Froetschel, 2013. An Afghan mother learns to read from an aid worker soldier in order to learn the truth behind her son’s death. Multiple award recipient.

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Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan, 2010.. Set in 2001, this compelling story is based on real incidents. Jameela’s matter-of-fact, first-person narrative will awaken young readers to life and conditions in Afghanistan. The story is packed with Pushto words that may slow some readers, but a helpful glossary is included. Appropriate for grades 4-9.

51JNJwhOaVLA Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story by Qais Akbar Omar, 2013. This memoir describes growing up in the impossibly difficult conditions of Afghanistan in the 1980s and 90s.

prrsmnon treeUnder the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples, 2008. Najmah, a young girl’s, mother and newborn brother die in an air raid and her brother and father are conscripted by the Taliban. Alone, she meets with an American who teaches children under a persimmon tree and both work to leave the country. Appropriate for grades 7-12.

EGYPT

61C1UNO4kZL._SX386_BO1,204,203,200_Cleopatra Rules!: The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen by Vicky Alvear Schechter, 2013. Written in a breezy, informal style, this book has everything you have ever wanted to know about Cleopatra and the Egyptian/Roman world she inhabited. Appropriate for grades 6-9

ft3b69n847_coverAunt Safiyya & the Monastery by Bahaa’ Taher, 1996. This short novel tells the dramatic story of a young Muslim who, when his life is threatened, finds sanctuary in a community of Coptic monks. It is a tale of honor and of the terrible demands of blood vengeance; it probes the question of how a people or nation can become divided against itself. A free copy can be found here.

IRAN

51GUyqXquiL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_The Iranian Revolution by Brendan January, 2008. This book is part of the Pivotal Moments That Changed the World series, focusing on the Iranian revolution of 1979. Instead of succumbing to the “clash of civilizations” argument, it delves into the deeper causes of the Iranian revolution, and brings the story forward to describe how the forces that triggered the revolution continue to play out in the troubled relationship between the United States and Iran today. This book is a welcome entry to the corpus of research literature for grade 6 & up.

IRAQ

5185bNsE-XL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees by Deborah Ellis, 2010. This book provides an opportunity for students to read interviews with Iraqi refugee children and see how the war has affected their lives. Appropriate for grade 6 & up.

51ZGCMrsH-L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers, 2009.  Follows one Harlem United State Army recruit and his encounters with the Iraq people (civilian and not) during the Iraq War. Appropriate for grade 7 & up.

5178sSeyhYL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Iraq by Dale Lightfoot, 2006.One of the Modern World Issues series. The book gives an overview of Iraq’s geography, history, government, and economy. Colorful pictures and maps make it student-friendly.

61mMV3VfS7L._SX392_BO1,204,203,200_*Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq by Mark Alan Stamaty, 2010. A graphic novel telling the true story of a woman’s struggle to save the books in the Basra library during the 2003 war in Iraq. It’s a simple story, but the graphic novel style would appeal to some upper elementary and middle school readers.

PALESTINE/ISRAEL

41gnEZ6JNlL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_Tasting the Sky by Itbisam Barakat, 2007. This is a beautifully written book about her childhood as a Palestinian refugee. Young people can relate to her vivid tale of youth, family relationships, and overcoming adversity. Appropriate for grade 7 & above.

51idrT51DKLA Bottle in the Gaza Sea by Valerie Zenatti, 2008. When teen Tal Levine witnesses a bombing in Tel Aviv, she becomes despondent. Like so many people, she wants Israel and Palestine to live in peace. One day she puts her hopes into a letter, places the letter into a bottle, and gives it to her brother, asking him to toss it into the Gaza Sea. A young man in Gaza finds the bottle, and responds. He is critical, angry, annoyed at first, but eventually they both participate in a friendship that ultimately opens their eyes. Appropriate for grade 7 & up.

The Bat-Chen Diaries by Bat-Chen Shahak, 2014. In 1996, on her 15th birthday, Bat-Chen Shahak was killed by a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center. But the gifted teenager left behind a rich legacy of diaries, letters, poems and drawings. Following her death, her parents gathered her writings and created The Bat-Chen Diaries; this is the first English translation of her work. Appropriate for age 10 & up.

Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1999. A girl, Liyana, moves with her family to Palestine, a place that Liyana has never seen. Her friendship with Omer, a Jewish boy, helps her adjustment to a strange land, but the friendship is forbidden in a land torn by conflict. Appropriate for grade 7 & up.

Samir and Yonatan by Daniella Carmi, 2002. A Palestinian and an Israeli boy meet in a hospital. Appropriate for grade 7 & up.

SYRIA

A Hand Full of Stars by Rafik Schami, 2012. A Syrian teenager, long before the current troubles, learns that: “If you tell the truth in Syria, you must pay with your life.” Appropriate for grade 7 & up.

Damascus Nights by Rafik Schami, 2011. One of the city’s greatest storytellers is struck dumb, and his friends must tell him stories from myth, history and contemporary Syria to reawaken his tongue.

Book Recommendations for High School 9th-12th Grade

This list was compiled from a multitude of sources including outreach programs at the University of Arizona and the University of Portland, as well as the Middle East Outreach Council and independent research. MEOC book award recipients are noted with an *.  PA denotes a personal account or story based on actual experiences. Please note that there are overlaps across grade levels; estimated appropriate age and grade levels are listed for many texts; parents and teachers should use their best judgment and discretion when considering the use of a book. This information is provided as a convenience for teachers and others seeking out resources to expose young people to the region and its people. TME and MEPC do not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of these materials, nor does this list represent an endorsement of these materials or organizations that created them.

Some of the texts are dated but have been included for their underlying value and contribution to children’s literary material on the Middle East and Islam. We remain available to assist you in your search if there is a subject or country area not addressed within these lists.

NON-FICTION (GEOGRAPHY, HISTORY & REFERENCE)

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A History of Islam in America: From the New World to the New World Order by Kambiz Ghanea Bassiri, 2010. This is a unique and intelligent portrayal of a diverse religious community and its relationship with America. It will serve as a strong antidote to the current politicized dichotomy between Islam and the West, which has come to dominate the study of Muslims in America and further afield.

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Everyday Life in the Muslim Middle East edited by Donna Lee Bowen, Evelyn A. Early, Becky Schulthies, 2014. Readers will gain a grassroots appreciation of Middle East life, culture, and society that recognizes the impact of wars and uprisings as well as changes to Islamic practice due to advances in technology.

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Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History, ed. by Edward E. Curtis, IV, 2010. This illustrated two-volume encyclopedia includes some 300 articles covering historical and contemporary issues, events, people, court cases, themes, and activism relating to Muslim-American history. The reference also includes 50 original documents, a master chronology and an extensive bibliography.

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A History of the Muslim World to 1405: The Making of a Civilization by Vernon O. Egger, 2003. This book is written in a clear style, presents sophisticated themes, avoids clichés common in introductory works, and is accessible to the high school audience.

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Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really think by John Esposito & Dalia Mogahed, 2008. Post 9/11, this books offers insights to Muslims around the world and their beliefs to break down stereotypes.

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Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II by Norman H. Gershman, 2008. Real life accounts of Muslims who intervened during World War II in order to save the lives of Jews. This book contains photos of each individual interviewed and their word for word account of what happened.

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The Middle East and the Islamic World Reader (Revised and Expanded Edition) edited by Marvin E. Gettleman and Stuart Schaar, 2012. This collection of documents spans Islam and Middle Eastern history. (Over half the book is on 20th century conflicts and issues.)

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Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora by Sarah M. A. Gualtieri, 2009. Between Arab and White focuses on the first wave of Arab immigration and settlement in the United States in the years before World War II, but also continues the story up to the present.

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Women in the Middle East: Tradition and Change by Ramsay M. Harik and Elsa Marston, 2003. Similar to the book on teen life in the Middle East (see below), this book, published 12 years ago, precedes several important events, notably the Arab Spring. Nonetheless, this comprehensive look at Middle Eastern women and their struggle to balance tradition and modernity is a major contribution to resources on this topic of wide interest. Of particular note, the revised edition includes women in Afghanistan and women’s health.

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The Crusades: An Illustrated History by James Harpur. Subtitled “The two hundred years war, the clash between the cross and the crescent in the Middle East 1096-1291,” this book gives an overview of the Crusades.

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Strangers in the West: The Syrian Colony of New York City, 1880-1900 by Linda K. Jacobs, 2016. Strangers in the West is the story of the Arab immigrants who settled in New York City, beginning in 1880. Through exhaustive archival and demographic research, Dr. Jacobs has captured the identities of virtually every member of this 19th century community. 

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Encounters with the Middle East: True Stories of People and Culture That Help You Understand the Region by Nesreen Khashan and Jim Bowman, 2007. The book contains different (and readable) stories about Westerners’ encounters with the Middle East. PA.

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Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo by Murat Kurnaz, 2009. Details the wrongful imprisonment of one man in Guantanamo Bay Detainment Center and how he managed to prove his innocence.

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Islamic Societies to the Nineteenth Century: A Global History
 by Ira M. Lapidus, 2012. This book focuses on the organization of primary communities, religious groups, and states, and shows how they were transformed by their interactions with other societies. Its breadth, clarity, and thoughtful exposition will ensure its place in the classroom and beyond.

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Crusades: The Illustrated History by Thomas F. Madden, 2005. An important, richly illustrated account of the struggle between Christianity and Islam in the Near East, and an essential guide to understanding many modern-day conflicts, from the Balkans and Lebanon to Palestine and the War on Terror. Author has published numerous studies on the crusades.

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Teen Life in the Middle East edited by Ali Akbar Mahdi, 2003.  Though the region has faced numerous challenges in the more than 10 years since these profiles of daily life in the Middle East for teens was published, this compilation nonetheless offers insights into the interests, family and social lives, religious practices, and culture of teens in twelve profiled countries.

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Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore, 2011. How did this small, remote town become the Holy City, the “center of the world” and now the key to peace in the Middle East? In a gripping narrative, the author reveals this ever-changing city in its many incarnations, bringing every epoch and character blazingly to life.

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Becoming American: The Early Arab Immigrant Experience by Alixa Naff, 1993. This book describes the stories and experiences of immigrants from the Arab world to the United States.

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The Ottomans: Empire of Faith by Dr. David Nicolle, 2008.  A comprehensive history of the Ottoman Empire with maps and illustrations.

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The African and Middle Eastern World, 600-1500 by Randall L. Pouwels, 2005. This is a history of medieval Africa and the Middle East with beautiful photographs and maps.

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Historical Atlas of Islam by Malise Ruthven and Azim Nanji, 2004. This beautifully illustrated history of Islam provides a broad overview of the economic, social, political, and cultural history of the Islamic world from the birth of the Prophet Muhammad to the present. Brief essays address pivotal moments and movements and eras, and color maps and photographs effectively complement the text throughout.

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Mecca: The Sacred City by Ziauddin Sardar, 2014.  In this insighful book, the author unravels the meaning and significance of Mecca. Tracing its history, from its origins as a “barren valley” in the desert to its evolution as a trading town and sudden emergence as the religious center of a world empire, Sardar examines the religious struggles and rebellions in Mecca that have significantly shaped Muslim culture.

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The Middle East Today: Political, Geographical and Cultural Perspectives by Dona J. Stewart, 2012. S supplemented by a companion website containing sample chapters, a selection of maps formatted for use in presentations, and annotated links to online resources and websites, The Middle East Today is an essential resource for all students of Middle East Studies, Middle East politics and geography.

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Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World by Lilia Zaouali, 2007. This book gives a culinary history of the Islamic world and provides recipes.

RELIGION

51B8GcCncqL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Who Are the Christians in the Middle East? by Betty Jane Bailey  and J. Martin Bailey, 2010. The Middle East continues to dominate international news and global politics. From the perspective of religion, however, many Americans think of that area only in terms of Muslims and Israeli Jews and are unaware of the extensive Christian communities that still exist there. Who Are the Christians in the Middle East? chronicles the history and current state of Christianity in this highly volatile region of the world.

51baD1YaRiL._SX297_BO1,204,203,200_The Essential Koran translated and edited by Thomas Cleary, 1994. This is an introductory selection of readings from the Muslim holy book. This collection of readings from the Quran is designed to help non-Muslim Westerners approach this holy book through a selection of chapters and verses encapsulating some of its central ideas.

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What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam by John Esposito, 2011.  This brief and readable book remains the first place to look for up-to-date information on the faith, customs, and political beliefs of the more than one billion people who call themselves Muslims.

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Islam in the Modern World by Jefferey Kenney and Ebrahim Moosa, 2013. This comprehensive introduction provides broad overviews of the developments, events, people and movements that have defined Islam in the three majority-Muslim regions; traces the connections between traditional Islamic institutions and concerns, and their modern manifestations and transformations; investigates new themes and trends that are shaping the modern Muslim experience such as gender, fundamentalism, the media and secularization; and offers case studies of Muslims and Islam in dynamic interaction with different societies.

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Islam: Faith, Culture, and History by Paul Lunde, 2008. This accessible, layperson’s guide is an introductory overview of Islamic religion, history, and culture.

515z6dJ7jsL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs, and Rituals by George Robinson, 2016. This wonderfully detailed and newly updated reference book makes it easy to look up anything that one needs to know about Judaism. It may be a bit challenging for beginning-level students but very useful for advanced ones – or for teachers.

515TDC0i0CL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations by Michael Sells, 2007. This copy of the Muslim holy book comes with commentaries as well as an audio CD of Qur’an readings.

Literature

POETRY

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Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry edited by Hayan Charara, 2008. This collection brings together 39 Arab-American poets offering up 160 poems. These poems tackle a wide range of themes, including culture, politics, loss, art, and language itself.

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Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Selected Poems by Mahmoud Darwish, 2003. Considering Palestine’s “national poet”, Darwish won numerous awards for his literary output. This collection spans Darwish’s entire career, nearly four decades, revealing an impressive range of expression and form.

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The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology edited by Nathalie Handal, 2015. Uniting Arab women poets from all over the Arab world and across the diaspora, Nathalie Handal has put together an outstanding collection that introduces poets who write in Arabic, French, English, and Swedish, among them some of the twentieth century’s most accomplished poets and today’s most exciting new voices.

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Emails from Scheherazade by Mohja Kahf, 2003. This is a book of poetry describing the Arab American immigrant experience.

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Ismailia Eclipse by Khaled Mattawa, 1995. This is a collection of poems by a Libyan-American writer.

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The Flag of Childhood: Poems from the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye, 2002. In this stirring anthology of sixty poems from the Middle East, honored anthologist Naomi Shihab Nye welcomes us to this lush, vivid world and beckons us to explore. Eloquent pieces from Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, and elsewhere open windows into the hearts and souls of people we usually meet only on the nightly news.

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Nineteen Varieties of Gazelle by Naomi Shihab Nye, 2005. Naomi Shihab Nye has been writing about being Arab-American, about Jerusalem, about the West Bank, about family all her life. These new and collected poems of the Middle East — sixty in all — appear together here for the first time.

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The Space between Our Footsteps by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1999. In an unparalleled collection, honored anthologist Naomi Shihab Nye brings together the work of over 120 poets and artists from 19 countries in the Middle East. In turn compelling, lyrical, tragic and humorous, this rich anthology opens the door to the Middle East and beckons readers to explore our common ground. Full-color illustrations.

413N3VMHSYL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab-American Poetry edited by Gregory Orfalea and Sharif Elmusa, 1999. Twenty poets are represented in this collection, fifteen of them living, five of them women. They start with Ameen Rihani and Kahlil Gibran and include celebrated contemporaries who write in Arabic or English or both.

51G2quZM8iL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad edited and translated by Sholeh Wolpé, 2010. Farrokhzad was the most significant female Iranian poet of the twentieth century; She wrote with a sensuality and burgeoning political consciousness that pressed against the boundaries of what could be expressed by a woman in 1950s and 1960s Iran.

 

GRAPHIC NOVELS & COMIC BOOKS

611DTCgMKnL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Baddawi by Leila Abdelrazaq, 2015. Abdelrazaq’s father, Ahmad, grew up as a refugee in Lebanon after his family fled Palestine in the 1940s, dividing his time between Baddawi, a refugee camp, and war-torn Beirut. Here, the author depicts Ahmad’s childhood and teenage experiences, from the celebration of Ramadan to nighttime raids of the camp. The story builds on this mix of mundane, day-to-day moments and singular, devastating events to create a picture of the life and struggles of a Palestinian refugee. Abdelrazaq’s black-and-white drawings are evocative, and Ahmad’s tale serves as a solid foundation for an exploration of a part of the Palestinian experience in the second half of the 20th century. A glossary provides some context, defining Arab words and explaining key political players and places. VERDICT: A student-friendly introduction to the conflicts in the Middle East. – School Library Journal.  Appropriate for grade 7 & up.

61VINU7rkIL._SX356_BO1,204,203,200_A Game for Swallows: to Die, to Live, to Return by Zeina Abirached, 2012. This graphic novel chronicles the experiences of Zeina and her younger brother during the Lebanese Civil War. Appropriate for grade 6 & up, younger depending on maturity.

51rdLXdVM+L._SX356_BO1,204,203,200_I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached, 2014. In this sequel, Abirached explores her childhood in Beirut as fighting between Christians and Muslims divided the city streets. Follow her past cars riddled with bullet holes, into taxi cabs that travel where buses refuse to go, and on outings to collect shrapnel from the sidewalk. With striking black-and-white artwork, Abirached recalls the details of ordinary life inside a war zone.

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A Child in Palestine by Naji al-Ali, 2009. These satirical cartoons criticize the Israeli occupation, corruption of the regimes in the region, and the suffering of the Palestinian people using the well-known Handala character.

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The 99 by Naif Al-Mutawa, 2007. This comic book features a team of superheroes based on Islamic culture and religion. Now in their 10th year, Al-Mutawa’s comic books have their own fleet of superheroes: an all-Islamic cast gifted with special powers embodying the 99 attributes of Allah – such as generosity, wisdom and strength – that are named in the Koran. Issues can be purchased through Al-Mutawa’s website at http://www.al-mutawa.com/. Read more about the unique position the creator holds as a result of his work: loathed by some, and lauded by others in this recent article.

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Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and Khalil, 2011. Zahra’s Paradise is a graphic novel set in Iran after the elections of 2009 in what is known as the Green Movement. It brings together fiction and real people and events and has been compared with Persepolis.

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The Jerusalem Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle, 2012. This graphic novel explores the complexities of a city that represents so much to so many. It eloquently examines the impact of conflict on the lives of people on both sides of the wall while drolly recounting the quotidian: checkpoints, traffic jams, and holidays.

51Za2MM2XzL51yHQyRCMDLBest of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, Part I (1783-1953) and Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, Part II (1953-1984)  by Jean-Pierre Filiu (author), David B. (author, illustrator), 2012 and 2014. In Part I, the reader is transported to the pirate-choked Mediterranean sea, where Christians and Muslims continue the crusades, only this time on water. As the centuries pass, the traditional victims of the Muslim pirates–the British, French, and Spanish–all become empire-building powers whose sights lie beyond the Mediterranean. Part II  takes us from Eisenhower’s presidency of the 50s to the Lebanese War of 1982, covering such world-changing events as the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

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Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story by Ari Folman and David Polonski, 2009. This graphic novel is based on the award-winning movie, a reconstruction of a soldier’s experience during Israel’s war in Lebanon.

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How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden, 2011. This graphic novel is a true account of the Jewish author’s “birthright” tour of Israel and her attempt to understand the complex history of the nation. It does a good job of unpacking assumptions and generalizations. PA.

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The Photographer by Didier Lefevre and Emmanuel Guibert, 2009. Part photojournalism and part graphic memoir, The Photographer tells the story of a 1986 Doctors Without Borders mission which traveled into northern Afghanistan by horse and donkey train at the height of the Soviet occupation.

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jobnik! by Miriam Libicki (author, illustrator), 2008. Miriam Libicki, an American Jewish girl from a religious home, enlists in the Israeli Army one summer against everyone’s better judgment. Many qualities seem to make her unsuited for IDF life: her Hebrew isn’t great, she is shy and passive, and she has a tendency to fall in love with anything that moves. If that weren’t enough, the Al Aqsa uprising erupts a few weeks after she is stationed as a secretary in a remote Negev base.

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Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan, 2008. In this graphic novel, a young Israeli man searches for his father, who may or may not have been killed in a suicide bombing attack.

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Baghdad Journal: An Artist in Occupied Iraq by Steve Mumford, 2005. In this graphic novel, the artist documents the everyday scenes of Iraq in watercolors and drawings painting a human side of the war. Mumford draws and paints daily activities of American platoons and Baghdad residents.

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Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco, 2010. This is a journalistic graphic novel of an Israeli massacre in the Palestinian town of Rafah during the Suez War and life in Gaza today.

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Palestine by Joe Sacco, 2001. In this graphic novel, Joe Sacco writes about his 1991-92 experiences, emphasizing the history of Palestine, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1991.

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The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Safr, 2007. Rich with the colors, textures, and flavors of Algeria’s Jewish community, The Rabbi’s Cat brings a lost world vibrantly to life–a time and place where Jews and Arabs coexisted–and peoples it with endearing and thoroughly human characters, and one truly unforgettable cat. Sfar’s artwork looks as mangy and unkempt as the cat, with contorted figures and scribbly lines everywhere, but there’s a poetic magic to it that perfectly captures this cat’s-eye view of human culture and faith. The stories tell much about Jewish life in the 1930s, both in the initial setting of Algeria and in Paris. A sequel is also available. Appropriate for grade 9 and above.

51mASzxex8L._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_51M3JG3NEAL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_Persepolis I & Persepolis II by Marjane Satrapi, 2004 and 2005 respectively. A combined volume was released in 2007. The two-volume memoir in graphic novel style describes the author’s childhood during the Iranian Revolution, her schooling abroad during the Iran-Iraq War, and eventual return to her homeland. Note: She describes a sexual encounter in book 2. **See the acclaimed animated film version (in the Multi-Media section below). PA.

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The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir by Riad Sattouf, 2015. In striking, virtuoso graphic style that captures both the immediacy of childhood and the fervor of political idealism, Riad Sattouf recounts his nomadic childhood growing up in rural France, Gaddafi’s Libya, and Assad’s Syria–but always under the roof of his father, a Syrian Pan-Arabist who drags his family along in his pursuit of grandiose dreams for the Arab nation. Graphic novel, personal account. 

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Rise: The Story of the Egyptian Revolution as Written Shortly Before It Began by Tarek Shahin, 2011. Known as Al-Khan, this series began its original run in The Daily News Egypt in May 2008. In its first three series, it tracks the events following the return of Omar Shukri to his hometown of Cairo, Egypt, having left his banking job in London. Those years would prove to be the lead up to what became the momentous Tahrir Square protests in 2011.

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Habibi by Craig Thompson, 2011. Set in a fictional Islamic fairytale landscape, this graphic novel tells a story that extends across ancient Middle Eastern geographies, religions, mythologies, and migrations—containing both Arab and Christian ¬histories—to tell about Dodola, a runaway child bride, and Zam, the orphan she rescues in the slave market where they first meet. Note: contains mature content (nudity).

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Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon, 2008. This graphic novel is based on the true story of a group of lions that escaped from the Baghdad zoo during the American bombing in 2003. It asks questions about liberty: whether it can be given or must be earned, whether it is better to die free or live in captivity.

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Cairo by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker, 2008.  This graphic novel is a modern fable set on the streets of the Egypt. A stolen hookah and a genie change the lives of five strangers forever.

51E1eszqrULMs. Marvel Comic 308263._SX360_QL80_TTD_Book Series by G. Willow Wilson (author) and multiple illustrators, series introduced 2014. Marvel Comics presents the new Ms. Marvel, the groundbreaking heroine that has become an international sensation! Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City – until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. Embark on adventures with this Muslim American teenager superheroine.

Literature Categorized by Country

FICTION: GENERAL/MUSLIM COUNTRIES/MULTIPLE COUNTRIES

baklThe Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber, 2006. This coming of age story explores the cultural tensions faced by a young Jordanian-American girl and her family. Food plays a central role, which could provide an opportunity for global culinary exploration in the classroom and beyond.

51WciEx0YhL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Girl Who Fell to Earth by Sophia Al-Maria, 2012. With poignancy and humor, Al-Maria shares the struggles of being raised by an American mother and Bedouin father while shuttling between homes in the Pacific Northwest and the Middle East. Part family saga and part personal quest, The Girl Who Fell to Earth traces Al-Maria’s journey to make a place for herself in two different worlds. Memoir.

drinaThe Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric, 1977. This internationally-acclaimed Bosnian novel describes (as a series of short stories set in different time periods) a small town in Bosnia during the years of Ottoman rule. A teacher can easily use one or two stories, rather than the whole novel.

granGranada by Radwa Ashour, 2003. A novel of life in the mixed culture that existed in Southern Spain before the expulsion of Arabs and Jews, following the life of Abu Jaafar, the bookbinder, and his family as they witness Christopher Columbus’ triumphant parade through the streets.

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Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian, 2002. Although the book is a work of fiction, it is based on the true experiences of the author’s great-uncle, who was an Armenian teenager during the genocide of 1915.

pplbkPeople of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, 2008. This novel is inspired by a true story of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a medieval Jewish holy book, which had been rescued during the several Bosnian wars. As a book expert validates the authenticity of the manuscript, the reader is taken on a journey through the book’s past from medieval Morocco and Spain through Italy and Bosnia.

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The Anchor Book of Modern Arabic Fiction edited by Denys Johnson-Davies, 2006. This dazzling anthology features the work of seventy-nine outstanding writers from all over the Arab-speaking world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, Syria in the north to Sudan in the south.

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Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up in America by Firoozeh Dumas, 2004. Dumas also documents her first year as a new mother, the experience of taking fifty-one family members on a birthday cruise to Alaska, and a road trip to Iowa with an American once held hostage in Iran. Personal account.

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Modern Arabic Fiction: An Anthology by Salma Khadra Jayyusi, 2008. Beginning with the late-nineteenth-century cultural resurgence and continuing through the present day, short stories and novels have given voice to the personal and historical experiences of modern Arabs. This anthology offers a rich and diverse selection of works from more than one hundred and forty prominent Arab writers of fiction.

51sw-BOeNxLThe Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf, 2006. This novel tells about a Syrian Muslim girl growing up and entering adulthood in Indiana, “exploring the fault lines between ‘Muslim’ and ‘American.’

memedhawkMemed, My Hawk by Yashar Kemal, 2005. A Robin Hood-esque story about a boy who escapes the virtual slavery of his mountain village landlord to join a roving brigade and work to free his people.

41HJRWMBEML._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_On the Other Side of Mount Ararat: A Story of a Vanished city by Mariam Manoukian and Elize Manoukian, 2005. A girl grows up in the last days of the Ottoman Empire and experiences the Armenian genocide.

citiessaltCities of Salt by Abdelrahman Munif, 1999. Follows the American colonization of a gulf oil well city and their struggles navigating in a new world with Western influences while maintaining their own culture. Banned in Saudi Arabia.

51DHXE3LNTLThe Day of the Pelican by Katherine Peterson, 2010. Author of several children’s classics, Katherine Paterson received the 2013 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for this work story about a Kosovar Albanian Muslim refugee family that must adjust to life in the U.S. They find their courage tested by hunger, illness, the long, arduous journey, and danger on every side. The events of 9/11 bring more challenges for this Muslim family–but this country is their home now and there can be no turning back.

51UUP2CxQYLEvery Man in this Village Is a Liar: An Education in War by Megan K. Stack, 2011. A reporter describes her experiences covering Middle Eastern wars. Personal account/memoir.

By Country

AFGHANISTAN

515eWfwto3LWhen the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi, 2015. When her husband is killed by Taliban members, Fereiba is forced to flee Kabul with her three children. The family manages to get as far as Greece, but their fate takes a frightening turn when teenager, Saleem, becomes separated from the others. Fereiba pushes on with her daughter and baby, while Saleem falls into the shadowy underground network of undocumented Afghans on the streets of Europe’s capitals. Mother and son struggle to reunite. This vivid tale of the migrant experience is especially relevant during the current refugee crisis.

51KRWLMRu+L._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, 2004. “This powerful first novel…tells the story of fierce cruelty and fierce yet redeeming love. Both transform the life of Amir, Khaled Hosseini’s privileged young narrator, who comes of age during the last peaceful days of the monarchy, just before his country’s revolution and its invasion by Russian forces. But political events, even as dramatic as the ones that are presented in The Kite Runner, are only a part of this story. In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini gives us a vivid and engaging story that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence—forces that continue to threaten them even today.” – NYT Book Review.

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A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, 2008. This popular fiction details the lives of two wives of Rasheed who are the epitome of abused women, but who become friends and overcome the ultimate brutality with the ultimate sacrifice.

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The Photographer by Didier Lefevre and Emmanuel Guibert, 2009. Part photojournalism and part graphic memoir, The Photographer tells the story of a 1986 Doctors Without Borders mission which traveled into northern Afghanistan by horse and donkey train at the height of the Soviet occupation.

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A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story by Qais Akbar Omar, 2013. This memoir describes growing up in the impossibly difficult conditions of Afghanistan in the 1980s and 90s. PA.

ALGERIA

41hOBkOVXjL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_The First Man by Albert Camus, 1995. This final work by the Nobel Prize-winning author, unpublished until 1995, is an autobiographical novel set in Algeria, where Camus spent his early years. Published thirty-five years after its discovery amid the wreckage of the car accident that killed Camus.

51WNTZVHY3L._SX286_BO1,204,203,200_Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade by Assia Djebar, 1993. In this stunning novel, Assia Djebar intertwines the history of her native Algeria with episodes from the life of a young girl in a story stretching from the French conquest in 1830 to the War of Liberation of the 1950s.

41SvAe+vvcL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_The Compassionate Warrior: Abd El-Kader of Algeria by Elsa Marston, 2013. This is an account of a 19th century Algerian freedom fighter, Abd el-Kader, who won respect in the West for his humanitarian values and compassionate policies during the struggle against French colonialism.

41Ei4TmusiL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Algerine Captive by Royall Tyler, 2012. Originally published anonymously in 1797, it tells the tale of fictitious Boston native Dr. Updike Underhill, his capture by Barbary pirates, and their efforts to convert him to their Muslim faith. Written in an entertaining and satiric style that predated Mark Twain, Tyler’s novel reveals his patriotic pride and anti-slavery beliefs. His comments on the religious and cultural divide between Western and Islamic beliefs of the day still resonate today.

EGYPT

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I Want to Get Married: One Wannabe Bride’s Misadventures with Handsome Houdinis, Technicolor Grooms, Morality Police, and Other Mr. Not Quite Rights by Ghada Abdel Aal, 2010. This work is based on a young Egyptian woman’s humorous blog about her adventures in “dating.”

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The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany, 2006. The controversial bestselling novel in the Arab world reveals the political corruption, sexual repression, religious extremism, and modern hopes of Egypt today found all in one building.

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War in the Land of Egypt by Yusuf Al-Qa’id, 1997. In Egypt on the eve of the 1973 October war, a young man has been drafted into the army. His father, the village elder, persuades a poor night-watchman to send his own son as a stand-in but the impersonation plan goes horribly wrong, with tragicomic results.

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Rebels by Accident by Patricia Dunn, 2014. “A powerful coming-of-age story set on the brink of Egypt’s January 25 Revolution in 2011… Dunn allows Mariam’s voice its space-making it tentative, passionate, doubting, and utterly believable-while creating a cast of Cairo youth, rebels, and expatriates that upend Mariam’s preconceptions and will do the same for many readers.” – Publishers Weekly. Age 12 and up.

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The Illustrator’s Notebook by Mohieddine Ellabbad, 2006. The book is an award-winning autobiography (with photographs and drawings) of an Egyptian illustrator focusing on his art and how art is connected with his personal experience and the broader context of Egypt’s history. Personal account.

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Homecoming: Sixty Years of Egyptian Short Stories by Denys Johnson-Davies, 2014. This prolific translator brings together this remarkable overview of his translations of several generations of Egypt’s leading short story writers.

Others

Cairo by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker, 2008. This graphic novel is a modern fable set on the streets of the Egypt. A stolen hookah and a genie change the lives of five strangers forever. Graphic novel

Metro: A Story of Cairo by Magdy El Shafee, 2012. “For proof of the power of comics, look no further than Metro… It is not hard to see why the dictatorship was alarmed by the novel. In a deft black-and-white portrait of Cairo and its neighborhoods, a thriller unfolds along the metro system, giving a powerful insight into why the revolution took place.” ?Newsweek. Graphic novel. 

Naguib Mahfouz was an Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature. He published over 50 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie scripts, and five plays over a 70-year career. Many of his works have been made into Egyptian and foreign films. Here are a few of the author’s works:

  • The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street (2001) –  Naguib Mahfouz’s magnificent epic trilogy of colonial Egypt tells the engrossing story of a Muslim family in Cairo during Britain’s occupation of Egypt in the early decades of the twentieth century.

  • Children of the Alley (1996) – The tumultuous “alley” of this rich and intricate novel (first published in Arabic in 1959) tells the story of a delightful Egyptian family, but also reveals a second, hidden, and daring narrative: the spiritual history of humankind. From the supreme feudal lord who disowns one son for diabolical pride and puts another to the test, to the savior of a succeeding generation who frees his people from bondage, we find the men and women of a modern Cairo neighborhood unwittingly reenacting the lives of their holy ancestors: the “children of the alley.”

  • The Day the Leader was Killed (2000) – Set during al-Sadat’s presidency, this story follows the ironic events of a family, narrated by both the pious and mischievous patriarch and his hapless grandson.

Women of Egypt by Jehan Sadat, 1989. The wife of President Sadat’s autobiography about how she defined cultural expectations for women by marrying the man of her choice and taking up a political life in advocacy. Memoir.

IRAN

51fCg3PlvBL._SX378_BO1,204,203,200_Picturing Iran: Art, Society and Revolution ed. by Shiva Balaghi and Lynn Gumpert, 2003. A book showing modern Iranian visual culture of the 1960s and 1970s (just before and during the revolution). Some of the posters shown in the book would be useful in helping students to understand the reasons behind the revolution.

31eY+89PGrL._BO1,204,203,200_The Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings by Abolqasem Ferdowsi; translated by Dick Davis, 2007. Among the greatest works of world literature, this prodigious narrative, composed by the poet Ferdowsi in the late tenth century, tells the story of pre-Islamic Iran, beginning in the mythic time of creation and continuing forward to the Arab invasion in the seventh century.

51ddZQHA2sL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The Essential Rumi, New Expanded Edition by Jalal al-Din Rumi (author), Coleman Barks (translator), John Moyne (translator), 2004. This collection by the great 13th century Persian poet includes a new introduction by Coleman Barks and more than 80 never-before-published poems. Through his lyrical translations, Coleman Barks has been instrumental in bringing this exquisite literature to a remarkably wide range of readers, making the ecstatic, spiritual poetry of Sufi Mystic Rumi more popular than ever.

41268G4J0QL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran by Roya Hakakian, 2005. Roya Hakakian recalls her childhood and adolescence in pre-revolutionary Iran with candor and verve. The result is a beautifully written coming-of-age story about one deeply intelligent and perceptive girl’s attempt to find an authentic voice of her own at a time of cultural closing and repression.

41-IZa7lQAL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Iran: Opposing Viewpoints ed. by David Haugen, 2010.  The collection of articles offers many different perspectives on modern Iran. The book addresses such issues as whether Iran is a threat to global security, how the U.S. should respond to Iran, and the status of human rights. (The purpose is to show students different sides of the same issue.)

51D8vfhW3pLRooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji, 2008. Told from the perspective of a 17-year-old boy during the summer of 1973, Rooftops of Tehran is the coming-of-age story of Pasha who pines over the girl next door who is already promised to another.

Others

Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and Khalil, 2011. Zahra’s Paradise is a graphic novel set in Iran after the elections of 2009. It brings together fiction and real people and events and has been compared with Persepolis. Graphic novel.

Equal Rights Is Our Minimum Demand: The Women’s Rights Movement in Iran by Diana Childress, 2005. This well-written account of the women’s rights movement in Iran covers developments in 2005 but also provides an overview of women’s life throughout the history of modern Iran.

Persepolis and Persepolis II by Marjane Satrapi, 2004 and 2005 respectively. A combined volume was released in 2007. The two-volume memoir in graphic novel style describes the author’s childhood during the Iranian Revolution, her schooling abroad during the Iran-Iraq War, and eventual return to her homeland. Note: She describes a sexual encounter in book 2. Personal account and graphic novel.

IRAQ

51pQgGq4bsL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_Escape from Saddam: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Journey to Freedom by Lewis Alsamari, 2009.The story of Alsamari fleeing from Iraq to avoid being conscripted to Saddam’s army at the age of 16 and the struggles he faced as a result.

husseinbioSaddam Hussein: A Biography by Shiva Balaghi, 2005. This biography “traces Saddam Hussein’s life from his childhood in Tikrit until his capture by US troops in April of 2003. The author attempts to show how lessons learned from Saddam’s difficult childhood would later be applied to his understanding of Ba’thism, pan-Arabism, and method of rule.” – Middle East Journal

51rICAV08kL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village by Elizabeth Fernea, 1995. A delightful, well-written, and vastly informative ethnographic study, this is an account of Fernea’s two-year stay in a tiny rural village in Iraq, where she assumed the dress and sheltered life of a harem woman.

41Zza0l4o0L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea by Dunya Mikhail, 2009. An impressionistic memoir by the award-winning Iraqi-American writer, Dunya Mikhail, Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea covers her earliest sensations of childhood to a more complicated grasp of death, beginning with the death of her father to the Gulf War and the subsequent Iraqi War.

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Contemporary Iraqi Fiction by Shakir Mustaf, 2008. The first collection of contemporary Iraqi writers’ short stories in the West.

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Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq by Riverbend, 2005. In August 2003, the world gained access to a remarkable new voice: a blog written by a 25-year-old Iraqi woman living in Baghdad, whose identity remained concealed for her own protection. Calling herself Riverbend, she offered searing eyewitness accounts of the everyday realities on the ground, punctuated by astute analysis on the politics behind these events.

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The Clandestine Diary of an Ordinary Iraqi by Salam Pax, 2003. Salam Pax has attracted a huge worldwide readership for the Internet diary he kept during the buildup, prosecution, and aftermath of the war in Iraq. Bringing his incisive and sharply funny Web postings together in print for the first time, Salam Pax provides one of the most gripping accounts of the Iraq conflict and will be the subject of global media attention.

Others

Baghdad Journal: An Artist in Occupied Iraq by Steve Mumford, 2005. In this graphic novel, the artist documents the everyday scenes of Iraq in watercolors and drawings painting a human side of the war. Mumford draws and paints daily activities of American platoons and Baghdad residents. Graphic novel.

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon, 2008. This graphic novel is based on the true story of a group of lions that escaped from the Baghdad zoo during the American bombing in 2003. It asks questions about liberty: whether it can be given or must be earned, whether it is better to die free or live in captivity. Graphic novel.

Thura’s Diary: My Life in Wartime Iraq by Thura Al-Windawn, 2004. During the Iraq War, Thura kept a diary as a way to cope with the chaos. Reminiscent of Anne Frank, her diary chronicles the daily issues of war Iraqis faced. Appropriate for grade 6 & up. Personal account.

JORDAN

abdOur Last Best Chance: A Story of War and Peace by King Abdullah II, 2012. Jordan’s beloved leader makes an urgent plea to push for a solution to the Arab-Israeli crisis. He writes with frankness about his own upbringing and warns of the brewing resentment in the region. A call to arms, Our Last Best Chance helps explain the volatile underpinnings of the Arab Spring. Personal account.

jorWest of the Jordan by Laila Halaby, 2003. Through the narratives of four cousins at the brink of maturity, Laila Halaby immerses her readers in the lives, friendships, and loves of girls struggling with national, ethnic, and sexual identities.

Other

Diana Abu-Jaber is an Arab-American novelist & memoirist who often writes specifically of the Jordanian immigrant and 2nd generation immigrant experience in America. Her works include The Language of Baklava, Arabian Jazz, Birds of Paradise and Crescent. 

LEBANON

bnightBeirut Nightmares by Ghada Samman, 2010. Beirut Nightmares is set at the height of the Lebanese Civil War. The narrator, trapped in her apartment for two weeks by street battles and sniper fire, writes a series of vignettes peopled by an extraordinary cast of characters, some drawn from shocking waking world and others living only in the sleeping minds, of those suffering in the conflict.

Others

A Game for Swallows: to Die, to Live, to Return by Zeina Abirached, 2012. This graphic novel chronicles the experiences of Zeina and her younger brother during the Lebanese Civil War. Appropriate for grade 6 & up, younger depending on maturity. Graphic novel.

Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story by Ari Folman and David Polonski, 2009. This graphic novel is based on the award-winning movie, a reconstruction of a soldier’s experience during Israel’s war in Lebanon. Graphic novel.

LIBYA

41-HVtJqQNL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The Bleeding of the Stone by Ibrahim Al-Koni, 2002. This is a story of a bedouin living in the desert and his struggle to evade two foreign hunters seeking a rare wild sheep in order to preserve his culture.

countryIn the Country of Men by Hisham Matar, 2006. Short-listed for the 2006 Booker Prize, Hisham Matar’s beautifully crafted retrospective recounts Muammar el-Qaddafi’s brutal Libyan regime through a child’s eyes.

Other

The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir by Riad Sattouf, 2015. In striking, virtuoso graphic style that captures both the immediacy of childhood and the fervor of political idealism, Riad Sattouf recounts his nomadic childhood growing up in rural France, Gaddafi’s Libya, and Assad’s Syria–but always under the roof of his father, a Syrian Pan-Arabist who drags his family along in his pursuit of grandiose dreams for the Arab nation. Graphic novel, personal account. 

MOROCCO

elephYear of the Elephant: A Moroccan woman’s Journey Toward Independence by Leila Abouzeid, 1989. Revised 2009. A collection of short stories that serve as an eloquent representation of life in the wake of Morocco’s successful struggle for independence from French occupation.

blindingThis Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun, 2006. Crafting real life events into narrative fiction, Ben Jelloun reveals the horrific story of the desert concentration camps in which King Hassan II of Morocco held his political enemies in underground cells with no light and only enough food and water to keep them lingering on the edge of death. Working closely with one of the survivors, Ben Jelloun narrates the story in the simplest of language and delivers a shocking novel that explores both the limitlessness of inhumanity and the impossible endurance of the human will.

breadFor Bread Alone by Mohamed Choukri with Paul Bowles, 1973. Driven by famine from their home in the Rif mountains, Mohamed’s family walks to Tangiers in search of a better life. But his father is unable to find work and grows violent. Mohamed learns how to charm and steal. During a short spell in a filthy Moroccan jail, a fellow inmate kindles Mohamed’s life-altering love of poetry.

lalamiHope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Leila Lalami, 2005. This exciting debut evokes the grit and enduring grace that is modern Morocco and offers an authentic look at the Muslim immigrant experience today, chronicling four Moroccans illegally crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in an inflatable boat headed for Spain.

Others

The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami, 2014. A Pulitzer Prize Finalist, New York Times Notable Book, and Wall Street Journal Top 10 Book of the Year, among other honors. In this stunning work of historical fiction, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America—a Moroccan slave whose testimony was left out of the official record.

Return to Childhood: The Memoir of a Modern Moroccan Woman by Leila Abouzeid, 1993. This is the memoir of a woman growing up during the time of Morocco’s struggle for independence.

PALESTINE/ISRAEL

Palestine ApartheidPalestine: Peace not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter, 2007. Jimmy Carter’s assessment of what needs to be done to bring peace permanently to the Middle East.

men in the sunMen in the Sun by Ghassan Kanafani, 1999. This is a collection of Palestinian short stories.

The Bus Driver who Wanted to be God by Etgar Keret, 2004. Brief, intense, painfully funny, and shockingly honest, Keret’s stories are snapshots that illuminate with intelligence and wit the hidden truths of life. As with the best comic authors, hilarity and anguish are the twin pillars of his work. Keret covers a remarkable emotional and narrative terrain-from a father’s first lesson to his boy to a standoff between soldiers caught in the Middle East conflict to a slice of life where nothing much happens.

The Attack by Yasmina Khadra, 2007. Dr. Amin Jaafari is an Arab-Israeli surgeon at a hospital in Tel Aviv. As an admired and respected member of his community, he has carved a space for himself and his wife, Sihem, at the crossroads of two troubled societies. Jaafari’s world is abruptly shattered when Sihem is killed in a suicide bombing. As evidence mounts that Sihem could have been responsible for the catastrophic bombing, Jaafari begins a tortured search for answers.

Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh, 2003. A chronicle of living in the Israel-occupied West Bank.

The Panther in the Basement by Amos Oz, 1997.  Proffy, a twelve-year-old living in Palestine in 1947. When Proffy befriends a member of the occupying British forces who shares his love of language and the Bible, he is accused of treason by his friends and learns the true nature of loyalty and betrayal.

We Just Want to Live Here by Amal Rifa’l, Odelia Ainbinder, 2003. A Palestinian and an Israeli teenager, who met in an exchange program overseas, write to each other about their lives and the tragic conflict in their country. PA.

The Lemon Tree: an Arab, a Jew, and the Heart if the Middle East by Sandy Tolan, 2007. In 1967, Bashir Al-Khayri, a Palestinian twenty-five-year-old, journeyed to Israel, with the goal of seeing the beloved old stone house, with the lemon tree behind it, that he and his family had fled nineteen years earlier. To his surprise, when he found the house he was greeted by Dalia Ashkenazi Landau, a nineteen-year-old Israeli college student, whose family fled Europe for Israel following the Holocaust. On the stoop of their shared home, Dalia and Bashir began a rare friendship, forged in the aftermath of war and tested over the next thirty-five years in ways that neither could imagine on that summer day in 1967.

Behind the Wall: Life, Love, and Struggle in Palestine by Rich Wiles and Ali Abunimah, 2010. This book is a collection of interviews and photos with Palestinians in the West Bank’s refugee camps.

When I Was a Soldier by Valerie Zenatti, 2007. This memoir describes a teenage Israeli girl’s required two years of service in the military. PA.

Others

A Child in Palestine by Naji al-Ali, 2009. These satirical cartoons criticize the Israeli occupation, corruption of the regimes in the region, and the suffering of the Palestinian people. Graphic novel.

Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan, 2008. In this graphic novel, a young Israeli man searches for his father, who may or may not have been killed in a suicide bombing attack. Graphic novel.

Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco, 2010. Details one incident in 1957 in Rafah in the Gaza Strip in which 111 Palestinians were killed, but what is for most of us just a footnote in history. Graphic novel.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden, 2011. This graphic novel is a true account of the Jewish author’s “birthright” tour of Israel and her attempt to understand the complex history of the nation. Graphic novel.

Palestine by Joe Sacco, 2001. In this graphic novel, Joe Sacco writes about his 1991-92 experiences, emphasizing the history of Palestine, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1991. Graphic novel.

SAUDI ARABIA

A Brief History of Saudi Arabia by James Wynbrandt, 2010. In recent years, Saudi Arabic has experienced changes that have both altered the internal structure of the country and affected its foreign relations. This book manages to steer an even course through a subject that is often treated with skepticism or defensiveness.

Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea, 2008. Boldly addresses the hidden lives of Saudi Arabian young women in contemporary society.

Others

On Saudi Arabia by Karen Elliott House, 2013: Through anecdotes, observation, analysis, and extensive interviews, Karen Elliott House navigates the maze in which Saudi citizens find themselves trapped and reveals the sometimes contradictory nature of the nation that is simultaneously a final bulwark against revolution in the Middle East and a wellspring of Islamic terrorists.

 

SYRIA

The Waiting Room by Sarah Glidden, 2011. Written in a documentary style, Sarah Glidden’s 20- page cartoon account tells of Syria’s displaced Iraqis, the largest urban refugee population ever. Online at Cartoon Movement: http://www.cartoonmovement.com/comic/10

Others

The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf, 2006. This novel tells about a Syrian Muslim girl growing up and entering adulthood in Indiana, “exploring the fault lines between ‘Muslim’ and ‘American.’

TURKEY

Snow by Orhan Pamuk, 2005. An exiled poet named Ka returns to Turkey and travels to the forlorn city of Kars. His ostensible purpose is to report on a wave of suicides among religious girls forbidden to wear their head-scarves. But Ka is also drawn by his memories of the radiant Ipek, now recently divorced. Amid blanketing snowfall and universal suspicion, Ka finds himself pursued by figures ranging from Ipek’s ex-husband to a charismatic terrorist.

The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak, 2008. Populated with vibrant characters, The Bastard of Istanbul is the story of two families, one Turkish and one Armenian American, and their struggle to forge their unique identities against the backdrop of Turkey’s violent history.

Others

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, 1998.  A transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, from one of the most prominent contemporary Turkish writers.

 

YEMEN

From the Land of Sheba: Yemeni Folktales by Carolyn Han, 2005.  The fabled past is ever present in Yemen, and stories are told about events that happened long, long ago-as if they happened only yesterday. From the Land of Sheba brings a rich assortment of folktales from this ancient land.

Others

The Hostage by Zayd Muti Dammaj, 1994. The cultural anachronism that was the Imamate of Yemen is artfully captured in The Hostage. Set in the 1940s, the novel depicts a brutal, closed society through the eyes of a boy taken hostage and held in the governor’s palace to ensure his clan’s loyalty. Employed as a duwaydar, or general servant, he observes the whole range of a social order hardly touched by modernity and falls in love with the governor’s sister, the bewitching Sharifa Hafsa. As his friend, the “handsome duyaydar,” is slowly dying of tuberculosis, he himself is infected with the corruption of the palace and is on the verge of being consumed. At times reminiscent of Abdelrahman Munif’s “Cities of Salt” trilogy, Dammaj’s work vibrantly portrays a real Yemen that is still unknown to many Westerners, even as it is once again torn by revolution. Paul E. Hutchison

Non-Fiction Reading List for Advanced Readers

ARAB-ISRAELI BY AUTHOR

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Gaza Unsilenced by Refaat Alareer (Editor), Laila El-Haddad (Editor), 2015. During and after Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, voices within and outside Gaza bore powerful witness to the Israeli attacks.

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I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti , Edward W. Said (Foreward), Ahdaf Soueif (Translator), 2013. (PA)

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O Jerusalem by Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre, 1988.

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The Israel-Palestine Conflict, One Hundred Years of War, (3rd ed) by James L. Gelvin, 2014.

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The Arab-Israeli Wars by Chaim Herzog, 2005.

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The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, (7th ed.) by Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin, 2008. A collection of primary source documents dating from 1882 into the 21st century.

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The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History by David W. Lesch, 2007.

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The Israel/Palestine Question: A Reader edited by Ilan Pappe, 2007

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The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948 by Eugene L. Rogan and Avi Shlaim. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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The Transformation of Palestinian Politics: From Revolution to State-Building by Barry Rubin, 2001.

hisis

A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, (3rd ed.) by Howard Sachar, 2013.

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Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents, (8th ed.) by Charles D. Smith, Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012.

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Living Palestine: Family Survival, Resistance, and Mobility under Occupation edited by Lisa Taraki, 2006.

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A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, (2nd ed.) by Mark Tessler, 2009. 

ARAB REVOLUTIONS BY AUTHOR

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Arab Revolutions and World Transformations edited by Anna M. Agathangelou and Nevzat Soguk, 2013.

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Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution: Voices from Tunis to Damascus edited by Layla Al-Zubaidi, Matthew Cassel, et al, 2013.

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The New Arab Revolt: What Happened, What It Means, and What Comes Next published by Foreign Affairs with Introduction by Gideon Rose, 2011.

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The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know by James L. Gelvin, 2012.

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The New Middle East: Protest and Revolution in the Arab World by Fawaz Gerges, 2013.

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The Arab Spring: Critical Analyses edited by Khair El-Din Haseeb, 2014.

51qqMXZHTeL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_

The Arab Spring: Change and Resistance in the Middle East by Lesch, David W. and Mark L. Haas, 2012.

arabup

The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East by Marc Lynch, 2013.

41-4wdTQ6SL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East by Marc Lynch, 2014.

51rYBIH8FpL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_

Arab Spring and Arab Women: Challenges and Opportunities edited by Muhamad S. Olimat, 2013.

41zCay4g1uL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Aftermath of the Arab Uprisings: The Rebirth of the Middle East by Jerry M. Rosenberg, 2012.

51U8gst1y-L._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_

Cosmopolitanism and the Arab Spring: Foundations for the Decline of Terrorism by Lori J. Underwood, 2012.

CONTEMPORARY ISSUES & POLITICS BY AUTHOR

raging-240

Raging Against the Machine: Political Opposition under Authoritarianism in Egypt by Holger Albrecht, 2013.

iraqis

We Are Iraqis: Aesthetics and Politics in a Time of War edited by Nadje Al-Ali and Deborah Al-Najjar, 2012.

518Q0APzWWL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_

Thicker than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia by Rachel Bronson, 2008.

new-arabs-9781451690392_hr

The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East by Juan Cole, 2014.

51BY9369DJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Struggle and Survival in the Modern Middle East by Edmund Burke, III and David N. Yaghoubian, 2006.

51-kz2OAkbL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

The International Relations of the Persian Gulf by F. Gregory Gause, 2009.

gordon

The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama by Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor, 2013. This stunning account of the political and military struggle between American, Iraqi, and Iranian forces brings together vivid reporting of diplomatic intrigue and gripping accounts of the blow-by-blow fighting that lasted nearly a decade.

kurdish-national-190

The Kurdish National Movement: Its Origins and Development by Wadie Jwaideh, 2006.

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The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa (6th ed.) edited by David E. Long, Bernard Reich, and Mark Gasiorowski (Editor), 2010.

syria-from-reform

Syria from Reform to Revolt, Volume 1: Political Economy and International Relations edited by Raymond Hinnebusch and Tina Zintl, 2014.

511h8iYR9CL._SX408_BO1,204,203,200_

The Middle East edited by Ellen Lust, 2013.

ARAB wars

The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East by Marc Lynch, 2016.

9780300162752

Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak by Tarek Osman, 2011.

syrianrevolt 2

Syria from Reform to Revolt,Volume 2: Culture, Society, and Religion edited by Christa Salamandra and Leif Steinberg, 2015.

41+lIilFvcL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People by Jack G. Shaheen, 2001.

esky

The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq by Emma Sky, 2015. With sharp detail and tremendous empathy, Sky provides unique insights into the US military as well as the complexities, diversity, and evolution of Iraqi society. The Unraveling is an intimate insider’s portrait of how and why the Iraq adventure failed and contains a unique analysis of the course of the war.

metoday

The Middle East Today: Political, geographical and cultural perspectives by Dona J. Stewart. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East by Robin Wright, 2009.

looming

The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright, 2007.

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Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us and Why It Matters by James Zogby. New York: Palgrave MacMillian Press, 2010.

HISTORY & BACKGROUND BY AUTHOR

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African Muslims in Antebellum America: Transatlantic Stories and Spiritual Struggles by Allen Austin, 1997.

k9144

Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History by Thomas Barfield, 2010.

50006

The Archaeology of Ancient Israel by Amnon Ben-Tor, 1992.

41OQDDqCzLL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire by Sugata Bose, 2006.

51gwkscLxZL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_

The Modern Middle East and North Africa: A History in Documents by Julia Clancy-Smith, Charles Smith.

41fMxIVz-qL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Historical Dictionary of Arab and Islamic Organizations (Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements) by Frank A. Clements, 2001.

51ar5ht5j1L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

A History of the Modern Middle East, 5th ed. by William L. Cleveland and Martin Bunton, 2012.

41HZB1KFW5L._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_

The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the Fourteenth Century by Ross E. Dunn, 2004.

9780130336781_l

The Middle East and Central Asia: An Anthropological Approach by Dale F. Eickelman, 1998.

51pVLnwDUPL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War by Robert Fisk, 1990. This remarkable book combines war reporting and political analysis in an unprecedented way: it is an epic account of the Lebanon conflict by an author who has personally witnessed the carnage of Beirut for over two decades.

51B9D0TAB0L._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_

The Arab World: Forty Years of Change by Robert Fernea and Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, 1997.

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Moorish Spain by Richard Fletcher, 2006.

514oU+NmDLL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

The Modern Middle East: A History by Gelvin, James L., 2005.

51d6YHZQOqL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

The Middle East and Islamic World Reader: An Historical Reader for the 21st Century by Gettleman, Marvin E. and Stuart Schaar, 2012.

51CbeG6EE7L._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_

A Peace to End All Peace, 20th Anniversary Edition: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin and Kaya Oakes, 2009.

51C1962RQGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Trading Tastes: Commodity and Cultural Exchange to 1750 By Erik Gilbert and Jonathan Reynolds, 2005. A short reference book on medieval international trade in salt, slaves, silk, and spices.

conci

A Concise History of the Middle East (11th ed.), by Goldschmidt, Arthur and Lawrence Davidson, 2015.

ArabsAShortHistory-Web

The Arabs: A Short History with Documents by Halm, Heinz, 2011.

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A History of the Arab Peoples by Hourani, Albert, 1992.

61zKjbfHpAL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Middle Eastern Humanities: An Introduction to the Cultures of the Middle East by Leila Hudson, 2010.

1446800

The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In by Kennedy, Hugh, 2007.

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Sources in the History of the Modern Middle East by Akram Fouad Khater, 2004.

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The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization by Lyons, Jonathan, 2010.

4140TBT2THL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

The Arab Americans: A History by Orfalea, Gregory, 2006.

rogan

The Arabs: A History by Eugene Rogan, 2012. In this definitive history of the modern Arab world, award-winning historian Eugene Rogan draws extensively on Arab sources and texts to place the Arab experience in its crucial historical context for the first time. Tracing five centuries of Arab history, Rogan reveals that there was an age when the Arabs set the rules for the rest of the world.

orientalism-original-imadh57ucz8pgfmh

Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient by Edward Said, 1979.

k10064

Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane by S. Frederick Starr, 2015.

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Aristotle’s Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages by Richard E. Ruberstein. New York: Harcourse, 2003.

orientalism-original-imadh57ucz8pgfmh

Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient by Edward Said, 1979.

k10064

Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane by S. Frederick Starr, 2015.

RELIGION BY AUTHOR

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Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary, 2010.

41GFEVVT53L

Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong, 2000.

9780385739764

No god But God: the Origins and Evolution of Islam by Aslan, Reza 2011.

5188FDQn0aL._SX403_BO1,204,203,200_

A New Introduction to Islam, (2nd ed.) by Daniel Brown, 2011.

9780199559282

Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction by Brown, Jonathon A. C., 2011.

51iy1lOewdL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

A History of the Muslim World to 1405 by Vernon O. Egger, 2004.

51A3013EBFL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_

Islam by Elias, Jamal J., 1998.

51HGdIRWQxL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_

How to Read the Qur’an: A New Guide with Select Translations by Carl W. Ernst, 2011.

61TZVVec3+L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Islam: The Straight Path (4th ed.) by Esposito, John L., 2011.

41tLW1Go3tL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_

Islamophobia: The Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century by Esposito, John L., 2011.

islamesp

What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam by Esposito, John L., 2002.

51EY55hW8IL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

The Qur’an (Oxford World’s Classics) by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, 2008.

51l0uDfymFL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

A Vanished World: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Medieval Spain by Chris Lowney, 2005.

41sxsLvI5rL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries: History and Culture in the Modern Era edited by Goldberg, Harvey E., 1996.

amin-maalouf-crusades-through-arab-eyes

The Crusades through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf, 1984.

51tp30EADeL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_

The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal, 2002.

Lost_History_Enduring_Legacy_of_Muslim_Scientists

Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, and Artists by Michael Hamilton Morgan, Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2007.

41LM8TY98XL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_

Christianity in Iraq by Suha Rassam, 2010.

41n4MajpqaL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_

The Heirs of Muhammed: Islam’s First Century and the Origin of the Sunni-Shia Split by Barnaby Rogerson, Woodstock and New York: Overlook Press, 2006.

515TDC0i0CL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations by Michael Sells, 1999.

U.S. FOREIGN POLICY

bace

America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History by Andrew J. Bacevich, 2016. “Bacevich is thought-provoking, profane and fearless. . . . [His] call for Americans to rethink their nation’s militarized approach to the Middle East is incisive, urgent and essential.”The New York Times Book Review

hbrown

Star Spangled Security: Applying Lessons Learned over Six Decades Safeguarding America by Harold Brown, 2012. “Harold Brown is the most unique of statesmen: a scientist, a Cold War warrior, and a secretary of defense under President Carter whose intimate knowledge of our nuclear deterrent was matched only by his clear-eyed patriotism. Star Spangled Security is a fascinating and rewarding look at the last sixty years of American defense and diplomacy.” – President Bill Clinton

chollet

The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World by Derek Chollet, 2016. In this inside assessment of Barack Obama’s foreign policy legacy, Derek Chollet tackles the prevailing consensus to argue that Obama has profoundly altered the course of American foreign policy for the better and positioned the United States to lead in the future.

chas

America’s Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East (2nd ed.) by Chas W. Freeman, 2016.

khalidi

Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East by Rashid Khalidi, 2013. “The noted Columbia University historian provides important empirical evidence and sobering analysis that shatters the mythology that the United States has a genuine desire for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” – Stephen Zunes

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Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East by Daniel C. Kurtzer and Scott B. Lasensky, 2008.

51pkwaGGXyL._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_

The Much Too Promised Land: America’s Elusive Search for Middle East Peace by Aaron David Miller, 2008.

mandel

Mission Failure: America and the World in the Post-Cold War Era by Michael Mandelbaum, 2016. “Specialists and general readers alike will appreciate his sure historical grasp, evenhanded assignment of fault, careful assessment of shifting domestic political considerations, and understanding of the foreign cultural barriers that so frustrated American intentions. A skilled, persuasive appraisal of a unique moment in our foreign policy history.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred)

 

nasr

The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat by Vali Nasr, 2013. “The Dispensable Nation is an important wake-up call by a thoughtful, astute and deeply knowledgeable scholar and policymaker. Anyone interested in the Middle East, China, or the future of American power should read it immediately and think hard about its message.” – Anne-Marie Slaughter

51w+I+Kz22L._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_

The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 by Thomas E. Ricks, 2010.

doomed

Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama by Dennis Ross, 2015.  In Doomed to Succeed, he takes us through every administration from Truman to Obama, throwing into dramatic relief each president’s attitudes toward Israel and the region, the often tumultuous debates between key advisers, and the events that drove the policies and at times led to a shift in approach.

stephens

America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder by Brett Stephens, 2014. ”Given the US’s recently renewed commitments in the Middle East, Stephens’s clear, convincing apologia for American power will make especially timely reading for American foreign policy’s skeptics and opponents.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

51BJP7VK5JL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_

The Stakes: America and the Middle East by Shibley Telhami, 2002.

Other Sources

The Obama Doctrine by Jeffrey Goldberg was published in the April 2016 issue of The Atlantic. In this exhaustive piece, the U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world.

GENDER CULTURE & POLITICS

arfem

Arab and Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, and Belonging edited by Rabab Abdulhadi, Evelyn Alsultany and Nadine Naber, 2010.

ahm

Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate by Leila Ahmed, 1993. “A signal contribution to the question of Islam and gender as well as a solid overview of the history of gender in the region.” – Judith Tucker

sahr

The Ideal Refugees Gender, Islam, and the Sahrawi Politics of Survival by Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, 2013.

mern

Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi, 1995.

$_35

Women in the Middle East and North Africa by Guity Nashat and Judith E. Tucker, 1999.

Schneider-cover-9-16-131-125x1871-1

Women in the Islamic World: From Earliest Times to the Arab Spring by Irene Schneider, translated by Steven Rendell, 2012.

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Beyond the Exotic: Women’s Histories in Islamic Societies edited by Amira El-Azhary Sonbol, 2005.

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Muslim Women in America: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today by Haddad, Yvonne, Jane Smith, and Kathleen Moore, 2006.

IRAN

.

51eoI0ZQPmL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

A History of Modern Iran by Ervand Abrahamian, 2008.

9780300121056

Modern Iran since 1921: The Pahlavis and After by Ali Ansari, 2003.

51XYu6jME5L._SX378_BO1,204,203,200_

Picturing Iran: Art, Society and Revolution edited by Shiva Balaghi and Lynn Gumpert, 2003. This book shows modern Iranian visual culture of the 1960s and 1970s (just before and during the revolution). Some of the posters shown in the book would be useful in helping your students to understand the reasons behind the revolution.

9780300121056

Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, Updated Edition by Nikki R. Keddie, 2006.

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All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer, 2008.

ethnicity

Ethnicity, Identity, and the Development of Nationalism in Iran by David N. Yaghoubian, 2014.

TURKEY

51AQW8xqmnL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

The Mobilization of Political Islam in Turkey by Banu Eligür, 2014.

51ntz0n2gUL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Atatürk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey by Andrew Mango, 2002.

turk

Turkey and the Arab Spring: Leadership in the Middle East by Graham E. Fuller, 2014. 

41y79TW5zfL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Shaping Gender Policy in Turkey: Grassroots Women Activists, the European Union, and the Turkish State by Gül Aldikaçti Marshall, 2013.

519siY-JTqL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Turkey Unveiled: A History of Modern Turkey by Hugh Pope and Nicole Pope, 2011.

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Islam and Modernity in Turkey by Brian Silverstein, 2011. An ethnographic account of Islam in modern Turkey by UA Anthropology faculty member Brian Silverstein, this book discusses Islam and mass media in Turkey, with attention to the Ottoman and early Republican background of contemporary Turkey.

MEMOIRS & PERSONAL ACCOUNTS

i-saw-ramallah

I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti 2013. Winner of the prestigious Naguib Mahfouz Medal, this fierce and moving work is an unparalleled rendering of the human aspects of the Palestinian predicament. Memoir/personal account. (PAL)

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Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun by Wafaa Bilal, 2008. Iraqi artist Bilal immigrated to the U.S. after Desert Storm, and channeled his haunting experiences into his performance pieces, culminating in Domestic Tension. For 31 days and nights, Bilal was the target of a paintball gun controlled by online participants who were invited to “shoot an Iraqi.” – Booklist.

51ELC5bp8XL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

In Tangier by Mohamed Choukri, originally published in 1973. After a childhood of poverty and petty crime, Choukri taught himself to read and write at the age of 20. He befriended the likes of Paul Bowles, Jean Genet, and Tennessee Williams who were drawn to the sights and sounds of 1970s Tangier. His recollection of encounters with the larger-than-life characters of these cult figures are collected in a single volume for the first time. (MOR)

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Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War by Anna Ciezadlo, 2011. This is a memoir of the author’s travels mostly in Iraq and Beirut around 2003–2009. She is incredibly insightful, and the book is beautifully written and an easy read.

51c3s-S9lYL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Memoirs of a Woman Doctor by Nawal El Saadawi, 2001. A young Egyptian female medical student overcomes social hypocrisy and social injustice to become a caring and successful physician. (EGY)

medium

Journey from the Land of No by Roya Hakakian, 2004. The author recalls her childhood and adolescence in pre-revolutionary Iran with candor and verve. A glossary of terms and chronology of major Persian and Iranian, and the author’s, events are included. (IRN)

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Come, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie Mallowan, 1974. Agatha Christie, writing under the name of her second husband Max Mallowan, recounts their lives on the archaeological projects that Max directed in Iraq and Syria just before and after World War II (during which, incidentally, Agatha wrote many of her murder mysteries).

jewishkurd

My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Family’s Past by Ariel Sabar, 2010. “This book is a must read for specialists on political culture, change and continuity. It reflects a deep historical understanding but, more important, it is a book about political survival through culture, language and other forms of interpersonal communications across several divides.” – Review, Middle East Policy Council

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Out of Place: A Memoir by Edward W. Said, 2000. Said writes with great passion and wit about his family and his friends from his birthplace in Jerusalem, schools in Cairo, and summers in the mountains above Beirut, to boarding school and college in the United States, revealing an unimaginable world of rich, colorful characters and exotic eastern landscapes.

looking-for-palestine-8976d09cd753bed8f0f1a4aab22db4e31e0d802a-s6-c30

Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family by Najla Said, 2014. Daughter of famed theorist and intellectual, Edward Said, Najla was born a Palestinian Lebanese American, but denied her true roots, even to herself—until, ultimately, the psychological toll of her self-hatred began to threaten her health. As she grew older, she eventually came to see herself, her passions, and her identity more clearly. Today she is a voice for second-generation Arab Americans nationwide.

12982339

The House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East by Anthony Shadid, 2012. From The New Yorker: An apt testament – a moving contemplation of how the stay with us, and how war scrambles the narrative of family life. (LEB)

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Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, 1879-1924 by Huda Shaarawi (Author), Margot Badran (Editor), 1987. In this rare first-hand account of the private world of a Cairo harem during the years before Egypt declared independence in 1922, Shaarawi recalls her childhood and early adult life in the seclusion of an upper-class Egyptian household, including her marriage at age thirteen. (EGY)

51FAwYcjczL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_

The Valley of the Assassins and Other Persian Tales by Freya Stark, 1936. One of the most unconventional and courageous explorers of her time, Freya Stark’s chronicles of her extraordinary travels in the Near East established her as a twentieth century heroine.

108632

A Winter in Arabia by Freya Stark, 1940. In this book, the travel writer, geographer, historian, and archaeologist recounts her 1937-8 expedition in what is now Yemen. (AP)

Arabian_Sands

Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger, 1959. An amazing account of Thesiger’s treks through the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula before the advent of big oil and all the social and political change that followed thereafter. (AP)

LEGEND

AP = Arabian Peninsula

EGY = Egypt

IRN = Iran

LEB = Lebanon

MOR = Morocco

PA = Personal Account

PAL = Palestine

SOURCES

Middle East Policy Council
Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown
University of Arizona MES Outreach
http://ncte.weebly.com/
Cambridge University
IB Tauris
Oxford
Syracuse

Literature: Advanced/Mature Readers

Jump to the bottom of this page to view a detailed legend of the country abbreviations used.

AUTHORS OF MULTIPLE WORKS

Etel Adnan (LEB)

Lebanese American poet, author, essayist, and feminist.

Hanan Al-Shaykh (LEB)

Writes novels about contemporary social issues.

Mahmoud Darwish (PAL)

Palestinian poet and author who won numerous awards for his literary output and was regarded as the Palestinian national poet.

Nawal El Saadawi (EGY)

Egyptian feminist writer, activist, physician and psychiatrist. She has written many books on the subject of women in Islam.

Fadia Faqir (JOR-UK)

Fadia Faqir, a Jordanian-British novelist, draws on her experiences as a woman in Jordan and abroad to shed light on the marginalized in Arab society.

Ghassan Kanafani (PAL)

Palestinian writer and a leading member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Elias Khoury (LEB)

Lebanese novelist, playwright, critic and a prominent public intellectual.

Naguib Mahfouz (EGY)

Egyptian novelist who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature. He is regarded as one of the first contemporary writers of Arabic literature to explore themes of existentialism.

Gregory Orfalea

Arab-American the author or editor of nine books, including poetry, non-fiction a recent short story collection, The Man Who Guarded the Bomb.

Orhan Pamuk (TUR)

Turkish novelist, screenwriter, academic and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Shahrnush Parsipur (IRN)

Turkey’s leading female writer, Shafak has published 17 books, nine of which are novels. Her writing draws on diverse cultures and literary traditions, reflecting an interest in history, philosophy, Sufism, oral culture, and cultural politics.

Tayeb Salih (SUD)

One of the Arab world’s top novelists, Sudanese author Salih excelled at portraying characters torn between East and West.

Elie Shafak (TUR)

Turkey’s leading female writer, Shafak has published 17 books, nine of which are novels. Her writing draws on diverse cultures and literary traditions, reflecting an interest in history, philosophy, Sufism, oral culture, and cultural politics.

NOTABLE FICTION FOR TEENS AND ADULTS

6692041

Mornings in Jenin: A Novel by Susan Abulhawa, 2010. Mornings in Jenin is a multi-generational story about a Palestinian affected by the creation of he State of Israel and the decades of conflict that have followed. (PAL)

2774912

The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine, 2009. Arabic for “storyteller,” The Hakawati presents beautifully nested stories rooted in Arabic and Indo-Persian folktales, as well as biblical stories and Western folk traditions. With The Hakawati, Rabih Alameddine has given us an Arabian Nights for this century.

img_20090723123005

Gold Dust by Ibrahim Al-Koni, 2008. In translation. A classic story of the brotherhood between man and beast, the thread of companionship that is all the difference between life and death in the desert. It is a story of t he fight to endure in a world of limitless and waterless wastes, and a parable of the struggle to survive in the most dangerous landscape of all: human society. (LIB)

Girls_of_Riyadh

Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea and Marilyn Booth, 2008. When Rajaa Alsanea boldly chose to open up the hidden world of Saudi women—their private lives and their conflicts with the traditions of their culture—she caused a sensation across the Arab world. (KSA)

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The Corpse Washer by Sinan Antoon, 2014. Young Jawad, born to a traditional Shi’ite family of corpse washers and shrouders in Baghdad, decides to abandon the family tradition, choosing instead to become a sculptor, to celebrate life rather than tend to death. (IRQ)

Sarmada-Cover

Sarmada by Fadi Azzam, 2011. “With Sarmada, Fadi Azzam proves to us there are still undiscovered gems in Arabic literature … beautiful writing, long stifled by dictatorship, has just begun to free itself from the grips of censorship” – Rafik Schami. (SYR)

stone-of-laughter

Stone of Laughter by Hoda Barakat. Lebanese novel, written in 1990 by author Hoda Barakat set during the Lebanese Civil War. The book was translated into English by Sophie Bennett. It is a winner of the Al-Naqid prize and the first book by an Arab author to have a main character who is gay. (LEB)

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The Sand Child by Tahar Ben Jelloun, 1987. Hajji Ahmed had only one wish, to have a son. Year after year, his wife gives him nothing but daughters. When the eighth child was born he makes a secret decision and announces that finally he has a son and heir, who is called Mohammed Ahmed. Only the child’s mother and the old midwife knew the truth that the child was a girl. (MOR)

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The Corpse Exhibition and Other Stories of Iraq by Hassan Blasim, 2009. A compilation of short stories, this book is the first major literary work about the Iraq War (2003) from an Iraqi perspective. (IRQ)

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Loom by Thérèse Soukar Chehade, 2010. “An expansive and beautiful new storyteller, Chehade tightly binds personal experience with the universal desire to belong, effortlessly weaving a dense tapestry of loneliness and regret.” – Publisher’s Weekly starred review. (Arab-Am)

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For Bread Alone by Mohamed Choukri. London: Telegram Books, 2006. Driven by famine from their home in the Rif, Mohamed’s family walks to Tangiers in search of a better life. But his father is unable to find work and grows violent. Mohamed learns how to charm and steal. (MOR)

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Mother Comes of Age by Driss Chraibi, trans. Hugh Harter. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1999. Setting his novel during World War II, Chraïbi opens the door on the protected and well-to- do world of an Arab woman whose role in society is restricted to that of wife and mother. (MOR)

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Savushun by Simin Daneshvar, 1991. The first published novel by an Iranian woman, this beautifully written story is set in Shiraz, Iran during World War II. The story is told primarily from the point of view of a woman caught in a web of family and political intrigues, including those involving the presence of the British in SW Iran and tribal conflicts with the local government. (IRN)

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The Tongue’s Blood Does Not Run Dry: Algerian Stories by Assia Djebar, 2010. All seven stories were written in 1995 and 1996—a time when, by official accounts, some two hundred thousand Algerians were killed in Islamist assassinations and government army reprisals. (ALG)

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Pillars of Salt by Fadia Faqir, 1998. Pillars of Salt is the story of two women confined in a mental hospital in Jordan during and after the British Mandate. (JOR)

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The Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings by Abolqasem Ferdowsi. Written between 977-1010 CE, this epic poem was first published in 1974. (Persia/Iran)

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The Secret Life of Saeed: The Pessoptimist by Emile Habiby, 2001. Saeed is the comic hero, the luckless fool, whose tale tells of aggression and resistance, terror and heroism, reason and loyalty that typify the hardships and struggles of Arabs in Israel. (PAL)

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Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury, 2005. An ambitious exploration of the Palestinian experience through the eyes of two men living in the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut. (LEB)

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Yalo by Elias Khoury, 2002. During the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s, a young man is arrested and charged with rape. Repeatedly interrogated and tortured, Yalo is forced – like Scheherazade – to tell a different story each day to stay alive. (LEB)

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The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami, 2014. In this stunning work of historical fiction, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America—a Moroccan slave whose testimony was left out of the official record.

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In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar, 2006. Nine-year-old Sleiman’s unremarkable childhood in Libya is torn asunder by the darkness of Libyan politics. (LIB)

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Pillar of Salt by Albert Memmi, 1992. An autobiographical novel about coming of age in the Jewish ghetto of Tunis during the 1930s and 1940s, this book portrays the impact of French colonialism on Tunisian society in general and on Tunisian Jews in particular at the time Tunisia was occupied by Axis powers. (TUN)

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Endings by Abdelrahman Munif. New York: Interlink Books, 2007. The late Saudi novelist Munif (1933-2004) sets this timeless tale within an Arabic desert village struck by drought and doomed by the thoughtlessness of its inhabitants. (AP)

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Touba and the Meaning of Night by Shahrnush Parsipur, 2008. This complex epic captures the changing fortunes of Iranian women in the twentieth century from the era of colonialism to the rule of two shahs to the 1980 Islamic Revolution. (IRN)

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Women without Men by Shahrnush Parsipur. Originally published 1989. Internationally acclaimed writer Shahrnush Parsipur follows the interwoven destinies of five women—including a prostitute, a wealthy middle-aged housewife, and a schoolteacher—as they arrive by different paths to live together in a garden in Tehran. (IRN)

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Satan’s Stones by Moniru Ravanipur, 1996. The first English translation of the author’s 1991 short story collection, these stories explore many facts of contemporary Iranian life, particularly the ever-shifting relations between women and men. (IRN)

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Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih. Boulder, Co: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1980. After years of study in Europe, the young narrator of Season of Migration to the North returns to his village along the Nile in the Sudan. It is the 1960s, and he is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. (SUD)

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The Cairo House by Samia Serageldin, 2000. A work that depicts the glamorous Egypt of the pashas and King Farouk, the police state of the colonels who seized power in 1952, the post-Sadat years and the rise of fundamentalism. (EGY)

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The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak, 2006. Turkish novelist Shafak tackles Turkish national identity and the Armenian “question” in her signature style. (TUR)

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A Lake Beyond the Wind by Yahya Yakhlif, 1999. This novel is about the most catastrophic year in Palestinian history, a time marked by violent clashes between Zionist forces and the volunteers of the Arab Liberation Army. (PAL)

51ZlBC5hpHL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_The Night Counter by Alia Yunis, 2013. “The Abdullahs are anything but a Norman Rockwell painting, but in their own way, they are a very typical American family. They may have their differences but they also have their stories. And, as Scheherazade points out, in the end, that’s what holds a family (much like a nation) together.” –Christian Science Monitor

POETRY

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Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry edited by Hayan Charara. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 2008.

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I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan by Eliza Griswold (Translator) and Seamus Murphy (Photographer), 2014. With the help of local guides and Pashto translators, Griswold convinces women to share couplets that touch on a wide range of emotions and themes, from love and grief to separation and war. Because the lyrics remain anonymous over generations, Afghan women use them to express freely their desires and frustrations, yet still risk violating Taliban strictures against song and dance.

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A Brave New Quest: 100 Modern Turkish Poems by Talat S. Halman, Translator and Editor, and Jayne L. Warner, Associate Editor, 2005.

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Born Palestinian, Born Black: & The Gaza Suite by Suheir Hammad, 2010. The true manifest destiny of Suheir Hammad is to raise her searing vigorous voice, a brave flag over the dispossessed to sing stories of indelible origin and linkage to remind struggling humankind, whatever color or cultural root: We will hold on, we will never be gone. What s more, we will shine the light on one another! –Naomi Shihab Nye.

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The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology edited by Nathalie Handal. New York: Interlink Books, 2001.

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Bread Alone by Kim Jensen, 2009. Poetry on violence and war in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine.

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Songs of Love and War: Afghan Women’s Poetry by Sayd Majrouh (Author), Marjolijn de Jager (Translator), 2010. The authors of oral literature in the Pashtun language create their work at a far remove from any books. Generally deprived of the support of schools and universities, their compositions are inseparable from song.

ARAB & ARAB AMERICAN LITERATURE ANTHOLOGIES

talkingTalking through the Door: An Anthology of Contemporary Middle Eastern American Writing edited by Susan Atefat-Peckham with foreword by Lisa Suhair Majaj, 2014.

9780231132541Modern Arabic Fiction: An Anthology by Salma Khadra Jayyusi, 2005. Beginning with the late-nineteenth-century cultural resurgence and continuing through the present day, short stories and novels have given voice to the personal and historical experiences of modern Arabs. This anthology offers a rich and diverse selection of works from more than one hundred and forty prominent Arab writers of fiction.

reviews-salaitaModern Arab American Fiction: A Reader’s Guide by Steven Salaita, published 2011.

calClassical Arabic Literature selected and translated by Geert Jan Van Gelder, 2013. This anthology presents a rich assortment of classical Arabic poems and literary prose, from pre-Islamic times until the 18th century, with short introductions to guide non-specialist students and informative endnotes and bibliography for advanced scholars.

KEY:

ALG = Algeria

AR-AM = Arab-American

IRN = Iran

IRQ = Iraq

JOR = Jordan

KSA = Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

LEB = Lebanon

LIB = Libya

MOR = Morocco

PAL = Palestine

SUD = Sudan

SYR = Syria

TUN = Tunisia

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waterLike Water on Stone by Dana Walrath. New York: Delacorte Press (imprint of Random House Children’s Publishing), 2014.

Appropriate age level: high school

Written in haunting lyrical free verse that reveals horrific but brief glimpses of the traumatic events of the Armenian genocide of 1915, Like Water on Stone is an intense survival story narrated in the alternating but distinct voices of three siblings who must navigate treacherous terrain on their own. In 1914, thirteen-year-old Armenian twins Shahen and his sister, Sosi, live in the Armenian Highlands under the rule of Ottoman Empire with their loving parents; younger sister, Miriam; and older brothers Misak and Kevorg. The Armenian Christian family also includes 19-year-old sister, Anahid, who is married to a Kurd and expecting a baby. Life is idyllic for members of the mixed religious community but there are increasing instances of disturbance and tensions by Ottoman leaders at the start of World War I. The Armenians are targeted as traitors, and troops move in to sweep entire families from the region. After their parents are killed and brothers go missing, Shahen, Sosi, and young Mariam are forced to set out bravely to avoid being caught. Heading towards Aleppo, the trio makes a harrowing trek across mountains and blood-stained rivers, skirting malevolent soldiers hiding in the shadows.

The children are unknowingly guided by Ardziv, an eagle that soars above them throughout the journey, bearing witness to the children’s joys, challenges, and heartbreak. Walrath employs poetic narration to voice each of the characters’ unique perspectives in this beautiful but also, at times, vividly brutal, historical verse novel that brings a tragic period to life for mature readers. A list of characters, a glossary, and author’s note with historical context are valuable additions, and the author includes enlightening glimpses into Armenian customs and cultures, highlighting the lively alphabet and musical traditions such as the dirge-like Armenian flute, the duduk, which surfaces as a symbol of tension between tradition and modernity for Shahen and his father. Though Shahen initially rejects his father’s music lessons, he comes to appreciate his new skill and the elegiac melodies ultimately provide the sense of family, home and country the young siblings so desperately need in their time of crisis. Young adult readers may require guided support from teachers for greater historical context, and to work through and understand graphic or disturbing scenes.

With universal themes of conflict, escape, family, and survival, this work conveys the emotional and physical experiences common to so many people fleeing dangerous circumstances across the world today. Ethnically distinct and deeply resonating at the same time, Like Water on Stone is a powerful and humanizing story of triumph over tragedy that gives readers great insight into recent Armenian history.

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