2017 Arab American Book Award Winners
(Books published in 2016)
|Fiction||The Angel of History by Rabih Alameddine|
|The Evelyn Shakir
|Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and Palestine by Steven Salaita|
|The George Ellenbogen Poetry Award||Something Sinister by Hayan Charara|
|Children/Young Adult||The Treasure of Maria Mamoun by Michelle Chalfoun|
|Fiction||13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad|
|Non-Fiction||Industrial Sexuality: Gender, Urbanization, and Social Transformation in Egypt by Hanan Hammad|
|Poetry||One Hundred Hungers by Lauren Camp and
Hagar Poems by Mohja Kahf
|Children/Young Adult||The Three Lucys by Hayan Charara (author) and Sara Kahn (illustrator) and
Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine by Ibtisam Barakat
|2017 Arab American Book Awards Celebration
This year’s winners were celebrated during an event at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Mich., on Oct. 7, 2017.
The Angel of History
By Rabih Alameddine
(New York: Grove Atlantic, 2016)
Set over the course of one night in the waiting room of a psych clinic, The Angel of History follows Yemeni-born poet Jacob as he revisits the events of his life, from his maternal upbringing in an Egyptian whorehouse to his adolescence under the aegis of his wealthy father and his life as a gay Arab man in San Francisco at the height of AIDS. Hovered over by the presence of alluring, sassy Satan, who taunts Jacob to remember his painful past, and dour, frigid Death, who urges him to forget and give up on life, Jacob is also attended to by fourteen saints. With Jacob recalling his life in Cairo, Beirut, Sana’a, Stockholm, and San Francisco, Alameddine gives us a charged philosophical portrayal of a brilliant mind in crisis. This carefully crafted novel guides the reader through fields of pain, irony, humor, self-loathing, deep friendships, tender treatment of love, loss, and grief, intermingled with biting political and social critique.
Rabih Alameddine is the author of the novels Koolaids; I, the Divine; The Hakawati; and An Unnecessary Woman, which received the Arab American Book Award in 2015 and was a finalist for the National Book Award. He divides his time between San Francisco and Beirut. Follow him on Twitter @RabihAlameddine.
The Evelyn Shakir Non-Fiction Award
Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and Palestine
By Steven Salaita
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016)
Steven Salaita argues that American Indian and Indigenous studies must be more central to the scholarship and activism focusing on Palestine. His discussion includes a fascinating inside account of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement; a wide range of Native poetry; the speeches of U.S. President Andrew Jackson; and the discourses of “shared values” between the United States and Israel.
Steven Salaita is author of several books, including Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom and Israel’s Dead Soul. He edited Modern Arab American Fiction: A Reader’s Guide, which was a 2012 Arab American Book Award Honorable Mention.
The George Ellenbogen Poetry Award
By Hayan Charara
(Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2016)
The poems in Something Sinister grapple with conflicts arising from a world in which the personal, political, cultural, and aesthetic are deeply entangled and often troubling. Charara does not shy away from the tensions, unease, doubts, regrets, or bafflement of this world. His wide-ranging focus brings together people from all walks of life: a father obsessed with the boxer Muhammad Ali; a girl missing since the 1970s; a mother and daughter trapped in a submerged vehicle; and a suicide bomber, his witnesses, and victims.
Hayan Charara is a poet, children’s book author, essayist, and editor. His previous poetry books are The Sadness of Others (2006) and The Alchemist’s Diary (2001). His children’s book, The Three Lucys (2016), received the New Voices Award Honor and a 2017 Arab American Book Award honorable mention. Charara edited Inclined to Speak (2008), an anthology of contemporary Arab American poetry. With Fady Joudah, he is also a series editor of the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize. His honors include a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lucille Joy Prize in Poetry from the University of Houston creative writing program, and the John Clare Prize. A Detroit native, Charara currently teaches in the Honors College at the University of Houston.
The Treasure of Maria Mamoun
By Michelle Chalfoun
(New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2016)
Twelve-year-old Maria lives a lonely, latchkey-kid’s life in the Bronx. Her Lebanese mother is working two nursing jobs to keep them afloat, and Maria keeps her worries to herself, not wanting to be a burden. Then something happens one day between home and school that changes everything. Mom whisks them to an altogether different world on Martha’s Vineyard, where she’s found a job on a seaside estate. While the mysterious bedridden owner keeps her mother busy, Maria has the freedom to explore a place she thought could only exist in the movies. Making friends with a troublesome local character, Maria finds an old sailboat and stumbles upon a map that she is sure will lead to pirate’s plunder… but golden treasure may not be the most valuable thing she discovers for herself this special summer.
Michelle Chalfoun is a pediatric nurse who lives with her husband and children on Long Island, New York. The Treasure of Maria Mamoun is her first book for young readers.
2017 Honorable Mentions
Honorable Mention – Fiction
13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl
By Mona Awad
(New York: Penguin Books, 2016)
In her brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, Mona Awad simultaneously skewers the body image-obsessed culture that tells women they have no value outside their physical appearance, and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovably difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform. As caustically funny as it is heartbreaking, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl introduces a vital new voice in fiction.
Mona Awad received her MFA in fiction from Brown University. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Walrus, Joyland, Post Road, St. Petersburg Review, and many other journals. She is currently pursuing a PhD in creative writing and English literature at the University of Denver.
Honorable Mention – Non-Fiction
Industrial Sexuality: Gender, Urbanization, and Social Transformation in Egypt
By Hanan Hammad
(Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2016)
Reconstructing the ordinary urban experiences of workers in al-Mahalla al-Kubra, home of the largest and most successful Egyptian textile factory, Industrial Sexuality investigates how the industrial urbanization of Egypt transformed masculine and feminine identities, sexualities, and public morality. Basing her account on archival sources that no researcher has previously used, Hanan Hammad describes how coercive industrial organization and hierarchy concentrated thousands of men, women, and children at work and at home under the authority of unfamiliar men, thus intensifying sexual harassment, child molestation, prostitution, and public exposure of private heterosexual and homosexual relationships. By juxtaposing these social experiences of daily life with national modernist discourses, Hammad demonstrates that ordinary industrial workers, handloom weavers, street vendors, lower-class landladies, and prostitutes played a key role in shaping the Egyptian experience of modernity.
Hanan Hammad is Associate Professor and Director of Middle East Studies at Texas Christian University.
Honorable Mention – Poetry
One Hundred Hungers
By Lauren Camp
(North Adams, MA: Tupelo Press, 2016)
In her new collection, Lauren Camp explores the lives of a first-generation Arab-American girl and her Jewish-Iraqi parent. One Hundred Hungers tells overlapping stories of food and ritual, immigration and adaptation, evoking her father’s boyhood in Baghdad in the 1940s at a time when tensions began to emerge along ethnic and religious lines. She also draws upon memories of Sabbath dinners in her grandparents’ new home in America to reveal how family culture persists.
Lauren Camp is author of two previous books of poems, This Business of Wisdom (West End Press, 2010) and The Dailiness (Edwin E. Smith, 2013), which was an “Editor’s Pick” by World Literature Today and winner of the National Federation of Press Women’s 2014 Poetry Book Prize. Since 2004, she has produced and hosted Santa Fe Public Radio’s “Audio Saucepan,” which entwines music with contemporary poetry. She lives in New Mexico.
By Mohja Kahf
(Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 2016)
The central matter of this new collection is the story of Hagar, Abraham, and Sarah — the ancestral feuding family of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These poems delve into the Hajar story in Islam. They explore other figures from the Near Eastern heritage, such as Mary and Moses, and touch on figures from early Islam, such as Fatima and Aisha. Throughout, there is artful reconfiguring. Readers will find sequels and prequels to the traditional narratives, along with modernized figures claimed for contemporary conflicts. Hagar Poems is a compelling shakeup of not only Hagar’s story but also of current roles of all kinds of women in all kinds of relationships.
Mohja Kahf was born in Damascus, Syria, in 1967 to parents who immigrated to the United States in 1971. She is the author of a poetry book, E-mails from Scheherazad, and a novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf.
Honorable Mention – Children/Young Adult
The Three Lucys
By Hayan Charara (author) and Sara Kahn (illustrator)
(New York: Lee & Low Books, 2016)
A young Lebanese boy must learn to cope with loss and hope for a peaceful future after losing one of his beloved cats because of The July War. This picture book is based on the month-long conflict between Lebanon and Israel during the summer of 2006. The book received the New Voices Award Honor and was featured on School Library Journal’s “Best Books of 2016” list.
Hayan Charara is a poet, children’s book author, essayist, and editor. His poetry books are Something Sinister (Winner of the 2017 Arab American Book Award), The Sadness of Others and The Alchemist’s Diary. Charara edited Inclined to Speak, an anthology of contemporary Arab American poetry. With Fady Joudah, he is also a series editor of the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize. His honors include a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lucille Joy Prize in Poetry from the University of Houston creative writing program, and the John Clare Prize. A Detroit native, Charara currently teaches in the Honors College at the University of Houston.
Sara Kahn is an artist and illustrator currently living in San Francisco with her husband and three cats. Her illustrations using a combination of techniques have appeared in Cricket and Cicada magazines. She has won many prizes and honors for her artworks, the most recent one being the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators Magazine Merit award for illustration.
Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine
By Ibtisam Barakat
(New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016)
Picking up where Tasting the Sky left off, Balcony on the Moon follows Ibtisam Barakat through her childhood and adolescence in Palestine from 1972-1981 and chronicles her desire to be a writer. Ibtisam finds inspiration through writing letters to pen pals and from an adult who encourages her to keep at it, but the most surprising turn of all for Ibtisam happens when her mother decides that she would like to seek out an education, too. This memoir is a touching, at times funny, and enlightening look at the not often depicted daily life in a politically tumultuous area.
Ibtisam Barakat is the author of Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, which won the 2008 Arab American Book Award. She grew up in Palestine and is an educator, poet and peace activist. She lives in Columbia, Missouri.