2011 Arab American Book Award Winners

(Books published in 2010)

Fiction Loom: a Novel by Thérèse Soukar Chehade
The Evelyn Shakir
Non-Fiction Award
Arab Americans in Toledo: Cultural Assimilation and Community Involvement edited by Samir Abu-Absi
Poetry Tocqueville by Khaled Mattawa
Children/Young Adult Saving Sky by Diane Stanley

Honorable Mentions
Non-Fiction Barefoot in Baghdad by Manal M. Omar
Poetry This Isa Nice Neighborhood by Farid Matuk
Children/Young Adult Time to Pray by Maha Addasi, illustrated by Ned Gannon

Lifetime Achievement 
Ameen Rihani (posthumously)



Loom: a Novel
By Thérèse Soukar Chehade
(Syracuse University Press)

As a blizzard blankets the northeast United States, burying residents and shutting down airports, the Zaydan family eagerly awaits the arrival of Eva, a cousin visiting from Lebanon after a long separation from the family. Over the course of several days, while Eva is stranded in New York City, Chehade’s nuanced story unfolds in the reminiscences and anxieties of each family member. Beautifully written and teeming with vivid portraits, Chehade’s novel is both heartfelt and wise.

Thérèse Soukar Chehade was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon and came to the United States in 1983. She has a Masters of Fine Arts from University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches English Language Learners in Amherst. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her two sons. Loom is her first novel

The Evelyn Shakir Non-Fiction Award

Arab Americans in Toledo: Cultural Assimilation and Community Involvement
Edited by Samir Abu-Absi
(University of Toledo Press)

Arab Americans in Toledo: Cultural Assimilation and Community InvolvementSamir Abu-AbsiThis collection of essays, profiles, and oral history interviews captures the memories, experiences and character of one of America’s most significant ethnic populations by focusing on their community in Toledo, Ohio. The contributors to this collection come from all walks of life and write on diverse subjects concerning the life and livelihood of Arab Americans, from economics, to politics, entertainment, to language. Altogether, the chapters constitute a living history of an important segment of multicultural America and an important, well-timed contribution to the growing body of research on American ethnicity.

Samir Abu-Absi is a Professor Emeritus of English and Linguistics at the University of Toledo. He received his B.A. in English from the American University of Beirut and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Linguistics from Indiana University. His teaching and scholarly interests have focused on the study of language structure – particularly Arabic and English, the application of linguistic principles to language instruction, and the relationship between language and culture.


By Khaled Mattawa
(New Issues Poetry & Prose)

“In his masterful fourth collection, Khaled Mattawa is concerned, above all, with the ramifications of a new global culture that most American poets have thus far ignored and neglected, partly out of incomprehension, partly out of fear. By setting himself against such timidity, Mattawa offers his most sustained and experimental reckoning with matters of cultural and social witness. Tocqueville is part personal lyric, part jeremiad, part shooting script, and part troubled homage to the great wry chronicler of American society evoked in the book’s title. It is a book of relentless invention that is also relentlessly urgent—and that is a very rare thing indeed. Khaled Mattawa is, quite simply, one of the finest, fiercest, and most original poets of his generation.” -David Wojahn

Khaled Mattawa was born in Benghazi, Libya in 1964 and immigrated to the U.S. in his teens. He is the author of three previous books of poetry, Ismailia Eclipse (Sheep Meadow, 1995), Zodiac of Echoes (Ausable, 2003), and Amorisco (Ausable, 2008). Mattawa has translated eight volumes of contemporary Arabic poetry and co-edited two anthologies of Arab American literature. He has received a Guggenheim fellowship, an NEA translation grant, the Alfred Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, the PEN American Center Poetry Translation Prize, and three Pushcart Prizes. Mattawa teaches in the MFA (Creative Writing) Program at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.

Children/Young Adult

Saving Sky
By Diane Stanley
(HarperCollins Children)

Saving Sky

Her country is at war. Terrorists strike at random, widespread rationing is in effect, and the power grid is down. But 13-year-old Sky Brightman is remarkably untouched by it all. She lives in a peaceful haven, off the grid on sixty beautiful acres of New Mexico ranch land, with a loving family, three horses, and an elderly dog who gives her gifts. No TV or Internet brings disturbing news into their little adobe home. Then a string of mysterious arrests begin and her new friend Kareem becomes a target. Sky is finally forced to confront the world in all its complexity. Summoning her considerable courage and ingenuity, she takes a stand against injustice. With humor, hope, and fierce determination, she sets out to change the world.

Diane Stanley is the author and illustrator of more than 50 books for children, noted especially for her series of picture book biographies. Born in Abilene, Texas, Stanley earned her bachelor’s degree from Trinity University and her M. A. in medical and biological illustration from Johns Hopkins University College of Medicine. Her books have received several notable awards including the Globe/Hornbook Award and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Golden Kite Award. She lives in Santa Fe, NM with her husband, Peter Vennema, who sometimes collaborates with her on the research for her biographies. She has three grown children.

2011 Honorable Mentions


Barefoot in Baghdad: A Story of Identity – My Own and What it Means to Be a Woman in Chaos

By Manal M. Omar

An American aid worker of Arab decent, Manal Omar moves to Iraq to help as many women as she can rebuild their lives. She quickly finds herself drawn into the saga of a people determined to rise from the ashes of war and sanctions and rebuild their lives in the face of crushing chaos. Barefoot in Baghdad is a chronicle of Omar’s friendships with several Iraqis whose lives are crumbling before her eyes. It is a tale of love, as her relationship with one Iraqi man intensifies in a country in turmoil. And it is the heartrending stories of the women of Iraq, as they grapple with what it means to be female in a homeland you no longer recognize.

Manal M. Omar is the director of Iraq and Iran Programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Previously, she was regional program manager for the Middle East for Oxfam–Great Britain, where she responded to humanitarian crises in Yemen, Palestine and Lebanon. She worked with Women for Women International as regional coordinator for Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan. She has carried out training programs in Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Sudan, Lebanon, and Occupied Palestinian Territories among others. Omar is on the board of directors of Women Without Borders.


This Isa Nice Neighborhood
By Farid Matuk
(Letter Machine Editions)

Can identity be pliant and penetrable? Can the speech act be one of attention over intention, can play and fluidity open onto an ethic? This Isa Nice Neighborhood, Farid Matuk’s first full-length collection, says yes. Yes to the rejection of any opposition between politics and aesthetics, between rhetoric and poetics. Yes to vulnerability. Yes to a poetry willing to enact the errors, uncertainties, and tangled complexities of our political, sexual, and social lives. Testing both narrative and lyric, Matuk finds desire at the root of each, a root from which, these poems suggest, compassion and permission grow intertwined.

Farid Matuk was born in Peru to a Syrian mother and Peruvian father; he has lived in the U.S. since the age of six. Matuk is the author of the chapbook Is it the King? (Effing). Matuk has published translations from Spanish in Kadar Koli, Bombay Gin, Translation Review, and Harvard Review. His full-length collection, This Isa Nice Neighborhood (Letter Machine Editions, 2010), was a Finalist for the Norma Farber First Book Award by the Poetry Society of America. The recipient of Ford and Fullbright Fellowships, Matuk holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin. He lives in Dallas with the poet Susan Briante.

Children/ Young Adult

Time to Pray

By Maha Addasi, illustrated by Ned Gannon
(Boyds Mills Press)

Yasmin is visiting her grandmother, who lives in a country somewhere in the Middle East. On her first night, she’s wakened by the muezzin at the nearby mosque calling the faithful to prayer, and Yasmin watches from her bed as her grandmother prepares to pray. A visit with Grandmother is always special, but this time it is even more so. Her grandmother makes Yasmin prayer clothes, buys her a prayer rug, and teaches her the five prayers that Muslims perform over the course of a day. When it’s time for Yasmin to board a plane and return home, her grandmother gives her a present that her granddaughter opens when she arrives: a prayer clock in the shape of a mosque, with an alarm that sounds like a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer.

Maha Addasi was born and grew up in Kuwait. After graduating from Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana with a degree in Journalism, she joined the Noor Al Hussein Foundation, directed by Queen Noor of Jordan. She has been a correspondent for Jordan Television and the BBC. She lives in Virginia, where she is a writer and TV producer. In addition to Time to Pray, Addasi also authored The White Nights of Ramadan.

Ned Gannon is an illustrator, as well as a painter and writer. He attended the Kansas City Art Institute and the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where he received his MFA. His work has appeared in New York galleries, the Society of Illustrators, and in Communication Arts. He lived and worked on Staten Island, New York, for seven years before moving to Wisconsin, where he currently creates and teaches. In addition to Time to Pray, Gannon also illustrated The White Nights of Ramadan.

Lifetime Achievement

Ameen Rihani

This year marks the 100th anniversary of The Book of Khalid by Ameen Rihani (1876-1940), considered to be the first Arab American novel written in English. Published in 1911, it tells the story of two Arab boys who immigrate to New York City to peddle their wares on the streets of the “Little Syria” neighborhood. Rihani himself immigrated to New York City, where he became a major figure in the burgeoning Arab American arts movement and influenced Arab American writers, poets and artists with his work and through his activism. At the 2011 Arab American Book Award ceremony, the Arab American National Museum will be awarding the Lifetime Achievement Award to Ameen Rihani for his contribution to Arab American literature and his influence on Arab American culture and arts.

Read more about the author and his work HERE.

National Public Radio program host Diane Rehm will present this Lifetime Achievement Award to the family of Ameen Rihani.

All Rights Reserved. 2022 Arab American National Museum