2012 Arab American Book Award Winners

(Books published in 2011)



Fiction Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber
The Evelyn Shakir
Non-Fiction Award
Arab & Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, & Belonging edited by Rabab Abdulhadi, Evelyn Alsultany and Nadine Naber
Poetry Abu Ghraib Arias by Philip Metres

Honorable Mentions
Fiction Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar
Non-Fiction Modern Arab American Fiction: A Reader’s Guide edited by Steven Salaita
Poetry Transfer by Naomi Shihab Nye

Lifetime Achievement 
Anthony Shadid (posthumously)
Celebrate these winning titles and pay tribute to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anthony Shadid (1968-2012) at the 2012 Arab American Book Award Ceremony at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Museum, 13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn. The evening includes a strolling buffet, open bar and live music, followed by the ceremony and a book signing with winning authors. Permanent and temporary exhibits on Anthony Shadid will be on display during the event.



Birds of Paradise
By Diana Abu-Jaber
(W.W. Norton & Co)

In the tropical paradise that is Miami, Avis and Brian Muir are still haunted by the disappearance of their ineffably beautiful daughter, Felice, who ran away when she was 13. Now, after five years of modeling tattoos, skateboarding, clubbing, and sleeping in a squat house or on the beach, Felice is about to turn 18. Her family-Avis, an exquisitely talented pastry chef; Brian, a corporate real estate attorney; and her brother, Stanley, the proprietor of Freshly Grown, a trendy food market-will each be forced to confront their anguish, loss, and sense of betrayal. Meanwhile, Felice must reckon with the guilty secret that drove her away, and must face her fear of losing her family and her sense of self forever.

Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of Origin, Crescent, Arabian Jazz, and The Language of Baklava. Her writing has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Ms., Salon, Vogue, Gourmet, The New York Times, The Nation, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. Her book, Origin, was awarded the 2008 Arab American Book Award Honorable Mention for Fiction. She divides her time between Coral Gables, Florida, and Portland, Oregon.

The Evelyn Shakir Non-Fiction Award

Arab & Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, & Belonging
Edited by Rabab Abdulhadi, Evelyn Alsultany and Nadine Naber
(Syracuse University Press)

In this collection, Arab and Arab American feminists enlist their intimate experiences to challenge simplistic and long-held assumptions about gender, sexuality, and commitments to feminism and justice-centered struggles. Contributors hail from multiple geographical sites, spiritualities, occupations, sexualities, class backgrounds, and generations. Poets, creative writers, artists, scholars,and activists employ a mix of genres to express feminist issues and highlight how Arab and Arab American feminist perspectives simultaneously inhabit multiple, overlapping, and intersecting spaces: within families and communities; in anticolonial and antiracist struggles; in debates over spirituality and the divine; within radical, feminist, and queer spaces; in academia and on the street; and between each other.

Contributors explore themes as diverse as the intersections between gender, sexuality, Orientalism, racism, Islamophobia, and Zionism, and the restoration of Arab Jews to Arab American histories. This book asks how members of diasporic communities navigate their sense of belonging when the country in which they live wages wars in the lands of their ancestors. Arab and Arab American Feminisms opens up new possibilities for placing grounded Arab and Arab American feminist perspectives at the center of gender studies, Middle East studies, American studies, and ethnic studies.

Rabab Abdulhadi Evelyn Alsultany Nadie Naber

Rabab Abdulhadi is associate professor of ethnic studies/race and resistance studies and senior scholar of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative at San Francisco State University. She is the coauthor of Mobilizing Democracy: Changing U.S. Policy in the Middle East, over 70 bilingual newspaper and journal articles, and co-editor (with Evelyn Alsultany and Nadine Naber) of Arab and Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence and Belonging. She is a recipient of the New Century Scholarship and serves on the International Advisory Board of the World Congress of Middle East studies (WOCMES) and a Policy Advisor to the Palestinian think Tank, AL-Shabaka. As Director of the Center for Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, she has initiated collaborative projects including “Mapping Arab Diasporas”, “Connecting Jerusalem and Dearborn: Developing Arab American and American Studies Curriculum in the US and the Arab World”, and “The Spirit of Bandung: Postcolonial Histories, Transnational Solidarities and 3rd World Cultures of Resistance”.

Evelyn Alsultany is an Associate Professor in the Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan, where she is the co-director of Arab American Studies. She is the author of Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11 (New York University Press, forthcoming 2012). She is co-editor (with Rabab Abdulhadi and Nadine Naber) of Arab and Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, and Belonging (Syracuse University Press, 2011) and (with Ella Shohat) of Between the Middle East and the Americas: The Cultural Politics of Diaspora (University of Michigan Press, forthcoming 2012). She is also guest curator of the Arab American National Museum’s online exhibit, Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes.

Nadine Naber is an Associate Professor in Arab American Studies, the Program in American Culture and the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is author of Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics and Activism (NYU Press). She is co-author of Race and Arab Americans (Syracuse University Press). Her research and teaching contribute to the field, Arab American Studies, by incorporating the methods and theories of Women of Color, Transnational, and Post-Colonial Feminist Studies. She has developed feminist analyses of the changing realities of race, gender, and religion among Arab Americans before and after September 11th. Nadine Naber is co-founder of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association, North America (cyber AWSA) and Arab Movement of Women Arising for Justice (AMWAJ) and actively engaged in INCITE! Women of Color against Violence.


abu ghraib arias
By Philip Metres
(Flying Guillotine Press)

abu ghraib arias is a poetic meditation on why torture happens and what torture does, both to its perpetrators and its victims. The book is a long poem that began out of the author’s vertiginous sense of being named but silenced as an Arab American, and out of the parallel sense of seeing Arabs named and silenced, since 9/11. The poem draws upon a number of sources: a Standard Operating Procedure manual for Camp Echo at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, the testimony of Abu Ghraib torture victims, the words of U.S. soldiers, the Bible, the Code of Hammurabi, and various other texts. Hilary Plum writes in the Kenyon Review, “[Metres] has created a text that incorporates both names and silence, that both names (the torturers) and aims to witness the silence, the violence they’ve inflicted by allowing space in the text, exerting pressure on the speech until it breaks.”

Philip Metres has written a number of books, most recently the chapbook abu ghraib arias and To See the Earth. Other books include: Come Together: Imagine Peace, Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941, Catalogue of Comedic Novelties: Selected Poems of Lev Rubinstein, A Kindred Orphanhood: Selected Poems of Sergey Gandlevsky, and three other chapbooks, Ode to Oil, Instants and Primer for Non-Native Speakers. His work has appeared in Best American Poetry, and Inclined to Speak: Contemporary Arab American Poetry and has garnered an NEA, a Watson Fellowship, four Ohio Arts Council Grants, and the Cleveland Arts Prize in 2010. He teaches literature and creative writing at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.

2012 Honorable Mentions


Anatomy of a Disappearance

By Hisham Matar
(Dial Press)

Nuri is a young boy when his mother dies. It seems that nothing will fill the emptiness that her strange death leaves behind in the Cairo apartment he shares with his father. Until they meet Mona, sitting in her yellow swimsuit by the pool of the Magda Marina hotel. As soon as Nuri sees her, the rest of the world vanishes. But it is Nuri’s father with whom Mona falls in love and whom she eventually marries. And their happiness consumes Nuri to the point where he wishes his father would disappear.

Nuri will, however, soon regret what he wished for. His father, long a dissident in exile from his homeland, is taken under mysterious circumstances. And, as the world that Nuri and his stepmother share is shattered by events beyond their control, they begin to realize how little they knew about the man they both loved.

Anatomy of a Disappearance is written with all the emotional precision and intimacy that have won Hisham Matar tremendous international recognition. In a voice that is delicately wrought and beautifully tender, he asks: When a loved one disappears, how does their absence shape the lives of those who are left?

Hisham Matar was born in New York City to Libyan parents and spent his childhood first in Tripoli and then in Cairo. His first novel, In the Country of Men, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Guardian First Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. It won six international literary awards, including a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize. Additionally, In the Country of Men won the inaugural Arab American Book Award for Fiction in 2007. It has been translated into 26 languages. His second novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance, has just been published. Matar lives in London, and serves as an associate professor at Barnard College in New York City.


Modern Arab American Fiction: A Reader’s Guide
Edited by Steven Salaita
(Syracuse University Press)

Within the spectrum of American literary traditions, Arab American literature is relatively new. Writing produced by Americans of Arab origin is mainly a product of the twentieth century and only started to flourish in the past thirty years. While this young but thriving literature varies widely in content and style, it emerges from a common community and within a specific historical, political, and cultural context. In Modern Arab American Fiction, Salaita maps out the landscape of this genre as he details rather than defines the last century of Arab American fiction.

Exploring the works of such best-selling authors as Rabih Alameddine, Mohja Kahf, Laila Halaby, Diana Abu-Jaber, Alicia Erian, and Randa Jarrar, Salaita highlights the development of each author’s writing and how each has influenced Arab American fiction. He examines common themes including the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Lebanese Civil War of 1975-90, the representation and practice of Islam in the United States, social issues such as gender and national identity in Arab cultures, and the various identities that come with being Arab American.

Steven Salaita is associate professor of English at Virginia Tech. He is the author of Anti-Arab Racism in the USA, The Uncultured Wars: Arabs, Muslims and the Poverty of Liberal Thought, and The Holy Land in Transit.



By Naomi Shihab Nye
(BOA Editions)

The word “transfer” suggests an exchange, a movement from one space to another. Whether between cultures or one that occurs in a conversation between a daughter and her father, “transfer” is a word rife with inference. The poems in Transfer explore the various ways this notion functions in our lives. Many of the poems were written following the death of Naomi Shihab Nye’s father and seek to maintain their relationship, demonstrating the transcendence of such relationships, refusing to accept death as conclusive, and insisting that more needs to be said.

In this collection, Naomi Shihab Nye summons up a variety of voices in her lucid, crisp lyricism to locate the meaning behind our daily and varied exchanges. She draws upon her Palestinian heritage, family deaths, and the cultural diversity of her home in Texas to create poems that attest to our shared humanity and its power to overcome exile and profound loss.

Naomi Shihab Nye lives in old downtown San Antonio, Texas, a block from the sleepy river. She has written or edited 30 previous books including The Red Suitcase, Fuel, and You & Yours with BOA Editions, Ltd. Her collection 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East was a finalist for the National Book Award, and her collection Honeybee was awarded the Arab American Book Award for Children/ Young Adults in 2009. Her poetry anthologies include Time You Let Me In, What Have You Lost?, and This Same Sky. She is also the author of the novels Habibi and Going, Going. Her book of short-short fiction from Greenwillow Books is called There Is No Long Distance Now.

Lifetime Achievement

Anthony Shadid

Anthony Shadid (1968-2012), author of Night Draws Near (Picador, 2006) and House of Stone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), was an unparalleled chronicler of the human stories behind the news. He gained attention and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, for his front-page reports in the Washington Post from Iraq. More recently, as Middle East correspondent for The New York Times, he covered the Arab Spring from Egypt to Libya (where he was held captive in March, 2011) to Syria. In 2010, he earned his second Pulitzer. Tragically, on February 16, 2012, he died while on assignment in Syria.

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