2013 Arab American Book Award Winners

(Books published in 2012)


Fiction Lebanese Blonde by Joseph Geha
The Evelyn Shakir
Non-Fiction Award
House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East by Anthony Shadid
Poetry Atrium: Poems by Hala Alyan

Children/Young Adult

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books by Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya

Honorable Mentions
Fiction Flying Carpets by Hedy Habra

The Girl Who Fell to Earth by Sophia Al-Maria
Even My Voice is Silence by Soha Al-Jurf

Poetry Sea and Fog by Etel Adnan

Children/Young Adult

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Lifetime Achievement


Dr. Alixa Naff (posthumously)

Click HERE to see photos from the award ceremony, held at the Arab American National Museum on November 2, 2013.

Watch a short video about the impact of Dr. Alixa Naff, the 2013 Lifetime Achievement honoree, shown during the ceremony.                                        



Lebanese Blonde
By Joseph Geha
(Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2012)

Lebanese Blonde takes place in 1975-76 at the beginning of Lebanon’s sectarian civil war. Set primarily in the Toledo, Ohio, “Little Syria” community, it is the story of two immigrant cousins: Aboodeh, a self-styled entrepreneur; and Samir, his young, reluctant accomplice. Together the two concoct a scheme to import Lebanese Blonde, a potent strain of hashish, into the United States, using the family’s mortuary business as a cover. When Teyib, a newly arrived war refugee, stumbles onto their plans, his clumsy efforts to gain acceptance raise suspicion. Who is this mysterious “cousin,” and what dangers does his presence pose? Aboodeh and Samir’s problems grow still more serious when a shipment goes awry and their links to the war-ravaged homeland are severed. Soon it’s not just Aboodeh and Samir’s livelihoods and futures that are imperiled, but the stability of the entire family.

Joseph Geha
 is the author of Through and Through: Toledo Stories (Graywolf, 1990), a collection of short stories inspired by his experiences growing up in an émigré Arab American community. He is a Professor Emeritus of the creative writing program at Iowa State University.

The Evelyn Shakir Non-Fiction Award

House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East
By Anthony Shadid
(New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)

In spring 2011, Anthony Shadid was one of four New York Times reporters captured in Libya, cuffed and beaten, as that country was seized by revolution. When he was freed, he went home. Not to Boston or Beirut where he lives or to Oklahoma City, where his Lebanese American family had settled and where he was raised. Instead, he returned to his great-grandfather’s estate, a house that, over three years earlier, Shadid had begun to rebuild. House of Stone is the story of a battle-scarred home and a war correspondent s jostled spirit, and of how reconstructing the one came to fortify the other. In this poignant and resonant memoir, the author creates a mosaic of past and present, tracing the house’s renewal alongside his family s flight from Lebanon and resettlement in America. In the process, Shadid memorializes a lost world, documents the shifting Middle East, and provides profound insights into this volatile landscape.

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. Shadid was honored posthumously with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2012 Arab American Book Award ceremony.


Atrium: Poems
By Hala Alyan
(New York, NY: Three Rooms Press, 2012) 

In Atrium, Hala Alyan traces lines of global issues in personal spaces, with fervently original imagery, and a fierce passion and intense intimacy that echo long after the initial reading. Alyan was recently tapped as a finalist in the Nazim Himet Poetry Competition, and has left her mark on other award-winning poets who are universal in their praise. Among them is fellow Arab American Book Award winner Naomi Shihab Nye, who said, “Don’t miss the dazzling Hala Alyan. Wow. When she says ‘the poetry like a spear,’ she isn’t kidding.”

Hala Alyan
 is a Palestinian American poet who has lived in various cities in the Middle East and the United States. Currently, she resides in Brooklyn, where she is pursuing a doctoral degree in the field of psychology. Her stunning originality in her poetic work has been heard in performances worldwide. Her poem Maktoub was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2012.



 Children/Young Adult

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books
By Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya
(New York, NY: Dial, 2012)


This is the inspiring true story of demonstrators standing up for the love of a library, from a New York Times bestselling illustrator. In January 2011, in a moment that captured the hearts of people all over the world, thousands of Egypt’s students, library workers and demonstrators surrounded the great Library of Alexandria and joined hands, forming a human chain to protect the building. They chanted “We love you, Egypt!” as they stood together for the freedom the library represented. Illustrated with Susan L. Roth’s stunning collages, this amazing true story demonstrates how the love of books and libraries can unite a country, even in the midst of turmoil.

Susan L. Roth
 was born on Leap Year in New York City. She grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, earned her bachelor’s (art) and master’s (printmaking, art history) degrees from Mills College in Oakland, California, and now makes her home back in New York City.  Roth has written or illustrated more than 40 books; her most recent titles – The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families and Dream Something Big: The Story of the Watts Towers – are both 2012 ALA Notable Children’s Books.

Karen Leggett Abouraya
 grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, surrounded by writing and books: her father was a journalist and her mother is a retired school librarian. She was a broadcast journalist for many years on ABC Radio WMAL in Washington, D.C., where she began reviewing and discussing children’s books. She has also reviewed children’s books and interviewed authors for the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Children’s Literature, Washington Parent and others. Currently, Abouraya writes for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (National Wildlife Refuge System), Voice of America, International Educator magazine (NAFSA), and others. Karen graduated from Brown University (international relations) and met her Egyptian husband in Washington.

2013 Honorable Mentions

Honorable Mention – Fiction

Flying Carpets
By Hedy Habra
(March Street Press, 2012)

Flying Carpets is a story collection in the grand tradition of Arab storytelling. In it, Habra masterfully waves her writing wand and takes us on a journey as we read about people and places far away and encounter temples and mountain villages, gliding boats and fragrant kitchens, flaming fish and rich tapestries. The stories recover lost, partially forgotten and imaginary spaces, progressing from the concrete to the universal. The first two sections move between Egypt and Lebanon with a touch of magic realism. In the second half of the collection, the characters become less rooted in time and space as the dreamlike elements intensify.

Hedy Habra is the author of a poetry collection, Tea in Heliopolis and a book of literary criticism, Mundos alternos y artísticos en Vargas Llosa.  She has an MA and an MFA in English and an MA and PhD in Spanish literature, all from Western Michigan University, where she currently teaches. She is the recipient of WMU’s All-University Research and Creative Scholar Award. Habra has published more than 160 poems and short stories in journals and anthologies.

Honorable Mention – Non-Fiction

The Girl Who Fell to Earth
By Sophia Al-Maria
(New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2012)

Award-winning filmmaker and writer Sophia Al-Maria’s The Girl Who Fell to Earth is a funny and wry coming-of-age memoir about growing up in between American and Gulf Arab cultures. 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.

Sophia Al-Maria
 was born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1983. After graduating from the American University in Cairo with a degree in Comparative Literature, she earned an MA from Goldsmith’s University, London where she began researching Gulf Futurism. Currently she is based between Cairo, Doha and Tunis where she is preparing for her feature film Beretta. Her work has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Triple Canopy and Dazed & Confused. She is a contributing editor at Bidoun Magazine. This is her first book.


Honorable Mention – Non-Fiction
Even My Voice is Silence
By Soha Al-Jurf
(CreateSpace, 2012)

 When Soha Al-Jurf goes in search of her father’s Palestinian village, she believes she is embarking on a journey that will help her reconcile the conflicted parts of her identity as a Palestinian American Muslim woman. Instead, what she had anticipated would be the end of her long journey proves only to be the beginning of an elusive search for her true self, mired in the painful realization of what it means to be a refugee. Through exquisite storytelling and deep personal inquiry, Al-Jurf offers readers a rare and intimate perspective on one woman’s struggle to reconcile her life in the U.S. with the one her parents left behind, instilling in her a longing for a homeland with which her own connection is uncertain.

Soha Al-Jurf
 is a Palestinian American Muslim writer who was born in the West Bank city of Nablus and raised in Iowa City, Iowa. She works as a speech-language pathologist in San Francisco. Her writing focuses on issues of identity and “finding one’s own, authentic voice” by exploring themes of politics, spirituality, and personal story. Her writing has appeared in Turning Wheel, Critical Muslim, ElevenEleven, and al Majdal magazines, as well as online on CounterPunch and Transform.


Honorable Mention – Poetry

Sea and Fog
By Etel Adnan
(Callicoon, NY: Nightboat Books, 2012)

These interrelated meditations explore the nature of the individual spirit and the individual spiritedness of the natural world. As skilled a philosopher as she is a poet, in Sea & Fog, Adnan weaves multiple sonic, theoretical, and syntactic pleasure at once.

Etel Adnan
 is the author of numerous books of poetry and prose, including the groundbreaking novel Sitt-Marie Rose. She is a recipient of a 2010 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles National Literary Award. She lives between Sausalito, California; Paris; and Beirut.

Honorable Mention – Children/Young Adult

Shatter Me
By Tahereh Mafi
(New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2012)

No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon. But Juliette has plans of her own. After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she’d lost forever. In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a riveting dystopian world, a thrilling superhero story and an unforgettable heroine.

Tahereh Mafi is a girl. She was born in a small city somewhere in Connecticut and currently resides in Orange County, California, where she drinks too much caffeine and finds the weather to be just a little too perfect for her taste. When unable to find a book, she can be found reading candy wrappers, coupons and old receipts. Shatter Me is her first novel.

Lifetime Achievement
Dr. Alixa Naff

Dr. Alixa Naff (1919-2013), the author of Becoming American: The Early Arab Immigrant Experience (Southern Illinois University Press, 1985), is viewed by many as “The Mother of Arab American Studies.” After completing fieldwork in Arab communities across the U.S. and Canada and receiving a master’s and Ph.D., Naff donated the materials she collected during her research to the Smithsonian. The Faris and Yamna Naff Arab American Collection, named in honor of Naff’s parents and now housed at the National Museum of American History, includes hundreds of artifacts, oral history interviews, photographs, and other documents. Naff worked tirelessly as a volunteer archivist on the collection to help make it available to future researchers.

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