2015 Arab American Book Award Winners

(Books published in 2014)


Fiction An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami
The Evelyn Shakir
Non-Fiction Award
Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past by Sally Howell
The George Ellenbogen Poetry Award Tahrir Suite: Poems by Matthew Shenoda
Children/Young Adult The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye

Honorable Mentions
Poetry And the Time Is: Poems, 1958-2003 by Samuel Hazo
Children/Young Adult The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston (author) and Claire Ewart (illustrator)

Reading & Discussion Guides

Enhance the reading experience for your classroom or book club with the help of Reading & Discussion Guides. The guides offer summaries, questions, author interviews, and other supplementary material. Download a free Reading & Discussion Guide for the following 2015 award-winning titles:



An Unnecessary Woman
By Rabih Alameddine
(New York: Grove Press, 2014)

In this portrait of a reclusive woman’s late-life crisis, readers follow Aaliya Saleh’s digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Musings on literature, philosophy, and art collide with memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya’s own volatile past, until an unthinkable disaster interrupts her life of solitude and literary translation. A love letter to literature and its power to define who we are, Rabih Alameddine has given us a nuanced rendering of one woman’s life in the Middle East.

Rabih Alameddine is the author of the novels KoolaidsI, the Divine; and The Hakawati. He divides his time between San Francisco and Beirut. Follow him on Twitter @RabihAlameddine.


The Moor’s Account
By Laila Lalami
(New York: Pantheon Books, 2014)

In this work of historical fiction, Laila Lalami brings to life Mustafa al-Zamori, a Moroccan slave and the first African explorer of America. The imagined memoirs trace his journey on the ship of a conquistador to a perilous trek across Florida and beyond. Al-Zamori, called Estebanico by his captors, went on to travel more than 6,000 miles throughout the land that would later become the Southern United States, acting as a healer and interpreter. Lalami captures Estebanico’s voice and vision, giving us an alternate narrative for this famed expedition.

The Moor’s Account has been named a New York Times Notable Book, a Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year, a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and is on the longlist for the Man Booker Prize and a nominee for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.

Laila Lalami is the author of the novels Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and Secret Son, which was on the Orange Prize longlist. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington PostThe Nation, the Guardian, the New York Times, and in many anthologies. Her work has been translated into ten languages. She is the recipient of a British Council Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship and is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. Follow her on Twitter @LailaLalami.

The Evelyn Shakir Non-Fiction Award

Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past
By Sally Howell
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2014)

Across North America, Islam is portrayed as a religion of immigrants, converts, and cultural outsiders. Yet Muslims have been part of American society for much longer than most people realize. This book documents the history of Islam in Detroit, a city that is home to several of the nation’s oldest, most diverse Muslim communities. Howell’s work provides a new interpretation of the possibilities and limits of Muslim incorporation in American life. It shows how Islam has become American in the past and how the anxieties many new Muslim Americans and non-Muslims feel about the place of Islam in American society today are not inevitable, but are part of a dynamic process of political and religious change that is still unfolding.

Sally Howell is Assistant Professor of History and Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She is co-author of Citizenship and Crisis: Arab Detroit after 9/11 and editor of Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the Terror Decade.

The George Ellenbogen Poetry Award

Tahrir Suite: Poems
By Matthew Shenoda
(Chicago: TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2014)

Tahrir Suite contemplates immigration, homeland and diaspora in the 21st century. The poem cycles through the journey of two Egyptians moving across borders, languages, cultures, landscapes and political systems while their life in the U.S. diaspora evolves and their home country undergoes revolutionary change. Tahrir Suite works to capture the complicated essence of what it means to be from a specific place that is experiencing such radical change and how our understandings of “home” and “place” constantly evolve.

Matthew Shenoda is a writer and professor whose poems and essays have appeared in a variety of newspapers, journals, radio programs and anthologies. His debut collection of poems, Somewhere Else (Coffee House Press), was named one of 2005’s debut books of the year by Poets & Writers and was winner of a 2006 American Book Award. He is also the author of Seasons of LotusSeasons of Bone (BOA Editions Ltd.) and editor of Duppy Conqueror: New & Selected Poems by Kwame Dawes. Bearden’s Odyssey: An Anthology of Poets Responding to the Art of Romare Bearden, edited by Shenoda and Dawes, will be released by Northwestern University Press in 2016. Shenoda is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago. Additionally, Shenoda is a founding editor of the African Poetry Book Series. He lives with his family in Evanston, Illinois.

Children/Young Adult

The Turtle of Oman
By Naomi Shihab Nye
(New York: Greenwillow Press, 2014)

The Turtle of Oman explores themes of moving, family, nature, and immigration. It tells the story of Aref Al-Amri, who must say good-bye to everything and everyone he loves in his hometown of Muscat, Oman, as his family prepares to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Naomi Shihab Nye’s warmth, attention to detail, and belief in the power of empathy and connection shines from every page.

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and anthologist and the acclaimed author of Habibi: A Novel and Sitti’s Secrets, a picture book, which was based on her own experiences visiting her beloved Sitti in Palestine. Her book 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East was a finalist for the National Book Award. She has taught writing and worked in schools all over the world, including in Muscat, Oman. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.

2015 Honorable Mentions

Honorable Mention – Poetry

And the Time Is: Poems, 1958-2013
By Samuel Hazo
Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2014

In this work, Hazo casts his eye back over a career devoted to poetry. With works that are arranged loosely under the themes of love, family, and aging, this volume affirms Hazo’s status as one of the most compelling and enduring poets of his generation. Poems appearing in this collection include works that have previously appeared in the Hudson ReviewPrairie Schooner, the New York Times, and the Saturday Review.

Samuel Hazo is the director of the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh, where he is also McAnulty Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at Duquesne University. His books include StillsThis Part of the World, and The Time Remaining. Among his translations are Adonis’s The Pages of Day and Night and Nadia Tueni’s Lebanon: Poems of Love and War.

Honorable Mention – Children/Young Adult

The Olive Tree 
By Elsa Marston (author) and Claire Ewart (illustrator)
(Bloomington, Ind.: Wisdom Tales Press, 2014)

The Olive Tree follows two children in Lebanon 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.

Elsa Marston is the author of over a dozen books of fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults, many of which incorporate her lifelong interest in Middle Eastern history and culture. She has won numerous awards for her writing, including the Middle Eastern Outreach Council Book of the Year, as well as awards from Highlights Magazine and the International Reading Association. Elsa’s late husband was from Lebanon, and the two of them would often travel together to the Middle East. She lives in Bloomington, Indiana. Claire Ewart is a well-known illustrator and author of books for children. She has illustrated books for numerous authors and has also written and illustrated several books of her own. Her work as an illustrator has been included on Best Book lists from School Library Journal and Parents Magazine, and also featured on the PBS television shows Reading Rainbow and Storytime. She lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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