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2007 Arab American Book Award Winners Emerge from Crowded Field

posted on: Oct 13, 2008

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Oh, the stories they tell! Six Arab American authors, writing from diverse locations and perspectives, will be honored with the Arab American National Museum’s 2007 Arab American Book Award in an invitation-only ceremony set for Saturday, November 1 at the AANM. The winners are:

Winner – Fiction

Remember Me to Lebanon: Stories of Lebanese Women in America

by Evelyn Shakir
Winner – Non-Fiction

Another Arabesque: Syrian-Lebanese Ethnicity in Neoliberal Brazil

by John Tofik Karam

Winner – Children’s/Young Adult

Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat

Honorable Mention – Fiction

Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber
Honorable Mention – Non-Fiction

Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens: Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq’s Tenth-Century Baghdadi Cookbook by Nawal Nasrallah
Honorable Mention – Non-Fiction

Kisses from a Distance by Raff Ellis
See descriptions below for further details on these titles.

he Arab American Book Award program encourages the publication and excellence of books that preserve and advance the understanding, knowledge, and resources of the Arab American community by celebrating the thoughts and lives of Arab Americans. The purpose of the Award is to inspire authors, educate readers and foster a respect and understanding of the Arab American culture.

The winning titles are chosen by groups of selected readers including respected authors, university professors, artists and AANM staff. The AANM first gave these awards in 2007 for books published in 2006; for 2007, the number of submissions more than doubled from the inaugural year.

“The growing numbers of books submitted for this award, which is only in its second year, indicates an increased interest in the topic and the expanding impact of the relatively new field of Arab American studies and the impact of Arab American scholars,” says Janice J. Terry, Professor Emerita of History at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan, who reviewed submitted non-fiction titles.

“The award encourages and recognizes these scholars and also encourages publishers to consider their works, thereby making it easier for scholars in Arab American studies and for Arab American scholars to secure publication for their work,” Terry adds.

The Arab American Book Award also illustrates that Arab American writers and subject matter are not merely literary niches for limited audiences, says writer-scholar Gregory Orfalea, who has reviewed fiction titles for the program.

“It is especially important, given the difficulty many Arab American authors have had reaching a mainstream audience, that we hold up for praise the best of our work,” says Orfalea, currently a Visiting Professor in Arab American Literature at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“As most major ethnic communities have had such book awards, we have been overdue in this regard, commencing in 2006,” he continues. “But there is no doubt in my mind that the winners of these first awards are good enough to merit award beyond the ethnic context, in any national literary contest. That’s one more reason to hold Arab American literature up to a closer, stronger light.”

To ensure the long-term future of the Arab American Book Award program, a special endowment fund has been launched with a $10,000 gift from Drs. A. Adnan and Barbara C. Aswad. Dr. Barbara C. Aswad is Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan and a past president of the Middle Eastern Studies Association and a Board Member Emerita for ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services), parent organization of the Arab American National Museum. Dr. A. Adnan Aswad is Professor Emeritus of Engineering at the University of Michigan – Dearborn. The Aswads, now based in Los Angeles, were inspired to make the gift after the inaugural Book Award ceremony in Fall 2007.

“The Book Award is one very visible way the Arab American National Museum fulfills its mission on a national level,” says the Museum’s Assistant Director Celine Taminian, who oversees the program along with the geographically diverse advisory committee. “Books by writers from across the United States were considered and judged by readers also located throughout the country. We then publicize the winning titles nationwide, to generate awareness and interest among readers and the American publishing industry.”