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Black History Month: Modern Afro-Arab Writers to Celebrate

posted on: Feb 22, 2023

By Alison Norquist / Arab America Contributing Writer

For more than a millennium and a half, when Arab traders and Islamic missionaries came to Africa, there has been a mixing of not only ethnicities but also cultures. Throughout the Northern half of Africa, there are varying degrees of Arab influence. In modern times, that has created a unique perspective on the world that is only held by those who live in two diasporas simultaneously.

These perspectives help to create unique stories and narratives. While many of us know of the mysticized and, often fetishized, draw of the Middle East for an Arab perspective, it is the lesser-discussed Black- or Afro-Arab perspective that should especially be celebrated during both Black History Month in February and Arab-American Heritage Month in April.

Meet The Authors

Saara El-Arifi

Picture of Saara El-Arifi, a black woman looking up at the sky
Saara El-Arifi – Mustafa Raee

Born to Ghanian and Sudanese parents and raised partly in Abu Dhabi, Saara El-Arifi is the author of internationally bestselling novel The Final Strife. Set to be a trilogy, the first installment came out in summer of 2022. After moving to England in her later years, she found that she stuck out from her peers thanks to her height (she’s 6 feet tall). Her novel, which focuses on political strife and rebellion centers on the kidnapped Sylah who participates in underground fighting rings in order to fund her drug habit. Her second novel in the series is scheduled to be published in late 2023.

Amir Tag Elsir

[Emir Tag Elsir. Image from Author]
Amir Tag Elsir – Image from Author

Although he is currently living in Qatar, Sudanese born Amir Tag Elsir first began writing poetry while practicing gynecology in the 80s. In 1988, he published his first novel, Karmakul. Since then, he has completed over ten novels and has published two biographies. Among his many accomplishments as a writer, in 2010 he was shortlisted for an Arab Booker Prize with his book a’id al-Yaraqat [The Grub Hunter]. His latest work, Flowers in Flames focuses on the ficticious but rather realistic sexual enslavement and religious reeducation of women at the hands of religious extremists.

Stella Gaitano

May be an image of 1 person
Stella Gaitano – Facebook

Dubbed “[South Sudan’s] ambassador to the Arab world,” Stella Gaitano’s collections of short stories are in Arabic. While the common language in South Sudan is a pdigin of Arabic and several of the local languages, Gaitano’s almost rebelious tendency to write in Arabic has set her apart from many of the other Sudanese authors. Her writing, which beautifully captures the realities of the decades-long conflict that has torn Sudan apart since at least the 1950s. Her nine collections and one novel have earned her acclaim, including a fellowship with PEN International as a Writer-in-Exile. The program helps protect and resettle at-risk writers in the name of literacy. She now lives in Germany.

Layla F. Saad

Layla F. Saad –

A Black History Month author list would not be complete without a writer who focuses on racism. Layla F. Saad has made it her mission, both as an author and Instagram educator, to change the view the world has on white supremacy and racism. Her first book, White Supremacy and Me is a universal best seller and has led her to be featured on several talk shows, university lectures, and editorials. She is of Arab, East African, and British heritage and now lives in Doha, Qatar with her husband and family.

Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin

May be an image of 1 person
Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin – Facebook

Sudanese author Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin began his writing career in the early 2000s with great influence from horror writers like Edgar Allen Poe. Since then, he has written seven novels, many of which are banned in his home country. Writing about topics like the treatment of seasonal workers in Sudan, sex, and addiction in children has led his banned literature to often be traded in digital format. He now lives in Austria.

Samira Sedira

Samira Sedira – Instagram

Samira Sedira may be the most diverse author on this list. She has 13 acting credits to her name according to IMDB as well as several plays and novels. Born in Algeria, her and her family moved to France when she was a young child. Her career began in acting both on stage and in film, but later she gave it up to become a writer. Most of her published works are in French, with the exception of her newest thriller People Like Them. Touching on topics like community, race, and financial hardship, People Like Them follows two families, one flashy and new, the other more modest and established members of the small community of Carmac. The story is inspired by real events.

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