Reading List: Arab American Heritage Month

As part of our calendar celebrating national heritage months and observances, explore these selected works that speak to Arab American heritage. 


Sketch image of a sullen individual surrounded by phrases and thoughts

Rafik Mazjoub, Untitled, From the Room 11 series


The Common publishes portfolios of Arabic fiction in translation annually, in the magazine’s spring issue, bringing contemporary Arabic stories to English-language readers. These collections are co-edited by The Common’s Editor in Chief Jennifer Acker and Arabic Fiction Editor Hisham Bustani. Teachers can enhance student engagement with selected readings focused on the translation of Arabic literature into English, and each issue also includes a page with further readings and resources (linked below).


  • Issue 23’s portfolio of stories and art from Palestine explores themes of liminality, war, family tension and turmoil, friendship, and a world divided into an “outside” and an “inside.” In Mahmoud Shukair’s “A Letter to Kofi Annan,” a community overrun by stray dogs wrestles with the quotidian effects of war and occupation. In Abeer Khshiboon’s “The Stranger,” two Fairuz fans from different countries find common ground in a divided, multiethnic world. “Granada” by Suhail Matar features a Palestinian man living abroad while his family in Gaza faces hard times, inspiring a meditation on different kinds of death and how one’s background informs their relationship to place. See also: related classroom resources.


  • Issue 22’s portfolio of writing from the Arabian Gulf, co-edited with Cairo-born author Noor Naga with an introduction by Deepak Unnikrishnan, delves into the migration, disorientation, and complicated relationships to “place” and “home” that life in Gulf Cooperation Council countries often entails. Two poems by Hala Alyan, “Fixation” and “Self-Portrait as My Mother,” reflect this atmosphere of underlying anxiety. Mona Kareem’s essay “Mapping Exile” describes the long-awaited reunion of a Bidun family from Kuwait and the systemic discrimination faced by stateless people like her family. “Joyriding in Riyadh,” a story by Tariq al Haydar, explores the suffocated and anxious lives of several Saudi couples. See also: related classroom resources, an introductory essay by Noor Naga, “Who Writes the Arabian Gulf?,” and “Podcast: Noor Naga on ‘Who Writes the Arabian Gulf?’






  • Issue 11: Tajdeed. This issue is entirely dedicated to contemporary Arabic fiction, featuring 31 contributors from 15 countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Translated for contemporary English-speaking audiences, the issue presents a diverse group of emerging and established literary stars; see also: related classroom readings and three sample lesson plans


In addition to the portfolios, we have published the following works by Arab American authors: 

  • Two Poems, “Trenches at ShowBiz, Kuwait City” and “Coming Home,” by Rana Tahir explore the intersections of past and present, the vestiges of war, and the acts of rebuilding that transcend generations.
  • The Way Back Home” by S. G. Moradi, a dispatch from Iran, evokes a yearning for a homeland out of reach. 
  • Room of Darkness” by Mona Kareem, translated by Sara Elkamel, explores loneliness, abandonment, and the inaccessibility of the self.
  • In “Lions of the Church,” an Issue 24 short story by Ahmed Naji, translated by Ben Koerber, the life stories of an infamous violent man and a sensitive queer teenager-turned-corrupt politician mysteriously intersect. 
  • The Battle of the Camel” by Sara Elkamel captures a spiritual, fantastical journey as a way of escaping a challenging reality. 
  • Excerpt from DRIFTS” by Natasha Burge, an exploration of autism and psychogeography through the souks, caves, and sands of the Arabian Gulf to create a loving and sensorial meditation on place and transcultural identity.


Reading List: Arab American Heritage Month