Making Change: Arab american Heritage


A vital part of our mission is leadership. LEADERSHIP IS MAKING CHANGE.
This month: Celebrating Arab American Heritage Month

Following our Leadership is Making Change post, which was written in response to the many stories of racial inequality that plague our country, the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Development at Worcester State University made a vow to provide support for and education about marginalized cultures and identities. Marginalized populations are defined as “groups and communities that experience discrimination and exclusion (social, political and economic) because of unequal power relationships across economic, political, social and cultural dimensions.”  The Making Change series features monthly posts that share historical backgrounds, educational resources (to read, watch, and listen), and activism opportunities centered around a specific culture, identity, or community.

Our goal with our April Post is to Celebrate Arab American Heritage Month. Arab Americans have roots in 22 countries located in the Middle East and North African regions: Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. And within all those countries, there are various languages, religions, traditions that are now part of our American story. This month we celebrate the variety of contributions of Arab Americans that are times misrepresented and made invisible.

We strive everyday to educate our students to be impactful campus and community leaders. Leadership begins with education. This resource list is not exhaustive, but will provide the opportunity to begin the journey of educating yourself and those around you.

Start Here

National Arab American Heritage Month
Celebrate Arab American Heritage
How to Celebrate
Arab American History

To Watch

Why We Need Arab American Heritage Month 
‘We’re more than just hummus and pita’ — We’re kicking off Arab American Heritage Month by breaking down what it means to be Arab.

Don’t Erase Me: The Modern Arab American
Jerry Stinnett talks about why Arab-American invisibility is an important issue and how universities can provide better resources for this growing group of individuals. While Jeremiah has many interest areas, his primary focus is advocating against the erasure of Arab-American identity and creating opportunity for deeper identity development.

The series follows first-generation, Egyptian-American Ramy Hassan (Youssef) who is on a spiritual journey in his politically-divided New Jersey neighborhood. RAMY brings a new perspective to the screen as it explores the challenges of what it’s like to be caught between a religious community who believes life is a moral test, and a millennial generation that doubts an afterlife even exists. In the second season, Ramy delves further into his spiritual journey, finding a new Muslim community and embracing a deeper commitment to his faith.

A drama centered on the trials and tribulations of a proud Palestinian Christian immigrant single mother and her teenage son in small town Indiana.

The Feeling of Being Watched
Amazon Prime
When journalist Assia Boundaoui investigates rumors of surveillance in her Arab-American neighborhood in Chicago, she uncovers one of the largest FBI terrorism probes conducted before 9/11 and reveals its enduring impact on the community.

What is Ramadan
This video is for all Non – Muslims who don’t have much idea about What is Ramadan ? This video tells you everything you need to know about Ramadan. It’s a simple and understandable video which will clear all your doubts about the Meaning of Ramadan and the Importance of Ramadan for Muslims.

How You See Me
There has been a lot of talk in the media recently ABOUT Arabs. So, we wanted to talk WITH Arabs about how they feel people see them and how they see themselves. Tell us, how does the world see YOU? Do you feel defined by your skin color, gender, or maybe even your religion?

Home in the Time of Displacement | Lina Sergie Attar
What does “home” mean to a child growing up as a refugee? What kind of future are we envisioning for the millions of people fleeing war, searching for sanctuary, and longing to belong? In this deeply personal talk about the Syrian humanitarian crisis, Lina Sergie Attar, Syrian American writer from Aleppo and founder of Karan Foundation, describes the experience of living through the unimaginable loss when conflict hits home and explores innovative and meaningful ways to nurture hope.

We Are Not White
Arab Americans need a box, like everyone else, so we can be counted and so we can count! Amer is a Palestinian-American comedian, musician, & writer. As the child of Palestinian refugees, his special brand of comedy is fresh, enlightening, and, of course, hilarious.


To Listen

The Ray Hanania Radio Show
Ray Hanania, Arab News US Special Correspondent, hosts “The Ray Hanania Radio Show” live on the US Arab Radio Network sponsored by Arab News, the Middle East’s leading English language daily. Guests include newsmakers from the White House, State Department, and Congress to Arab American thought leaders addressing breaking news stories.

The American Writers Museum Podcasts
Episode 44: Sahar Mustafah. Celebrate Arab American Heritage Month with Sahar Mustafah, who discusses her recent novel The Beauty of Your Face. This conversation took place April 8th, 2020 and was recorded live via Zoom. Mustafah also put together a list of some of her favorite and most influential books by Arab American writers.

Play Mates: Off-White, or The Arab House Party Play by Alyssa Haddad
In this episode, Brynn gets to talk to the playwright herself, Alyssa Haddad, about her play, Off-White, or The Arab House Party Play. We learn about the culture of early 2000s teens, the rise and fall of Myspace and AIM, and the racism that Arab-Americans faced after the events of 9/11, and we get a special treat from Breaking and Entering Theater Collective– an audio clip from their recent production of the play! If you like Y2K nostalgia, heartbreakingly authentic accounts of teenager-dom, and effective discussions of racism in America, this one’s for you!

See Something Say Something

Each week, Ahmed Ali Akbar covers everything that American Muslims are talking about right now — misrepresentation in the media, equality in the mosque, Asahd memes, and much more.

Hello Somebody
Let’s Find Our Place in the Quilt with Dr. James Zogby. Senator Turner has a historical heart-to-heart with Dr. James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute, which centers on the fact that justice is not a destination but a journey. Join them as they recount movements started and continued by our greats, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Jesse Jackson, Barbara Jordan, Shirley Chisolm, and Senator Bernie Sanders. (Be sure to listen until the end where Dr. Zogby drops some inspiration perfect for April’s Arab American Heritage Month!) #HelloSomebody

Embracing Enough
Dina sits down on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon with her friend Najiyah to kick off Arab-American Heritage Month celebrated annually in April. In this special episode called Ana kifaya, which means, “I am Enough” in Arabic; Dina and Najiyah swap stories about their adolescence, reminisce about their travels together to Morocco and Egypt, talk about the ways they navigated the workplace in their early 20s, and muse about life’s many transitions. The episode comes to you from Najiyah’s backyard with their dogs in the background. You’ll feel like you’ve just pulled up a chair to a conversation with two good girlfriends.


To Read

We encourage you to utilize your local library or independent bookstore. Books can also be requested through the Worcester State Library when classes are back in session. Students may be eligible to access some of the titles below with a free 2-month Kindle Unlimited trial subscription or free Audible trial.

Love is an Ex-Country
by Randa Jarrar
Randa Jarrar is a fearless voice of dissent who has been called “politically incorrect” (Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times). As an American raised for a time in Egypt, and finding herself captivated by the story of a celebrated Egyptian belly dancer’s journey across the United States in the 1940s, she sets off from her home in California to her parents’ in Connecticut. Queer. Muslim. Arab American. A proudly Fat woman. Randa Jarrar is all of these things. In this “exuberant, defiant and introspective” memoir of a cross-country road trip, she explores how to claim joy in an unraveling and hostile America (The New York Times Book Review).

You Exist Too Much: A Novel
by Zaina Arafat
A “provocative and seductive debut” of desire and doubleness that follows the life of a young Palestinian American woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities as she endeavors to lead an authentic life (O, The Oprah Magazine) Told in vignettes that flash between the U.S. and the Middle East—from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine—Zaina Arafat’s debut novel traces her protagonist’s progress from blushing teen to sought–after DJ and aspiring writer. In Brooklyn, she moves into an apartment with her first serious girlfriend and tries to content herself with their comfortable relationship. But soon her longings, so closely hidden during her teenage years, explode out into reckless romantic encounters and obsessions with other people. Her desire to thwart her own destructive impulses will eventually lead her to The Ledge, an unconventional treatment center that identifies her affliction as “love addiction.” In this strange, enclosed society she will start to consider the unnerving similarities between her own internal traumas and divisions and those of the places that have formed her.

Here to Stay
by Sara Farizan
What happens when a kid who’s flown under the radar for most of high school gets pulled off the bench to make the winning basket in a varsity playoff game? If his name is Bijan Majidi, life is suddenly high fives in the hallways and invitations to exclusive parties—along with an anonymous photo sent by a school cyberbully that makes Bijan look like a terrorist. The administration says they’ll find and punish the culprit. Bijan wants to pretend it never happened. He’s not ashamed of his Middle Eastern heritage; he just doesn’t want to be a poster child for Islamophobia. Lots of classmates rally around Bijan. Others make it clear they don’t want him or anybody who looks like him at their school. But it’s not always easy to tell your enemies from your friends. Here to Stay is a painfully honest, funny, authentic story about growing up, speaking out, and fighting prejudice.


The Bad Muslim Discount: A Novel
by Syed M. Masood It is 1995, and Anvar Faris is a restless, rebellious, and sharp-tongued boy doing his best to grow up in Karachi, Pakistan. As fundamentalism takes root within the social order and the zealots next door attempt to make Islam great again, his family decides, not quite unanimously, to start life over in California. Ironically, Anvar’s deeply devout mother and his model-Muslim brother adjust easily to life in America, while his fun-loving father can’t find anyone he relates to. For his part, Anvar fully commits to being a bad Muslim. At the same time, thousands of miles away, Safwa, a young girl living in war-torn Baghdad with her grief-stricken, conservative father will find a very different and far more dangerous path to America. When Anvar and Safwa’s worlds collide as two remarkable, strong-willed adults, their contradictory, intertwined fates will rock their community, and families, to their core.The Bad Muslim Discount is an irreverent, poignant, and often hysterically funny debut novel by an amazing new voice. With deep insight, warmth, and an irreverent sense of humor, Syed M. Masood examines universal questions of identity, faith (or lack thereof), and belonging through the lens of Muslim Americans.

Above Us the Milky Way
by Fowzia Karimi
Debut novel about a young family forced to flee their war-ravaged homeland, forced to leave behind everything & everyone beloved & familiar. Old family photographs & lush watercolor paintings based on medieval illuminated manuscripts interweave with remembrances, ghost stories/stories of the war dead, & fairy tales to conjure a story of war, of emigration & immigration, the remarkable human capacity to experience love & wonder amidst destruction & loss, & how to create beauty out of horror.

The Beauty of Your Face
by Sahar Mustafah
A uniquely American story told in powerful, evocative prose, The Beauty of Your Face navigates a country growing ever more divided. Afaf Rahman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, is the principal of Nurrideen School for Girls, a Muslim school in the Chicago suburbs. One morning, a shooter―radicalized by the online alt-right―attacks the school. As Afaf listens to his terrifying progress, we are swept back through her memories: the bigotry she faced as a child, her mother’s dreams of returning to Palestine, and the devastating disappearance of her older sister that tore her family apart. Still, there is the sweetness of the music from her father’s oud, and the hope and community Afaf finally finds in Islam. The Beauty of Your Face is a profound and poignant exploration of one woman’s life in a nation at odds with its ideals, an emotionally rich novel that encourages us to reflect on our shared humanity. If others take the time to really see us, to look into our face, they will find something indelibly familiar, something achingly beautiful gazing back.


Poetry of Nazir Qabbani
Muslim Women Have Been Leaders In Conservative Fashion Since Way Before It Was “Cool”

Arab America: Preserving the Arabic language and culture
The Ongoing Problem with Middle Eastern Representation on TV
Marvel’s Muslim superhero, Kamala Khan, inspires big hopes

To Act, Support, & Learn More

Arab America Foundation
Karam Foundation
Center for Arab American Philanthropy
The Arab American Educational Foundation
Arab American Institute
Arab Women Organization

Campus Resources

Counseling Services
Office of Multicultural Affairs
Student Involvement and Leadership Development 
Student Affairs

Resource list compiled by Linzy Martinez, Assistant Director, Office of Student Involvement & Leadership Development