Books We Read by Arabs in 2021

A collage of all of the books mentioned in the listicle, superimposed over a few Etel Adnan paintings.
Collage by Umang Kalra. Background created from elements of three Etel Adnan paintings (Abstract Landscape, Impossible Homecoming, Untitled).

Introduction

I’ve read a little over 50 books this year. I spent the first 2/3rds of it reviewing before I realized I actually hated doing it monthly because it interfered with Reading as a Hobby, which is allegedly my favorite hobby! This isn’t necessarily a recommendation list, more a Set of Facts. Since I am on the board for RAWI, I feel a sense of responsibility to be well-read when it comes to Arab lit in English; despite that, I know my biases: generally American, generally Palestinian. It’s sort of comforting that even though I have an abundance of titles here, there is still more, more, more to read! I love seeing the emerging trends in our communities, the way they follow along broader trends I see in contemporary poetry scenes or the ways they diverge, the ways they predict what is to come. I likely left some names off here by accident, I didn’t include books I did unfinished-rereads of (Hijra by Hala Alyan comes to mind), nor did I include books I worked on at my job, etc etc. My year in books, abridged! –Summer

January

Palestine: A Socialist Introduction edited by Sumaya Awad and and brian bean

February

The Book of Disappearance by Ibtisam Azem, translated by Sinan Antoon

March

Quiet Orient Riot by Nathalie Khankan

April

A Theory of Birds by Zaina Alsous

May

50 Water Dreams by Siwar Masannat

June

When We Were Arabs by Massoud Hayoun

July

Love is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar

August

Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd

September

You Ask Me To Talk About the Interior by Carolina Ebeid

October

Ms Marvel: Stretched Thin, written by Nadia Shammas, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali

November

In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country by Etel Adnan

December

Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists edited by Joe Kadi

Next up

Summer:

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Summer Farah

Summer Farah

Summer Farah is a Palestinian American poet and editor. She co-writes the biweekly newsletter Letters to Summer.