Arab American Heritage Month

April is an opportunity to learn more about and celebrate the over 40,000 Arab Oregonians and an estimated 1.5 million Arab Americans. Arab Americans often have to navigate bias and hate directed toward them. Although our government’s census and many official documents determine that Arab Americans are white racially, many people move through the world experiencing racism. Arab Americans deserve to celebrate their culture. Those of us who are not Arab American can dedicate some time to examine any biases we might have and work toward a more inclusive present and future.

Oregon has made permanent legislation proclaiming that April is National Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM). Important note that many are encouraging the title of this month to be changed to Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Month.

Let’s learn more about Arab Americans, especially during NAAHM!

Educate Ourselves

Arab countries and Americans are diverse people and cultures. North Africa and Southwest Asia (often called The Middle East) are home to the 22 Arab countries. Most Arabs are Christian, many are Jewish or Muslim, but many others practice other religions or none at all. We can build empathy and knowledge by watching stories, listening to podcasts, and enjoying TV & movies about Arab Americans, such as The Other Son (PG-13). We can virtually attend the Arab American Museum’s film festival in May.


Your family can cook Middle Eastern or North African foods to celebrate the month and learn about new-to-you favorites. A popular Lebanese skillet potato dish, batata harra, might be a delicious addition to your weekly menus. Chef Reem Assil’s Arab bread would be a delightful experiment, along with many other recipes she shares in her cookbook. Of course, you will need some hummus for your bread. Hummus is simple to make at home and often tastes fresher than store-bought.

Famous Arab Americans

Many know that Steve Jobs was an Arab American.Your family might want to learn about the backgrounds of other famous people they’re interested in. Supermodel Gigi Hadid has Palestinian roots. Kahlil Gibran, the poet and author of The Prophet, was Lebanese-American. Palestinian DJ Khaled (not all of his music is family-friendly) is a successful musician who has collaborated with many famous musicians. Hockey player Justin Abdelkader has family from Jordan. Saudi-American Olympic athlete Sarah Attar was one of the first two females to compete in the Olympics for Saudi Arabia. Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan legislature. Jerry Seinfeld is half-Syrian.

Finally, you should talk with your family about the war in Israel and Gaza. It is complicated and ever-changing; repeated conversations are helpful. Child psychologist Robin Gurwitch suggests opening a discussion with older kids by starting, “‘Tell me what your friends are saying about all of this’” and then using that as a way of launching the conversation and hearing more about their feelings.” You might suggest making a family contribution to World Central Kitchen or another organization helping people during the war.


Arab America Foundation

Arab American National Museum

Middle East Institute

Picture Books

The Arabic Quilt (picture book) by Aya Khalil and Anait Semirdzhyan

Eleven Words for Love (picture book) by Randa Abdel-Fattah and Maxine Beneba Clarke

The Librarian of Basra (picture book) by Jeanette Winter

The Little Black Fish (picture book) by Samad Behrangi, Farshid Mesghali, and Azita Rassi

Middle Grade/Young Adult Books

Does My Head Look Big in This? (Young Adult) by Randa Abdel-Fattah

A Hand Full of Stars (Middle Grade) by Rafik Schami

How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? (Young Adult) by Moustafa Bayoumi

Not the Girls You’re Looking For (Young Adult) by Aminah Mae Safi

Tasting the Sky (Middle Grade) by Ibtisam Barakat

Grown-up Books

I Was Their American Dream (graphic memoir) by Malaka Gharib

Life Without a Recipe (memoir) by Diana Abu-Jaber

Mother of Strangers  (novel) by Suad Amiry

Salt Houses (novel) by Hala Alyan

Thirty Names of Night (novel)  by Zeyn Joukhadar

By Megan McQueen. Spanish translation by IRCO’s International Language Bank.

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, imparting a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup.

Learn more about the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative and read our blog!

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