Posted by on February 01, 2013 in Blog

Yvonne Wakim and Maha Addasi dispel common stereotypes of Arab Americans in their new work “A Kid's Guide to Arab American History,” a book designed to familiarize children with Arab American history and people. Wakim and Addasi have focused on “dispelling common stereotypes—such as the belief that all Arabs share the same culture, religion, and language, and have only recently begun immigrating to the United States—this exploration provides a contemporary as well as historical look at the people and experiences that have shaped Arab American culture.”

While scholars have published work denouncing common Arab American stereotypes, this work is unique in that it is addressed to children. In many cases, stereotypes are solidified at a young age, and it is thus paramount to familiarize American children of all ethnic backgrounds with Arab American society, culture, and traditions. After all, Americans of Arab descent have long contributed expertise to American science, politics, and art. For this reason, Wakim and Addasi included a section in the guide that debunks stereotypes such as “all Arab Americans come from oil rich countries” and “Arab American women have no rights” by providing truths that counter such beliefs. Wakin and Addasi added that by reading the guide, “kids will come away with a better understanding of how Arab Americans have helped build and protect this country and have been part of our fabric as a nation for well over 100 years.”

In addition, the guide familiarizes young readers with Arab Americans of Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian, Iraqi, and Yemeni descent and also features activities that shed light on Arab customs, clothing, food, and art. It includes short biographies of prominent Arab Americans from different walks of life who have greatly contributed to American society. These include political activist Ralph Nader, singer Paula Abdul, athlete Doug Flutie, philanthropist Danny Thomas, and fashion designer Reem Acra, among others. The book also provides the opportunity to learn Kurdish, Iraqi, Syrian, and Yemeni Arabic phrases as well as providing instruction on how to dance the debke, a traditional Arab folk dance native to the Levant region, make hummus, and craft Egyptian jewelry.

The Arab American community has come a long way. A decade ago, the sheer concept of a children’s book designed to familiarize one with Arab American history and culture was nonexistent. Today, active members of the Arab American community like authors, Wakim and Addasi have broken down barriers in many realms of American society despite issues of stereotyping and racial profiling. “A Kid’s Guide to Arab American History” makes us look forward to a greater Arab American presence in American literature for all ages. 

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