Arab American Book Awards welcomes first Sudanese American awardee

Sudanese American poet Safia Elhillo and her book “The January Children” will be honored by the Arab American Book Awards at its awards ceremony Nov. 9 at the Arab American National Museum.

Sudanese American poet Safia Elhillo and her book “The January Children” will be honored by the Arab American Book Awards at its awards ceremony Nov. 9 at the Arab American National Museum.

DEARBORN – In its 12th year of honoring books by and about Arab Americans, the Arab American Book Awards will honor a Sudanese American for the first time.

The AABA will present its George Ellenbogen Poetry Award to Sudanese American poet Safia Elhillo at its awards ceremony Nov. 9 at the Arab American National Museum.

The Washington, D.C.-based Elhillo used family histories to explore aspects of Sudan’s history of colonial occupation, dictatorship and diaspora in her winning title, “The January Children” (Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 2017). Her poems explore Arabness and Africanness and the tensions generated by a hyphenated identity in those two worlds.

This year’s Evelyn Shakir Non-Fiction Award winner is author Pamela Pennock, who teaches at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Her groundbreaking history of Arab American activism in the 1960s, “The Rise of the Arab-American Left: Activists, Allies, and Their Fight” (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2017) spotlights one of the most overlooked minority groups in the history of American social movements.

This national literary competition — the only one of its kind in the United States — is designed to celebrate and draw attention to books by and about Arab Americans. It is one of many AANM programs that highlight the achievements and contributions of Arab Americans and help build community through the arts.

The AABA include endowed awards named in honor of longstanding program supporter George Ellenbogen and his late partner, Evelyn Shakir, an English professor at Bentley College and a 2008 AABA winner for her work “Remember Me to Lebanon: Stories of Lebanese Women in America.”

Included in the presentation ceremony is an opportunity to purchase the winning books and have them signed by authors in attendance, including Elhillo, Pennock and Hala Alyan.

As part of the evening, artist Melissa Chimera and poets Adele Ne Jame, Naomi Shihab Nye and Hayan Charara will celebrate the opening of “The Far Shore: Navigating Homelands” (Nov. 10 to April 7 in the Main Floor Gallery), a new exhibition by 10 Arab American poets and artists.

Guests can stroll the Main Floor Gallery with the artist and poets, discussing the new visual works created in response to the contemporary poetry of the Arab immigrant experience. Shihab Nye and Charara are past AABA winners.

The evening also will include a reading by the poets, an open-mic session and a buffet meal.
Tickets for Museum Members are $10, and $15 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased online at http://bit.ly/2018AABA.
Source: The Arab American National Museum

The winners of the 2018 Arab American Book Awards are:

WINNER: Fiction Award
Salt Houses
By Hala Alyan

WINNER: Evelyn Shakir Non-Fiction Award
The Rise of the Arab-American Left: Activists, Allies, and Their Fight
By Pamela E. Pennock

HONORABLE MENTION: Non-Fiction
Sexagon: Muslims, France, and the Sexualization of National Culture
By Mehammed Amadeus Mack

WINNER: George Ellenbogen Poetry Award
The January Children
By Safia Elhillo

HONORABLE MENTION: Poetry
Water & Salt
By Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Due to an inadequate number of submissions, there is no 2018 award in the Children/Young Adult category. The award will return in 2019.

Scroll down or visit http://www.arabamericanmuseum.org/bookaward for further information about this year’s winners and honorable mentions.

A call for submissions for the 2019 awards will be issued in December 2018.

2018 ARAB AMERICAN BOOK AWARD WINNERS

WINNER: Fiction Award

Salt Houses
By Hala Alyan
(New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017)

On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia and her children; she also sees travel, and luck. While she chooses to keep her predictions to herself that day, they will all soon come to pass when the family is uprooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967. The novel follows Alia and her family members as they navigate life in the Palestinian diaspora, moving between Kuwait, Beirut, Paris, Boston and beyond, confronting that most devastating of truths: you can’t go home again.

Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American poet, novelist and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in numerous journals including The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner and Colorado Review. Alyan won the Arab American Book Award in Poetry in 2013 for her collection Atrium. She resides in Brooklyn with her husband.

WINNER: Evelyn Shakir Non-Fiction Award

The Rise of the Arab-American Left: Activists, Allies, and Their Fight
By Pamela E. Pennock
(Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2017)

In this groundbreaking history of Arab American activism in the 1960s, Pamela Pennock brings to the forefront one of the most overlooked minority groups in the history of American social movements. Focusing on the ideas and strategies of key Arab American organizations and examining the emerging alliances between Arab American and other anti-imperialist and antiracist movements, Pennock sheds new light on the role of Arab Americans in the social change of the era.

Pamela Pennock is associate professor of history at the University of Michigan – Dearborn.

WINNER: George Ellenbogen Poetry Award

The January Children
By Safia Elhillo
(Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2017)

The January Children depicts displacement and longing while also questioning accepted truths about geography, history, nationhood and home. The poems mythologize family histories until they break open, using them to explore aspects of Sudan’s history of colonial occupation, dictatorship, and diaspora. Several of the poems speak to the late Egyptian singer Abdelhalim Hafez, who addressed many of his songs to the asmarani – an Arabic term of endearment for a brown-skinned or dark-skinned person. Elhillo explores Arabness and Africanness and the tensions generated by a hyphenated identity in those two worlds.

Safia Elhillo – Sudanese by way of Washington, D.C. – holds a BA from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and an MFA in poetry from the New School. She is a recipient of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize and the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation, and Crescendo Literary and The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Incubator. Elhillo’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in POETRY Magazine, Callaloo, and The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day series, among others. With Fatimah Asghar, she is co-editor of the anthology Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019).

2018 Honorable Mentions

Honorable Mention: Non-fiction

Sexagon: Muslims, France, and the Sexualization of National Culture
By Mehammed Amadeus Mack
(New York: Fordham University Press, 2017)

In contemporary France, particularly in the banlieues of Paris, the figure of the young, virile, hypermasculine Muslim looms large. So large, in fact, it often supersedes liberal secular society’s understanding of gender and sexuality altogether. Engaging the nexus of race, gender, nation, and sexuality, Sexagon studies the broad politicization of Franco-Arab identity in the context of French culture and its assumptions about appropriate modes of sexual and gender expression, both gay and straight.

Mehammed Amadeus Mack is Assistant Professor of French Studies and Program Committee Member in the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Honorable Mention: Poetry

Water & Salt
Lena Khalaf Tuffaha
(Pasadena, CA: Red Hen Press, 2017)

The poems in Water & Salt travel across borders between cultures and languages, between the present and the living past. These poems alternately rage, laugh, celebrate and grieve, singing in the voices of people ravaged by cycles of war and news coverage and inviting the reader to see the human lives lived beyond the headlines. Aptly titled, Water & Salt gracefully captures the mundane beauty and horror of Arab life in equal parts while interrogating meaning making while engaging historical contexts.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha has lived the experiences of first-generation American, immigrant, and expatriate. Her heritage is Palestinian, Jordanian, and Syrian and she has lived in and traveled across the Arab world. She writes poetry, essays and translations. Tuffaha is an MFA graduate from Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop and lives with her husband and daughters in Redmond, Washington.

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