Reading List: Arab American Heritage Month

Stack of books with one cover turned out featuring a colorful illustration of figures and a horse in a landscape

April’s heritage month began as an initiative by the Arab America Foundation in 2017 to honor the achievements of Arab Americans. In 2021, it was formally recognized as National Arab American Heritage Month. To celebrate, the Frick Art Reference Library offers a reading list from our collections that features the work and research of a variety of Arab American artists and scholars.

This list includes e-books freely accessible through our online catalog. The other titles are available to browse in our temporary reading room, which remains open by free appointment.

  1. Modern Arab Art: Formation of Arab Aesthetics

    By Nada M. Shabout (2007)

    Explore the emergence of modern Arab art with scholarship by the Iraqi and Palestinian American art historian Nada M. Shabout. Shabout investigates the various influences that impact the aesthetic of modern and contemporary Arab art, a topic about which there is little written. In particular, she focuses on the incorporation of language and the written word in the work of Iraqi artists Shakir Hassan Al Said and Dia al-Azzawi.

    Book open to a cover page featuring a colorful artwork with a black masklike face
  1. Imperfect Chronology: Arab Art from the Modern to the Contemporary

    Edited by Omar Kholeif with Candy Stobbs (2015)

    Dive into modern and contemporary Arab art with this catalogue, published on the occasion of an exhibition at the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Featuring the work of Arab American artists Sophia Al-Maria (pictured below), Etel Adnan, and Kahlil Gibran, the catalogue attempts to trace the origins of modern Arab art through to the contemporary, all while contemplating the complexities of such a project within a vast region of diverse cultures.

    Book spread showing a digital artwork of a knife cutting an eyeball
  1. Modern Art in the Arab World: Primary Documents

    Edited by Anneka Lenssen, Sarah A. Rogers, and Nada M. Shabout (2018)

    This collection of essays seeks to remedy the absence of resources on modern and contemporary Arab art in art history through assorted primary documents and new critical essays, including those written by Arab American scholars Stephen Sheehi, Ussama Makdisi, and Amin Rihani. The primary documents vary in scope, from the writings of prominent artists to public statements from artist collectives. This book is an invaluable addition to help formalize modern Arab art as a field of study.

  1. The Art of Kahlil Gibran at Telfair Museums

    By Suheil B. Bushrui (2010)

    This catalogue and the accompanying exhibition at the Telfair Museums in Savannah, Georgia, explores the art of Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese American artist and writer who is most famous for his collection of essays, The Prophet (1923). The Telfair Museums’ holdings of Gibran’s art, the largest collection of his work in the United States, is made up primarily of works on paper and exemplifies his shifting inspirations, style, and the impact of his writing on his visual creations.

    Book on a shelf whose cover features an artwork of two nude female figures floating through the air
  1. Veil: Veiling, Representation, and Contemporary Art

    Edited by David A. Bailey and Gilane Tawadros (2003)

    This book, published in conjunction with a traveling exhibition in 2004, asks the reader to compare the way that veiling is presented in art across cultures, particularly its modern, Western association with cultural and religious difference. Including an essay by Egyptian American scholar Leila Ahmed, this title examines the use of veiling and concealment in contemporary artworks and explores the global tensions and shifting attitudes surrounding the act of veiling.

  1. Stories My Father Told Me: Memories of a Childhood in Syria and Lebanon

    By Elia Zughaib, illustrations by Helen Zughaib (2020)

    This book is a joint effort between Washington, D.C.–based artist Helen Zughaib and her father, Elia. Helen’s colorful, evocative illustrations accompany twenty-four stories from Elia’s childhood, ranging from folk tales to humorous anecdotes to harrowing tales of escaping danger. The stories and illustrations give the reader unique and compelling insight into a child’s life in Syria and Lebanon during the 1930s, before his immigration to the United States.

    Page of a book with a colorful illustration labeled "Eid Al Salib—Feast of the Cross"
  1. Salah Elmur: Visual Chronicles and Muhannad Shono: Infinite Readings

    Edited by Mona Khazindar (2022)

    In the seventh and eighth volumes of The Art Library: Discovering Arab Artists book series, edited by Saudi American art historian and curator Mona Khazindar, examine the work of two contemporary artists, Muhannad Shono (Saudi Arabia) and Salah Elmur (Sudan). Available in both English and Arabic editions, the illustrated essays in each book investigate the inspirations behind Shono’s and Elmur’s creative practices, from spirituality and mythology to figuration and abstraction.

    Two book covers, one featuring stylized figures in a factory and the other featuring a black-and-white artwork resembling a landscape
  1. Etel Adnan, Vincent van Gogh: Colour as Language

    Edited by Sara Tas (2022)

    This catalogue, which accompanied an exhibition held at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, considers the relationship between the art of Vincent van Gogh and the late Lebanese American artist Etel Adnan. The catalogue includes essays that give us insight on Adnan’s creative process, her distinctive use of color, and an interview with the artist on the way Van Gogh’s art influenced hers. With full-color illustrations of Adnan’s work featured alongside illustrations of Van Gogh’s, the reader is encouraged to make their own interpretations of the relationships between the two celebrated painters.

    Book spread featuring a colorful abstract painting opposite a colorful landscape with a figure among trees

All photos by Joseph Coscia Jr., The Frick Collection

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