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A story about a family fleeing conflict in Afghanistan, a graphic novel-style tale of growing up in Turkey, a biography of Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, and a brilliantly illustrated book about Ancient Egypt are among the titles recognized at the 2016 Middle East Book Awards, announced on Saturday, November 19, 2016 in Boston, MA.

Established in 1999, the Middle East Book Award recognizes quality books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East and its component societies and cultures.

Books are judged on the authenticity of their portrayal of a Middle Eastern subject, as well as on characterization, plot, and appeal for the intended audience. For this award, the Middle East is defined as the Arab World, Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Afghanistan.

Awards are given in three categories: Picture Books, Youth Literature, and Youth Non-Fiction. Books under consideration for the 2016 award were published between January 2015 and June 2016.

Download a PDF version of this press release.

A full list of all Middle East Book Award winners can be downloaded here.



No award was given in this category this year.



When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi (William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollins)

When the Moon Is Low is a timely novel that gives readers a bird’s eye view of the exhausting and heartrending journey of a family fleeing conflict in Afghanistan. This instructional book could be used with middle and high school students across numerous disciplines including the language arts, geography, social studies, current events and world civilization. The lyrically written book employs a linear plotline that can be followed easily and the story is described in separate voices by the mother and the oldest son of the family. This dual narration adds depth and surprise to the tale and will keep the attention of readers of different ages and genders.


WINNER: Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up In Turkey by Ozge Samanci (Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers)

Dare to Disappoint is a charming coming of age story of an independent and inquisitive strong female protagonist. Young Ozge explores her identity with particular regard for her place in her homeland as she investigates politics, history, and everyday life in Turkey. The book’s true strength is its graphic novel style format which is vibrant and playful, using traditional comic book layout along with quirky sidebar notes to the reader and clever mixed media designs. This book is especially valuable at a time when Turkey is playing a more prominent role in regional and global affairs.


It Ain’t So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas (Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel is the semi-autobiographical story of a young girl who must contend with being both the new girl in town and an Iranian immigrant during the late 1970s when the Iran hostage crisis took place. The author deftly handles, with humor and sincerity, the usual middle school struggles with identity, fitting in and finding friends, but the additional challenges of racism and xenophobia make this surprisingly light-hearted tale especially poignant. Middle grade readers of all backgrounds will relate with Cindy on her journey to self-discovery and acceptance, while getting an important glimpse of history. The book includes an author’s note with additional resources.



Golda Meir: A Strong, Determined Leader by David A. Adler (Puffin Books)

Golda Meir, a biography for upper elementary/middle school students, focuses on Meir’s childhood and young adulthood. The way in which the book charts the trajectory of a person who became important later is meaningful to young readers who can identify with her journey and aspire to future greatness. The book is also well-written with detailed pencil drawings that make it more appealing to youth.


The Ancient Egyptians (Discover) by Isabel and Imogen Greenberg (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books)

The Ancient Egyptians (Discover) will please middle school students (and their teachers) during the required study of ancient civilizations. The book is beautifully, colorfully illustrated in a graphic novel format with a pull-out map and timeline. It is written in a fun, lively tone that will engage intermediate-level readers.





Books published in the period between January 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017 are eligible to be nominated for the 2017 award. Books must address in a substantive way any part of the Middle East region, or any of its component peoples or cultures, either through expository text (youth non-fiction category) or through characterization, action and plot (picture book and youth literature categories). Books set outside the region may be eligible for consideration if one or more main characters are from the Middle East and their origin or culture is pertinent to the plot of the book.

For purposes of this award, the Middle East is defined as: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, the Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The award will be presented at the MEOC Annual Business Meeting at the Middle East Studies Association Conference in Washington, DC, tentatively scheduled for November 18, 2017.


Please submit two review copies of your book to:

Susan Douglass, Middle East Book Award Chair
Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, ICC #241
Georgetown University
3700 O Street, NW
Washington, DC 20057


MEOC welcomes nominations from its members, other educators, publishers, and the general public. Although all nominations are valued, we especially appreciate nominations from teachers who may have used a nominated book with students.

To nominate a book, please send the following information to Susan Douglass <susan.douglass@georgetown.edu>:

  • Your Name and teaching position or organization affiliation
  • Award Category for Nomination (Picture Book, Youth Literature, Youth Non-Fiction)
  • Book title
  • Author
  • Publisher
  • Publication Year (book must be published between January 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017)
  • A brief statement on why you think this book is worthy of consideration for the Middle East Book Award

MORE INFORMATION: www.meoc.us/book-awards, or contact Susan Douglass, Book Awards Chair <susan.douglass@georgetown.edu> or Christopher Rose, MEOC President <csrose@austin.utexas.edu>


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