Celebrate Arab American Heritage Month with great reads from the Library!

April is Arab American Heritage Month and UVA Librarians are celebrating by putting together some resources to help you explore literature, film, and poetry created by Arab Americans! Amy Hunsaker, Librarian for Music and Performing Arts, prepared the following list. Please direct research queries involving Arab American experiences, histories, and lives to Phil McEldowney, Librarian for Middle East and South Asia Studies.

Want to explore Arab American literature but don’t know where to start? UVA Library holds a substantial collection of Arab American fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Here are some books to get you started.

Modern Arab American Fiction: A Reader’s Guide” by Steven Salaita

A guide for people with little experience in this genre and who want to learn more about the writing traditions of Arab American fiction. The book provides an introduction to and critical examination of many works by notable Arab American writers, while exploring the cultural background of the writers’ countries of heritage — Lebanon, North Africa, Palestine, Iraq, and more. Short stories and poetry are provided in full with commentary for notable full-length novels.


The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

Lalami has published notable works, including “The Moor’s Account,” which won multiple awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. The Other Americans is her latest novel, a murder mystery which cleverly uses multiple first-person perspectives to explore the relationships of within the Moroccan American Guerraoui family that finds itself at odds with its rural Southern California neighbors.



The Beauty of Your Face” by Sahar Mustafah

Trigger warning: vivid description of a school shooting.

A radicalized shooter has attacked a Muslim girl’s school where the daughter of Palestinian immigrants serves as principal. As the horror unfolds in the present, the author takes the reader to the past, showing the principal as a young Muslim girl in America, struggling to stay true to her family and heritage while fitting into an often belligerent American culture. These flashbacks prepare the reader for the protagonist’s dramatic confrontation with the shooter as she struggles to understand why he would commit this horrible crime.

Out of Place: A Memoir” by Edward Said

A reading list of Arab American authors would be incomplete without a work by intellectual scholar and leading advocate for Palestinian rights, Edward Said, who is known for his groundbreaking works “Orientalism” and “Culture and Imperialism.” In his memoir, Said explores his “otherness” as a person living in exile in various countries throughout his life, and lays bare the plight of Palestinian refugees who were ousted from their homeland regardless of wealth or stature. While Said’s intellectual works are lofty academic discourses, his memoir looks inward as he reflects on his own remarkable life.

Looking for more?

If you are looking for a more comprehensive list of literature to explore, The National Endowment for the Humanities maintains Muslim Journeys, a virtual bookshelf that focuses on Muslim culture and literature as part of their Bridging Cultures Bookshelf.

Additionally, BackStory, a podcast series supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and Virginia Humanities, provides an in-depth look at America’s relationship with Islam in a variety of segments produced in 2015.

And finally, check out the Ottoman History Podcast created by UVA History professor Chris Gratien, which sustains and supports academic discussion about Turkey and the Middle East.

Library welcomes a new cohort to the Women’s Maker Program

Guest post from Jenny Coffman, Science and Engineering Research Librarian, and Izzy McReynolds, Women’s Maker Program intern:

After a successful pilot of the Women’s Maker Program in spring 2020, we are happy to announce our continuation of the program with the naming of a brand new cohort! The cohort will be deep-diving into maker technologies, building a community among their first-year peers, learning from industry professionals, hosting a maker camp for local Girl Scouts, and practicing design thinking and growth mindsets while completing community-focused projects.

""We also hope you will join us for a conversation with Dr. Angela Orebaugh, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at UVA. Dr. Orebaugh describes herself as, “an educator, technologist, and author with a broad spectrum of expertise in information technology and cybersecurity.” Sign up now to join us on Friday, April 1, at 2:00 p.m. in Clemons 407.

The primary aim of the Women’s Maker Program is to help increase female undergraduates’ confidence, improve their sense of belonging in the STEM field, and better prepare them for future careers in the STEM workforce. We are grateful to the Jefferson Trust and UVA Parents Fund for their support of this program.



Jade Pettaway grew up in Petersburg, Virginia, and is planning to study Biology on a pre-dental track. She hopes one day to work as a dentist.




""Elyana Zewdie from Herndon, Virginia, is a Biochemistry major and an Entrepreneurship minor on the Pre-Medical track. She hopes to one day use her career skills to help women and children in places stricken by poverty.




""Alessandra Paras is from Roanoke, Virginia. Alessandra is a first-year undergraduate at UVA who plans to major in Chemistry with a specialization in Biochemistry. In the future, Alessandra hopes to pursue medical school with the goal of entering the field of pediatrics.




""Kha Truong, who is from Portland, Oregon, is planning on majoring in Statistics, with a concentration in Biostatistics, and minoring in Urban and Environmental Planning. Currently, she is unsure of what’s to come but is sure about pursuing some sort of graduate school in the future.



""Dedra Dadzie, from Bordentown, New Jersey, is a Chemical Engineering major planning to continue her education in graduate school and pursue a career in pharmaceutical research.




""Jasmine Collier is from Cleveland, Ohio, and hopes to major in Computer Science with a Social Entrepreneurship minor. She hopes to contribute to the community through her career and loves to spend time with friends and family.




""Laura Abood, from Springfield, Virginia, plans on studying Computer Science and Data Science. She hopes to one day become a software developer.





""Savannah Fife, from Harrisonburg, Virginia, is a Mathematics and Commerce major. Outside of school, she loves to travel and spend time with friends and family. She is passionate about teaching math skills and contributing to her community. Savannah looks forward to getting to know her teammates and exploring all that UVA has to offer.



Learn more about the Women’s Maker Program.

Discover a forgotten chapter of women’s history in “Black Women’s Suffrage”

The movement to extend voting rights to African American men after the Civil War was immediately accompanied by a push to expand the goal to include women. However, it would take both Black and white women over half a century more of struggle to finally secure the right to vote with passage of the 19th Amendment. The Black Women’s Suffrage resource explores the twin burden faced by Black women in the suffragist movement who not only fought against gender bias that denied women the right to vote, but against racism which denied people of color even the most basic of human rights. It was a fight for civil rights, a fight against lynching, and often a fight against the racism directed at them from within the Suffrage Movement itself.

Black Women’s Suffrage draws together primary resources from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions, providing documentation on women such as Mary Church Terrell and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, whose critical role at the forefront of the campaign for women’s rights are too often forgotten.

You can search the database in a variety of ways; and the links will lead you to multiple primary documents of the era.


Follow events from the founding of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 through 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key component of the Voting Rights Act. See racial fault lines develop within the movement early on, as when Elizabeth Cady Stanton used racist language to object to the extension of the franchise to Black men and not to women. In 1865 she wrote, “In fact, it is better to be the slave of an educated white man, than of a degraded, ignorant Black one.”

Key Figures

Learn how Charlotte Vandine Forten and her three daughters helped found the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, the first biracial organization of female abolitionists in the United States. Learn also how in the 1960s civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer overcame being fired from her job and having shots fired into the house where she was staying to register to vote in Mississippi. For her continued activism, Hamer was arrested and severely beaten, suffering injuries from which she never fully recovered.


Cover page for “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law In All Its Phases” (1892), the first pamphlet by Ida B. Wells dedicated to exposing lynching.

Study featured historical collections such as the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Papers, including the autobiography, diaries, articles, speeches, accounts, newspaper clippings, and photographs of the teacher, journalist, and anti-lynching activist. Wells-Barnett was born enslaved in 1862 and was educated at Shaw University (now Rust College) and Fisk University. As a student in 1884, she fiercely resisted being put off a train for refusing to comply with Jim Crow seating and won a small settlement. In 1892, when three of her acquaintances who worked in a successful Black-owned grocery were lynched, Wells-Barnett’s investigations found that not only were accusations against victims always false, lynching was essentially a tool used to preserve white supremacy and restrict upward mobility of African Americans. She believed that enfranchisement was key to ending lynching and winning civil rights and was a passionate proponent of Black women’s suffrage. In 2020, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize special citation “[f]or her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching.”

Other primary source sets from the Digital Public Library of America cover topics such as:

  • The American Abolitionist Movement
  • Ida B. Wells and Anti-Lynching Activism
  • Women’s Suffrage: Campaign for the Nineteenth Amendment
  • Fannie Lou Hamer and the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi
  • The Black Power Movement
  • The Equal Rights Amendment

You can find this and other resources on women’s history in the Library’s A-Z Databases list!

Making Noise in the Library: Jazz in the Afternoon with Carlehr Swanson

Guest post from Amy Hunsaker, Librarian for Music & Performing Arts:

The Making Noise in the Library series, generously supported by a grant from the UVA Arts Council, brings UVA artists into the Music Library for free performances. Last fall, we kicked off the series by transforming the Music Library into a jazz lounge with our first Jazz in the Afternoon performance, an idea originated by first year UVA Ph.D. student Carlehr Swanson. We are thrilled to now host Carlehr at an upcoming jazz performance on Friday, March 18, at 1:00 p.m.

Carlehr SwansonCarlehr, a vocalist, pianist, and speaker, is a graduate of George Mason University and the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami with a degree in Jazz Vocal Performance. Before college, Carlehr accompanied and directed multiple church choirs. She credits this experience as significantly influencing her musicality. Upon entering college, she realized the absence of gospel music in higher education. Consequently, she co-founded and directed the Frost Gospel Ensemble. Her research interests include gospel music, Black studies, women’s studies, and civic engagement. Giving back to her community and connecting with others has been an important theme in Carlehr’s life, as she brings people together to serve a greater good. She is the founder and director of “Music is Unity,” an initiative which takes musical performances to people who may not experience them otherwise. Throughout this year, she has planned and performed more than a dozen virtual events.

In 2017, Carlehr was 3rd runner-up in the Miss Virginia Competition and was granted the People’s Choice Award. She is set to compete in the Miss Virginia Competition in June 2022 as Miss Blue Ridge, sharing her “Music is Unity” initiative. Carlehr’s career highlights include performances with Shelia Jordan, The Manhattan Transfer, and The New York Voices. Carlehr’s greatest dream is to leave every place better than she found it.

Join us for some fabulous jazz on Friday, March 18 at 1:00 p.m. in the Music Library in Old Cabell Hall. Free and open to the public. Coffee & treats will be served.

Carlehr Swanson plays a grand piano while singing, on stage and while wearing a formal blue dress


Celebrate Women’s History Month with Library resources!

March is Women’s History Month! A time for commemorating the achievements and contributions of women throughout history. Growing out of the first International Women’s Day on March 8, 1911, Women’s History Month was established when the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress in 1987 to designate March as a month to raise awareness of the full scope of often-overlooked women’s history. If you would like to dig more into women’s history, the Library has an abundance of resources to explore.

Library resources

Book titles of interest in the Library include:

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-led Slave Revolts” by Rebecca Hall and Hugo Martínez

(on reserve in Clemons Library)

A graphic novel illuminating the experiences of two historical Black women rebels on the slave ship The Unity. Carefully tracing centuries-old historical evidence and imaginatively reconstructing likely scenarios where the record is silent, the book is a transformative and transporting work. It brings to three-dimensional life Adono and Alele and their pasts as women warriors, illustrating the humanity of the enslaved, the reality of their lived experiences, and the complexity of the history that has been, till now, so thoroughly erased.

A Black Women’s History of the United States” by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross

From the first African women to set foot on land that later became the United States to African American women of today, the authors have foregrounded history that is more often pushed into the shadows by white patriarchy. “A Black Women’s History of the United States” reaches far beyond a single narrative to showcase enslaved women, freedwomen, religious leaders, artists, queer women, activists, and women who lived outside the law.


New Women in the Old West: From Settlers to Suffragists, an Untold American Story” by Winifred Gallagher

(available in e-book format)

Little-known history of the first women who fought for and won the right to vote in the United States, and did so decades before the passage of the 19th amendment. Even as they helped dispossess Native and Hispanic people, these persistent women created homes on weather-wracked prairies and built communities out of boom towns and muddy mining camps while playing a vital, unrecognized role in forging America’s Suffragist movement.


The Secret History of Wonder Woman” by Jill Lepore.

A cultural history of DC comics superhero Wonder Woman traces her creation and enduring popularity, drawing on interviews and archival research to reveal the pivotal role of feminism in shaping her seven-decade story. Created by psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston in 1941, Wonder Woman was born amid a spirit of empowerment among working women during World War II, inspired by Marston’s own unconventional relationship with two powerful women in his life.

Celebrate Black history all year round with HistoryMakers Digital Archive

February 28 is the end of Black History Month but not Black history. You can find Black history all year round in the HistoryMakers Video Archive, the largest resource of oral African American history in existence. This fascinating resource contains 149,171 interviews and counting, telling the story of African Americans’ contributions in virtually every facet of American life and culture — in the arts, business, the legal and healthcare professions, politics, architecture, engineering, education, and more.

Close-up of the face of an young African American woman looking pensively off-camera. She wears a print bandanna on her head and hoops in her ears.

Ntozake Shange

You can see and hear playwright, poet, and novelist Ntozake Shange (1948-2018), born Paulette Williams in Trenton, N.J., tell how South African refugees gave her the Zulu names Ntozake, (meaning “she who comes with her own things”) and Shange (“who walks like a lion”); how she was accepted into a gifted student program in elementary school where white schoolmates shoved her and attacked her with racial slurs; how she graduated cum laude from Barnard College and earned an M.A. in American Studies at the University of Southern California; and how she invented a radically experimental new form combining drama, poetry, music, and dance for her acclaimed first play “For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf” — telling the stories of seven Black women who have suffered oppression in a racist and sexist society.

Book cover art. Alt=""Shange’s struggles with undiagnosed bipolar disorder factored into the title of her play. “I was in one of those massive depressions when I was driving to work one day. And I saw a double rainbow. And when I saw the double rainbow and I drove through it, the depression just disappeared. And so I said to myself that’s the hope, that’s the future. And I put it in the title because that’s what happened to me …” She yearned for the spiritual experience she found “in the holy roller churches. I grounded myself in fiction and, and poetry because nothing else seemed to be close to the kind of uplifting that I thought religion should have.”

Shange lists influences as varied as Euripides, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Edna Ferber, Jean Racine, Charles Baudelaire, Andre Breton, Gunter Grass, and Karl Marx. “I liked black and white movies and I was inspired by movies like ‘It Happened One Night,’ ‘Imitation of Life,’ ‘Stormy Weather,’ … ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ I like Frank Capra movies and I like Barbara Stanwyck movies and, oh ‘Mildred Pierce’ and ‘Stella Dallas,’ influenced me.” In music, her influences included Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Gloria Lynne.

As a teaching assistant at the University of Southern California, Shange taught the works of Samuel Ray Delany, Jr. “because I thought it was important for the students to know that there were Black people who wrote science fiction … I wanted my students to see the co-relation of how you can depict oppression as a Black person in many different ways and forms …” She also began one Literature class with translations of Aztec language love poems. “Because I thought that was so wonderful because we always think of Aztecs as people who, who drank blood and burned skulls and made sacrifices. And here was this beautiful collection of Aztec love poems that stood right in the face … of all the mythology about Native American people.”

You can learn more about Ntozake Shange by viewing her complete HistoryMakers interview. See how the far-right John Birch Society came to recruit her activist father at a Black civics club meeting, how she butted heads with Producer Tyler Perry over his 2010 film adaptation of “For Colored Girls,” and how she overcame a series of strokes in 2004, teaching herself to write all over again. You can find the HistoryMakers Digital Archive in the Library’s A-Z Databases list where Black history lives all year round!