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April Heritage Month Reads

By Ione Damasco

April is a month of celebrations at the University of Dayton, where rich, diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences from specific members of our community are honored through various programs, events and displays. April is nationally recognized as Arab American Heritage Month, and at UD, we also celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Far from being monolithic cultures, these are diverse groups of unique people who share some common successes and struggles, as well as traditions both old and new that serve as markers of community identity. 

At the Libraries, we have collected stories, both real and imagined, that we invite you to explore for a glimpse of the experiences of people rooted in these communities.


Yellowface: A Novel, by R.F. Kuang (find it in leisure reading): Told in first person, this debut novel satirizes racial diversity in the world of publishing, exploring themes of cultural appropriation and racism. Underscoring the narrative is an indictment of social media as an alienating force in our society.

All My Rage, by Sabaa Tahir (find it in leisure reading): This multiple award-winning young adult novel explores family, love and loss in a story that spans two generations and two continents. Misbah and Toufiq, newly married, leave Pakistan to start a new life in California by opening a motel. Years later, their son Sal tries to save the motel after a family loss, but he can’t do it without reconnecting with his childhood friend Noor. But she is looking for a way out of their small California town.

Between Two Moons: A Novel, by Aisha Abdel Gawad (request through OhioLINK): This coming-of-age story follows three siblings who live in the immigrant Muslim enclave of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, during one Ramadan. This intimate portrait of a Muslim family explores adolescent rebellion, complex family dynamics and the specter of Islamophobia, bringing to light what it means to be a young Muslim in America.


Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant: A Memoir, by Curtis Chin (find it in leisure reading): Chin is the co-founder of the highly acclaimed Asian American Writers’ Workshop. In this funny and heartfelt memoir, he shares his story of growing up as a gay, Asian American kid in the 1980s in Detroit. He grounds his narrative in his experiences spending time in his family’s restaurant, Chung’s Cantonese Cuisine, which provided comfort and solace to its wide array of diners navigating a tumultuous time of increasing economic depression in the city’s history.

Asian American Histories of the United States, by Ceniza Choy (find it in leisure reading): This timely social history, spurred by the onset of the pandemic and the rise in anti-Asian violence and rhetoric in America, covers nearly 200 years of Asians in the United States, addressing topics that include migration, labor and community formation. Choy addresses the profound lack of understanding of Asian American history within the United States, despite the many contributions of Asian Americans across a wide array of endeavors, from agriculture to health care.

Beyond Memory: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Creative Nonfiction, edited by Pauline Kaldas and Khaled Mattawa (e-book; UD login required): New and established Arab American writers share their lived experiences as members of the Arab diaspora in this anthology of creative nonfiction featuring writers from Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, and Syria. In unique and sometimes experimental ways, these writers explore politics, family, culture and racism, illuminating the complexity of the Arab American experience.  

— Ione Damasco is a professor and interim dean of the University Libraries.

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