32 SWANA Book Releases for 2024 (January-June)
For the last three years, I’ve collaborated with my friend, fellow writer, and RAWI board member Summer Farah to write fun, casual reviews of all the books we read by SWANA authors throughout the year. As a result of working on that list, I’ve spent recent years trying to read more new releases by SWANA authors alongside the older works I haven’t yet gotten around to. I love to see how the landscape of our art is always changing and opening up new genres, forms, and narratives.
It’s consistently challenging to find books by SWANA authors advertised widely, and even harder to find them consolidated in a list that I can comb through to find my next read. Last year, I put together a quick informal list of all the new releases I could find (24 in total) in an effort to make it a little bit easier for myself and others to delve deep into the realm of contemporary SWANA literature. This year, I took it up a notch.
Below are 32 books in English by SWANA authors coming out in just the first half of 2024. These works span many categories, including fiction, poetry, nonfiction, fantasy, YA, and cookbooks. This list is expansive but, of course, not exhaustive. Whether you’re a SWANA reader looking for some resonance and familiarity in a moment marked, like much of our histories, by immeasurable violence and loss from Sudan to Palestine, or you’re a non-SWANA reader looking to help us honor our stories, welcome. I hope you find something you love.
Politica by Yumna Kassab (Ultimo Press, January 3)
This novel traces the fallout of an unnamed war through the people of a town whose lives are profoundly disrupted. Its poetic language and familiar emotional landscape sound deeply engaging for anyone who likes hard-hitting literary fiction exploring the impacts of violence.
Holiday Country by İnci Atrek (Flatiron Books, January 9)
This book promises a fascinating exploration of desire, family, and belonging, when a young woman visiting her family’s villa in Turkey for the summer falls for the mysterious man from her mother’s past she planned to set her mother up with. If there’s one thing I love in a novel, it’s an emotionally messy plot rendered with all the beauty and complexity of real life.
My Friends by Hisham Matar (Random House, January 9)
Hisham Matar’s next novel explores familiar themes for his work - exile, family, repressive states - but through what sounds like an exciting new path, telling the story of a Libyan university student in London navigating the eruption of the Arab Spring in diaspora and falling deeper into his lifelong fascination with storytelling.
Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj (HarperVia, January 16)
For readers who enjoy dynamic family sagas, this novel exploring three Palestinian families weaving together and apart in Baltimore looks engaging. It explores the tensions that emerge from interconnected systems that shape all of our lives, from class, to gender, to generational divides and desires.
Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar (Knopf, January 23)
I was lucky to get to read this book over the summer, the debut novel by one of my all time favorite poets. It is charming, funny, sad, poetic, dramatic, unpredictable, both new and familiar. It follows an Iranian-American poet who becomes obsessed with the concept of martyrdom while he unravels his relationships and the histories that made them possible. If you love Kaveh Akbar’s poetry or the fiction of Zain Khalid, you’ll love this one.
Blessed Water by Margot Douaihy (Gillian Flynn Books, March 12)
If you enjoy mystery books, this one looks eccentric and delightful. It’s the second in a series built around a tattooed queer punk nun who also happens to be a detective. I mean, literally what more could you ask for?
Supplication by Nour Abi-Nakhoul (Strange Light, May 7)
The description of what is in store for readers in Nour Abi-Nakhoul’s forthcoming literary horror book keeps us at a bit of a distance, refusing to reveal too much. To truly experience this novel as intended, it seems, we must grasp around for it in the dark, let the eeriness of the story take us over.
Living Things by Munir Hachemi, trans. Julia Sanches (Coach House Books, June 18)
I was excited to come across this book, which sounds like something I would love- a little bit like Ferrante or Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry’s The Orchard. A dark, humorous, political story of labor and the systems of violence that contain us through the eyes of a young narrator, Living Things promises to be an exciting read that I’m so happy to see translated.
PORTAL by Tracy Fuad (University of Chicago Press, February 19)
Tracy Fuad’s poems always make me feel disjointed, a little bit alien in the best way. Her new collection exploring forces of alienation from climate anxiety to parenthood promises to be exactly the sort of disruptive poetic force that we (ok, at least me) need.
I could die today and live again by Summer Farah (Game Over Books, March 12)
I had the great joy of reading this chapbook earlier this year and I can’t wait to read it again. Summer Farah gives her whole creative self over to the media and artists she loves deeply, in this book by inhabiting the world of The Legend of Zelda. The world she weaves in these poems moves between realms; it is sometimes dark, sometimes tender, always beautiful, always Palestinian.
The Moon That Turns You Back by Hala Alyan (Ecco Press, March 12)
Hala Alyan remains a formidable talent in any genre, whether she’s writing complex and devastating family sagas in novel form or sharp poems that make me feel a little too seen. I truly can’t wait to see what she has in store for us with her new book of poems.
The Palace of Forty Pillars by Armen Davoudian (Tin House, March 19)
Armen Davoudian is the only poet on this list with whom I was not already familiar, but after browsing his poems available online I find them delightfully tender and vivid. I’m really looking forward to reading more when this book comes out!
Fugitive/Refuge by Philip Metres (Copper Canyon, April 9)
I’m fascinated to see how Philip Metres engages form in this work, which is a book length qasida ruminating on the migrations of his ancestors. Knowing his work, I’m sure it will be executed with incredible musicality and precision. I always love to see poets seriously engage with Arabic poetic forms in English!
Self-Mythology by Saba Keramati (University of Arkansas Press, April 29)
I first found Saba Keramati through RAWI’s poetry prompts series this year. Her poetry has an incredible directness and precision of language that I am really in awe of. I am so looking forward to her book, which I know I will have to study carefully to figure out exactly how she Does That.
Nazar Boy by Tarik Dobbs (Haymarket, June 11)
I’m always so enamored with Tarik Dobbs’s poetry, especially their use of visual and experimental forms. I am so excited to see how their truly unique poetics play out on the pages of this book!
My Great Arab Melancholy by Lamia Ziadé, trans. Emma Ramadan (Pluto Press, January 20)
I’m so fascinated by this book and ecstatic to finally see it available in translation. I love work that engages both visual and written arts, as well as work that combines research and personal narrative. I’m curious to see how this work spans geographies and time through a thoroughly multimedia and multiform approach.
The Land in Our Bones by Layla K. Feghali (North Atlantic Books, February 13)
Truthfully, I’m most excited about gifting this book to my mom. She’s always been more into alternative medicines and herbal remedies than me, but neither of us have ever really had the opportunity to explore the healing plants of our ancestral lands. I’m sure she’ll adore this!
Stranger in the Desert by Jordan Salama (Catapult, February 20)
As an Arab whose family has been in this hemisphere for about a hundred years, I always feel a sort of strange kinship with other Arabs with similar family histories, whether they landed in North America like mine or South America like Jordan Salama’s. Our SWANA histories span the lengths of continents and the breadth of centuries, and I’m always looking for works like this that draw out old patterns of movement to tell new stories.
The Land is Holy by noam keim (Radix Media, May 28)
I love few things more than a gorgeous essay collection so I’m sure noam’s book will be a favorite of this year. I’m sure we can expect poetic language, sharp politics, and a true celebration of the land in this collection.
Beyond Frontiers: Renewing Solidarity with Palestine edited by Mahdi Sabbagh (Haymarket, June 4)
I’m really looking forward to this timely anthology, edited by PalFest co-curator Mahdi Sabbagh. In particular, I’m excited to see how the collection’s authors grapple with the problematics of witnessing and develop a theory of solidarity and mutuality. Haymarket continues to publish so much excellent work on Palestine, and this sounds like it will be another brilliant entry!
Faebound by Saara El-Arifi (Del Rey, January 18)
Saara El-Arifi has an impressive collection of books and series lined up, including this book, the first in her second trilogy (the second book in her first trilogy is also out in the second half of this year!) This series dives into a world of elves and fae through the eyes of sisters, one a warrior and one a diviner.
All This Twisted Glory by Tahereh Mafi (HarperCollins, January 31)
Though I don’t read much fantasy, I’ve always been sort of interested in how “Arabian fantasy” proliferates in the absence of SWANA authors. I’ve been happy in recent years to see more SWANA authors succeeding in this subgenre, drawing on actual SWANA histories and mythologies. This book is the third in a trilogy which does just that, engaging Persian mythologies to develop a romantic kingdom of Jinn.
The Weavers of Alamaxa by Hadeer Elsbai (Harper Voyager, March 19)
This is another great example of an author engaging their own histories and spiritual traditions to develop a complex fantastical world. This book is the second in a duology, the first of which came out last year, and it seems wonderfully creative and fresh! It draws on modern Egyptian history and sounds like it has some cool feminist overtones.
The Jinn Daughter by Rania Hanna (Hoopoe, April 2)
This standalone story rooted in SWANA mythologies looks like a beautiful exploration of motherhood and the realm of the dead. The cover is also so stunning and evokes the same dark beauty I’m sure readers will find in the story.
Bright Red Fruit by Safia Elhillo (Make Me A World, February 6)
This book looks so thoughtful and exciting. Safia Elhillo is another favorite poet of mine, but this is also her second YA novel in verse, and a book that feels perfect for Elhillo’s unique and brilliant voice. This novel follows a teenager through the world of slam poetry and the challenges of threading family dynamics, dating, and art. I’m sure it will be wonderful.
Six Truths and a Lie by Ream Shukairy (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, March 12)
This book looks like a mysterious, emotional story that engages with the violence of anti-Muslim policing in America. It centers on six Muslim teenagers falsely accused of terrorism, grappling with serious topics for young readers.
Just Another Epic Love Poem by Parisa Akhbari (Dial Books, March 12)
It’s always exciting to see not just more YA focused on SWANA characters, something I never remember having as a young reader, but also more queer SWANA YA every year. This story seems so cute and I love that it blends poetry and prose just like much of my favorite adult SWANA fiction!
The Breakup Lists by Adib Khorram (Dial Books, April 2)
Another entry in the expanding catalog of queer SWANA YA books, and another romance! This one also sounds very sweet, with a focus on both sibling dynamics and romance that perhaps swirls into a bit of a love triangle.
Imad’s Syrian Kitchen by Imad Alarnab (Interlink Books, January 9)
Like any good hafleh, no SWANA books list would be complete without food. This book combines personal narratives of the author’s harrowing migration to Europe with recipes that center the importance of food for community, sharing, gathering.
Middle Eastern Delights by Lamees Attar-Bashi (Page Street Publishing, January 23)
As a sweet-tooth-haver, I’m very excited for this book, which highlights the vast array of pastries and desserts from the SWANA region, not all sweet, but certainly all delicious. Our beautiful dessert culture does not get enough love, so I’m glad someone is rectifying that!
Bethlehem by Fadi Kattan (Hardie Grant Books, May 14)
I’m enamored with the cover of this book, which positions it as almost a religious text of Palestinian cuisine. This book celebrates Palestinian food history through the nooks and crannies of Bethlehem’s markets and kitchens. I can’t wait to see what new and old recipes it contains!
A Persian Kitchen Tale by Haniyeh Nikoo (Page Street Publishing, June 25)
I am less familiar than I would like to be with Persian cuisine, partially because it feels a little blasphemous showing up to one of LA’s many excellent Persian restaurants looking for a vegetarian meal, but this book truly makes me want to learn how to cook as many recipes as I can. The author’s instagram is a visual feast that makes me crave a real feast!
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Samia Saliba (she/her) is calling on you to join the struggle for the liberation of Palestine and all oppressed peoples globally, from wherever you are, in whatever material way you can. To learn from Palestinian resistance the everyday practice of refusal. She is writing from somewhere in Los Angeles, where she is a PhD student in American Studies & Ethnicity. Her poems appear in Apogee, AAWW, Mizna, and elsewhere, and her debut chapbook is forthcoming with Game Over Books in 2025. Find her on twitter @sa_miathrmoplis.