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Arab American Stories
Curriculum Guide

Arab American Stories is a 13-part series presented by Detroit Public Television that explores the diversity of the Arab-American experience. Hosted by NPR’s Neda Ulaby, each half-hour features three short, character-driven documentaries that profile Arab Americans making an impact in their community, their profession, their family, or the world at large.

Arab American Stories highlights the diversity within the Arab American community. The series showcases the lives of 39 different Arab Americans from around the country. The stories in the documentary are notably devoid of political or other rhetoric, filled instead with engaging stories of Arab Americans across the country who have made contributions in art, science, and business and many other areas of society. Many of these stories work on multiple levels, and will have as much relevance to students interested in subjects such as art, science, entrepreneurship, law, and other fields as well as those interested in immigrant stories and understanding more about the Arab American experience.

The accompanying viewing guides and lesson plans have been created to assist educators in positioning the episodes as part of lessons across multiple disciplines. All lessons have been aligned to the new Common Core standards. Like the series, the lessons cover a broad range of topics and help students explore the characters and concepts presented in the episodes further. Students are also challenged throughout the lessons to think about community, culture, identity, and the American experience as seen through the 39 Arab American stories.
Lessons and episodes cover a wide variety of education objectives and subjects. The series should not be viewed solely as a history or social studies resource. Teachers will find concepts and objectives across the education spectrum, including:

  • Math (with strong geometry, calculus and real-world math applications presented)
  • Science (with emphasis on physics and the science in industry in invention)
  • Careers (with a broad spectrum of career choices, paths and options presented)
  • Literature (with opportunities to hear from authors)
  • History and Social Studies (with themes of culture, identity, immigration, Arab-American relations and Arab-World history)
  • Art & Music (with opportunities to see and hear from a wide variety of working artists and musicians)

The lessons have been designed with an interdisciplinary approach meant to engage students in dialogue. Each lesson contains:

  • An overview of the episode
  • Preview questions
  • Vocabulary (words are from the episodes and definitions are based on the context in which the word was used in the episode)
  • A journal/writing prompt
  • Post-viewing discussion questions
  • Lesson activities
  • Web resources
  • Common Core alignments

Best practice for use of media in the classroom:

  • Supports instruction
  • Is part of a lesson, not the lesson itself (a short segment under 15 minutes is best)
  • Is directly connected to the lesson and meets key learning objectives
  • Includes pre and post viewing discussion
  • Engages students and allows for students to interact with concepts presented through activities

Through the people they meet in each video, students will be given real-life context to the concepts that are presented in the lessons. The people they meet in the stories bring these abstract issues and problems to life. Students will be challenged to:

  • Research and investigate issues further
  • Analyze issues and concepts presented
  • Demonstrate understanding through creating projects and presentations
  • Understand concepts and issues from a local, national and global perspective

All lessons are designed for grades 9-12 and are aligned to the new Common Core standards. Activities are designed from the Common Core emphasis on analysis, understanding and demonstration of understanding.

Arab American Stories is also available to stream in classrooms around the country through Safari Montage.

Diane Rehm

Diane Rehm lacked a college education but became a national radio host of The Diane Rehm Show.

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Robby Ameen

Robby Ameen was born to Lebanese-American parents but has made a career as one of the top Afro-Cuban Jazz drummers in the world.

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Rabih Dow

Rabih Dow was blinded by an explosion during the Lebanese Civil War and found his life’s work rehabilitating newly blind people at the Carroll Center for the Blind outside Boston.

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Omar Offendum

Hip hop artist Omar Offendum is a bridge between his Arab roots and American youth culture.

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Frederique Boudouani

Through Schera's, café owner Frederique Boudouani is bringing Algerian food and culture to Elkater, Iowa, the only town in American named for an Algerian Muslim war hero.

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Aliyah Suayah

Aliya Suayah and her parents, Ismail Suayah and Krista Bremer embrace both American and Libyan culture at their home in North Carolina.

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Nawal Motawi

Inspired by the American Arts and Crafts movement, Nawal Motawi started Motawi Tileworks, a successful craftsman tile business in Michigan.

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Fahid Daoud

Fahid Daoud and his brothers fulfilled the American Dream through a chain of chili restaurants that began in Cincinnati and spread through southern Ohio.

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Moose Scheib

Moose Scheib built Loanmod.com to help homeowners facing foreclosure figure out how to refinance and save their homes.

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Alicia Erian

Author Alicia Erian mines her life’s experience for her books, stories and screenplays. Find her latest book, Towelhead, and her latest collection, The Brutal Language of Love.

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Huguette Caland

Artist Huguette Caland has found America to be the place she can most freely express herself in her art.

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Hassan Faraj

Hassan Faraj’s life was actually turned into art – the story of this neighborhood butcher became the subject of a community theater piece.

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Imad Mahawili

Imad Mahawili saw a problem with energy in the third world and set out to fix it.

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Amir Abo-Shaeer

Amir Abo-Shaeer created the Dos Peublos Engineering Academy to inspire high school students to go into careers in science and math.

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Brian and Leon Dewan

Brian and Leon Dewan have inventing in their blood and music in their souls and have married the two by making highly unique electronic instruments as Dewanatron. Their swarmatron is used on Trent Reznor’s soundtrack for the movie The Social Network.

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The Abercia Family

Hearing their family history shows three generations of the Abercia family how values are passed down from their forebears.

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Ali El Sayed

Chef Ali El Sayed’s son, Esmaeel, is just beginning to understand how his father’s Egyptian heritage fits in with his own identity as a native-born American living in ethnically diverse Queens.

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Kamal Al-Faqih

The family recipes Kamal Al-Faqih learned from his mother led him to his calling as a chef and cookbook author.

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Linda Sarsour

Social services provider and activist Linda Sarsour serves new immigrants and youth in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn at the Arab American Association of NY.

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Imam Taha Tawil

Imam Taha Tawil maintains spiritual vitality at the Mother Mosque, the oldest mosque in America in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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Dean Obeidallah

Dean Obeidallah performs across the country with a group of comedians who shatter popular myths and stereotypes.

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Mahmoud Traina

Cardiologist Mahmoud Traina serves the working poor at a county hospital outside Los Angeles, but he also found time to take medical supplies to Libyans during the revolution.

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Sergeant Mike Abdeen & Deputy Sherif Morsi

Sergeant Mike Abdeen and deputy Sherif Morsi run the ground-breaking Muslim Community Affairs unit for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Father George Shalhoub

Father George Shalhoub built St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church into a positive force for the people of Livonia, Michigan.

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Rahim AlHaj

Oud player and composer Rahim AlHaj fled Iraq for political reasons. Now he fuses Middle Eastern and western influences together in his music.

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Malika Zarra

Malika Zarra was born in Morocco, grew up in France and found a creative home in New York’s multi-cultural music scene.

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Ferial Masry

Ferial Masry is a teacher and political candidate.

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Adnan Charara

Detroit artist Adnan Charara explores the idea of identity, personally and cosmically, in his painting and sculpture.

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Khalil Kaid

Khalil Kaid is a union organizer who works to protect workers’ rights.

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Nawar and Kareem Shora

Lawyers Nawar and Kareem Shora feel a responsibility to uphold the precious rights granted to them as American citizens.

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Hanan Alattar

Opera star Hanan Alattar’s passion keeps her going as she pursues an international stage career. Find her music here.

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Najla Said

Najla Said is an actress, playwright and author exploring her identity as a Palestinian-American and a quintessential Manhattanite.

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Rami Kashou

Fashion designer Rami Kashou charmed America as a finalist on Project Runway. His designs continue to wow the fashion world.

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Judy Habib

Public Relations Executive Judy Habib talks about the legacy of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

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Maha Freij

Maha Freij found her niche as a development dynamo who helped grow ACCESS into largest Arab American human services organization in the nation and develop the Center on Arab American Philanthropy.

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Dr. Elias Zerhouni

Researcher and radiologist Dr. Elias Zerhouni had a transformative impact on medical research in the U.S. as Director of the National Institutes of Health.

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Alia Shawkat

Actress Alia Shawkat, best known for her role on “Arrested Development,” is a rising independent film star.

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Mariem Masmoudi

Mariem Masmoudi is a student trying to figure out how to merge her American and Tunisian identities to give back to both cultures.

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DJ Ace Montaser

Former serviceman and DJ Ace Montaser is making his name on Detroit’s airwaves.

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Major Funding for Arab American Stories: A National Discussion and Outreach provided by

Special Thanks to:


Betty H. Sams

Detroit Public TVAANM