Library Lends a Hand to ‘Arab-American Yearbook’

Posted February 6, 2007 at 6:37pm

Virginia-based publishing company TIYM recently inaugurated a new addition to its series of resource books for and about minority communities.

The “Arab-American Yearbook,” which was launched last week at a reception at the Library of Congress, follows in the footsteps of the company’s Asian-American, African-American and Hispanic yearbooks, featuring comprehensive data sets, profiles of prominent figures and short articles about the community. The meat of the 172-page volume, however, is its exhaustive reference guide of educational, medical, religious and political organizations for Arab-Americans.

The book was masterminded by TIYM President and CEO Angela Zavala. After considering the possibility of an Arab-American edition, she was encouraged by Capt. Kevin Winsing and Cmdr. Hesham Islam, both special assistants to Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England.

“I had known Angela for years from going to her events for the other yearbooks,” Winsing said. “When she mentioned the possibility of one for Arab-Americans, Hesham Islam and I both thought it was a great idea.”

The moment of initial encouragement speaks to the strong relationship between TIYM and the DOD. According to Winsing, the military has been a longtime supporter of Zavala’s books, helping to locate outstanding minority members to be profiled and advertising in yearbooks since the first “Hispanic Yearbook” was published over 20 years ago. The “Arab-American Yearbook” includes three profiles on Arab-American military personnel, including Gen. John Abizaid, as well as a special advertising section from the Marine Corps and an article on the importance of diversity in the Coast Guard.

The yearbook also features contributions from the LOC, the Arab American Institute, ACCESS and the Islamic Society of North America.

Though previous efforts established a template for the new yearbook, research still presented a unique challenge largely because “Arab-Americans aren’t technically recognized as an ethnic minority in the U.S.,” said co-editor Jordan Dansby. He pointed out that organizations often track the figures of Muslim-Americans instead.

The research required for the book took almost a year, from December 2005 until late in 2006. It was intensive and involved “scouring the Internet, finding Arab-American events and functions and trying to get a hold of recommendations from individuals in the community,” Dansby explained.

“At every level, the information we used had to be checked by experts like those at the Arab American Institute,” Dansby said. Authorities at the AAI even helped shed light on potential inaccuracies in data sets from the Census.

Available for sale online at the publisher’s Web site as well as at retail outlets, the book also is designed to be distributed from libraries, embassies, political offices and educational institutions.

“The target audience is anyone and everyone interested in learning more about the Arab-American community,” Dansby said. “If a Lebanese family has just emigrated to the U.S., they can open up a copy of the ‘Arab-American Yearbook’ and find legal services and health services. If a business wants to work on target marketing for the Arab-American community, they can use the book as a reference for information and groups that can help them. If an Army recruiter wants help reaching and interacting with the Arab community, this could help. It could even be used as a reference for research on the community in universities.”

Zavala writes in her inaugural “Letter from the Editor,” “It is, and has always been, our goal to inform minority communities about the opportunities available to them in areas that include education, health, and business, while at the same time raising awareness about the incredible contributions that each group has made to the United States as a whole.”