New exhibit documents Arab American students' life post-9/11

Jul 5, 2011

As the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaches, a group of Arab American middle school students spent the past year documenting their lives and their community. Their stories are part of a new exhibit at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn.

The 7th graders at McCollough-Unis School in Dearborn are part of the first generation to grow up in a post 9/11 world, and the majority of them are also Arab American. They spent the year writing about what life is like in their community as part of a journalism class; they took photos, wrote essays and interviewed loved ones and posted their stories and pictures online.

Jamila Nasser loved the class so much she's seriously considering becoming a journalist. For one of her assignments, the 13-year old Arab American of Lebanese descent wrote about the hijab - the headpiece many Muslim women wear. She wrote about how some of the girls in her school wear one and others don't, and about how they're "all the same, just one where's a scarf and one doesn't." She says after people read her story, she "could tell things around [her] community started changing."

"I didn’t get the whole entire city to read it, but I got people here and there and I’m hoping that they can pass it on to people who don’t understand how we are."

Nasser and her classmates’ work are on display as part of the "In the Heart of Arab America: A Middle School Perspective" exhibit, which runs through Aug. 14 at the Arab American Museum. Their photos and essays are also online at livingtextbook.aaja.org.

The Living Textbook project is part of the Asian American Journalist Association. The association sponsored three projects: one in NYC, one in Chicago, and the Living Textbook project in Dearborn.