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Posted on Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

Craving hummus from far away - Arab American events at the Ann Arbor District Library this week

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

The children and I had been in Hawaii almost five weeks when a sudden craving for hummus hit.

We had not really thought about hummus for a while, had been enjoying our huli huli chicken and Spam musubi, foods we cannot get in Ann Arbor, when we suddenly noticed that something we normally took for granted was simply not there.

We searched, but could not find good hummus or tabouli anywhere. We could not find good Indian food. We could not find henna. This is just a small thing, unimportant really, but we began to appreciate that there are things gritty Michigan has that languorous Hawaii does not.

With Dearborn being home to the largest Arab community outside of the Middle East, Michigan is multicultural after all, but a different mix of multi than Hawaii. While the rest of the country is freaking out about terrorist stereotypes, we have neighbors.

The Ann Arbor District Library offers us two opportunities this week to learn more about our Arab American neighbors and friends:

"Angeleno Days" author coming to A2

Join us Thursday January 21 at 7 p.m. at our Traverwood Branch as we welcome Gregory Orfalea to discuss his most recent book, Angeleno Days. Mr Orfalea will share his series of essays originally published in the Los Angeles Times Magazine. These deeply moving pieces are gathered in his book for the first time. Mr. Orfalea will discuss his experiences writing about Arab American society and concerns. His book will be on sale and will include a book signing.

Middle Eastern Music By Award-Winning Musician Ara Topouzian
Saturday January 23, 2010: 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room
Join us for a delightful introduction to the sounds of the Middle East, featuring Award-Winning Detroit area musician Ara Topouzian. Ara performs an array of Armenian and Middle Eastern instruments including: Kanun (laptop harp), Duduk (Armenian oboe), Metal G-clarinet, Dumbek (Middle Eastern hand drum), Def (Middle Eastern tambourine), and a variety of Middle Eastern frame drums.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for, and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at



Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 12:02 a.m.

Frances- thanks for clarifying. I showed your previous comment to my Armenian friend. He, however, continues to insist that Armenian music is not the same as Middle-Eastern music. :) If Mr Topouzian himself says hat he plays Middle-Eastern music, tat is good enough for me.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 1:01 p.m.

Thanks for the clarification, but according to his website, he performs "Armenian AND Middle Eastern Music." From "Ara Topouzian is an Armenian-American musician whose proficiency at the KANUN (Middle Eastern harp) has made him a nationally-recognized artist. He has performed in concert, at music festivals and many celebrated venues across the United States, with the top musicians in Middle Eastern music. Topouzian's traditional musical style keeps to his Armenian heritage but has expanded to include music from around the Middle East, as well as jazz, fusion, new age and blues. The recipient of numerous awards, Ara Topouzian's music has been heard and sold around the globe."


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 11:37 a.m.

Frances- little quibble here. I think th eLIbrary personnel were incorrect in labelling Mr Toupozian's music as "Middle-Eastern Music". What he does is somewhat similar, but, the music he plays is very specifically traditional Armenian music. My Armenian-American friend ( a U-M grad student) was somewhat "bent of of shape" over this "mislabeling".

Charlie Naebeck

Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 11:29 a.m.

which island were you on in Hawaii? my wife and I just got back from Kauai a couple weeks ago and we had discovered hummus at the Foodland on the main highway in Princeville, Kappaa, and I think there was a seperate store just past the town of Hanapepe that had it too. :)