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Sugar Comes from Arabic (2nd ed)
A Beginner’s Guide to Arabic Letters and Words
Barbara Whitesides

published 2009 • 9" x 11" • 136 pages • full-color illustrations throughout
ISBN 9781566567572 • spiral bound • $20.00

A user-friendly Arabic alphabet-and-culture book for complete beginners

No other Arabic alphabet book demystifies the letters in such a comfortable way, by introducing them in English alphabetical order of the Roman alphabet and using the spelling of English names and words as a way to learn the Arabic. Look up matching letters, follow the directions, and soon you’ll be writing your own name in Arabic!

Clear, concise illustrations show how to draw and remember each letter. Color photographs and explorations of individual words reveal important and often unrecognized connections between the West and the Arab world, such as the delicious gift of sugar. Sugar Comes from Arabic is an exciting entry into the language of more than twenty countries and more than 300 million people.

Simple stick-figure cartoons show you how to draw and remember each letter. Winning illustrations of words reveal important and too-often-unrecognized connections between our cultures, such as the delicious gift of sugar we received from the Arab world. This book is an irresistible way to raise cultural literacy.  

Barbara Whitesides is a Boston editor and a perpetual Arabic student. Like her grandfather James Henry Breasted, the first professor of Egyptology in the United States, she enjoys discovering some of the forgotten and unexpected sources of our own culture.

Click here to see more information and sample pages from the book

Media Reviews

"A perfect book to help you learn Arabic, spoken by 300 million people. Clear illustrations show how to draw each letter. All ages."
- Skipping Stones

"This book makes the Arabic alphabet much more approachable for the complete beginner, and can generate enthusiasm for expanded study of the language."
- Paul Beran, Director, The Outreach Center, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University

"Congratulations! (mabruk). Just received a copy of your book. I loved it. Not only have you made learning the Arabic script fun but you have managed to embed this learning within broader cultural contexts (western and Arab) which is quite an accomplishment. Well worth the wait!"
— Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Harvard University

"Arabic written script commonly in use by more than 300 million people in more than twenty countries around the world is radically different from that of the scripts descended from the Roman alphabet. But now American and European students wanting to learn to read and write in Arabic have a superbly produced learning tool with Barbara Whitesides' Sugar Comes From Arabic: A Beginner's Guide To Arabic Letters & Words. This deftly composed and presented Arabic alphabet book demystifies the letters by introducing them in an English alphabetical order, and then using the spelling of English names and words as a way of learning Arabic. Students will be able look up matching letters, follow clear directions, and quite quickly become able to write their own name in Arabic. Profusely illustrated throughout, Sugar Comes From Arabic is an enthusiastically recommended addition to personal, school, and community library Language Studies reference collections and curriculum supplements."
Midwest Book Review

“Created as a user-friendly Arabic alphabet-and-culture book for beginners, the author simplifies learning the letters by ordering and then matching them according to the English alphabet. The ample and imaginative use of color also makes this an informative, fun, and useful teaching aid.”
—Islamic Horizons

 “This engaging introduction to the Arabic alphabet and script was written by the granddaughter of James Henry Breasted, the Egyptologist who helped read the seals on Tutankhamun’s tomb. Whitesides teaches the reader how to write the letters of common English and Arabic names in Arabic script. Her method is to reduce an English word down to its consonants, without most vowels, to reverse the sequence of those letters, and then to write them in Arabic script. By book’s end, readers should be able to write their names in Arabic. While it’s impossible to learn the sounds of some Arabic letters, such as dad and ‘ayn, without hearing them spoken, one can certainly learn to read and recognize them as written letters, and Whitesides’s descriptions of the sounds are easily accessible. Throughout the book, she explores English words whose roots come from Arabic, such as jar, genie, lemon, lute, algebra, gypsum and soap. In demystifying Arabic script, Whitesides also brings Arab culture into focus."
—Saudi Aramco World

Reader Reviews

"Your book is FANTASTIC!!!
I am 60 and for my whole life have been stymied by Arabic...mainly because of the alphabet.  I have a great interest in Middle East issues and hope to travel  there.  This year I got a few CD sets for beginning spoken Arabic. But, frankly, not having the foundation of the basic letter forms and sounds has made any progress very difficult. I stopped. Your book, in contrast, is like a key unlocking the entire language.
After only a few days of glancing through the pages a few hours each day, I feel confident that the spoken word can follow in due course.  Even with no tape/CD to listen to, you have provided great clues on even the most difficult new letter/sounds (e.g. GH, KH). You have demystified so many of the nagging little "unspoken questions" a student might you have a sixth sense about what is in a beginner's mind (e.g. what direction to form the letter shapes, how long or short to make an ending, etc).  All in all, the book is fun, easy, and encouraging.
I can't thank you enough.  When I get to Beirut or Damascus sometime in the future (God willing), I'll think of your book."—Geoff Robinson

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