Story by Yashowanto Ghosh, Staff Writer
Photo Courtesy of Texas Public Radio
Poet and novelist Naomi Shihab Nye returns to Aquinas College’s campus in April 2017—after 19 years—as the fourth and final author to be featured in the current season of the Contemporary Writers Series.
Nye, who has more than 30 books to her credit as author and editor, last read on our campus in 1998 for the first season of the Series; even if you weren’t at the College in 1998, you may have read some of her poetry if you had a creative writing class with Professor Pamela Dail Whiting. Nye was elected a Chancellor of the American Academy of Poets in 2009.
This year, though, her visit will focus on her prose writings, according to the Contemporary Writers Series website; Nye is a versatile author, who has published, for example, the children’s book “Sitti’s Secrets” (1994), the volume of essays “Never in a Hurry” (1996), and the semi-autobiographical young adult novel “Habibi” (1997)—for which she won the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award in 1998. More recently, she has published the collections of short fiction “I’ll Ask You Three Times, Are You OK?: Tales of Driving and Being Driven” (2007) and “There Is No Long Distance” (2011) and the children’s novel “The Turtle of Oman” (2015).
But something else has also changed about Nye since she last visited Aquinas. Nye is Arab-American—she was born in St. Louis to a Palestinian refugee father and an American mother, spent parts of adolescent years in Jerusalem and lives in San Antonio now—and her writing has always been deeply informed by the complexities of cultural identity, but since 9/11 she has become active as a prominent voice both against terrorism and against anti-Arab prejudice. Where in 1998 she was a writer who had inherited two cultures and wrote from both of them—and from their interplay—today she is a politically engaged writer who is addressing the tensions and conflicts between her two cultures, and her complete commitment to both of her cultures shines bright, even as escalating events continue to make such a commitment increasingly impossible.
If you are into literature, come to the reading because Nye is a literary superstar, but even if you are not into literature, come to hear a genuine voice that is personally caught in a world conflict, and yet refuses to be a victim—a voice that rises and speaks, but speaks for both sides and against conflict. Come hear a voice that rises both out of the conflict and above the conflict.
Nye will read from her work on Wednesday, April 19. The event, like all events of the Contemporary Writers Series, will start at 7:30 p.m. in the Wege Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public.
About the Writer: