American Women Writers of Muslim Heritage

An educational resource presenting texts and voices influenced by the Muslim world


My Story

Betsey Coleman

As a veteran teacher who has traveled the world to create projects and resources for American students, my purpose for curating this collection of short readings, biographical information, creative writing prompts and student models is to introduce middle, high and even university students to the diversity of American women’s voices influenced by the Muslim world. A Distinguished Award in Teaching Fulbright and other grants such as the National Endowment for the Humanities have made my research possible. Many thanks to Amanda Dargan and Sahar Muradi, leaders of the NEH Institute: A Reverence for Words: Understanding Muslim Cultures through the Arts, for their help in creating this content.

Using this Resource

For Teachers, For Students

On the following pages you will find writers whose origins include Sudan, Pakistan, Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria, Morocco, Turkey, Somalia, and the U.S., to name a few. Each page consists of one writer, as well a video, examples of their works, discussion questions, and a “Now You Try” section featuring writing prompt based on the readings. Finally, there are real-life examples of student writing.

Pakistani American

Originally from Corona, Queens, Bushra Rehman is co-editor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism.

Afghan American

Sahar Muradi

Sahar Muradi is a writer, performer and editor of One Story, Thirty Stories, an anthology of contemporary Afghan American literature.

Sudanese American

Safia Elhillo is a spoken word poet who received a BA from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and an MFA in poetry at the New School.

Palestinian American

Born in St. Louis, Missouri to a Palestinian father and an American mother, Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and writer.

Syrian American

Mohja Kahf, born in Damascus, Syria, is the author of the poetry collection Emails from Scheherazad and the novel The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf.

Palestinian American

Ibtisam Barakat

Born in Beit Hanina, near Jerusalem, Ibtisam Barakat is the author of Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, a memoir, and Balcony on the Moon.

Somali American

Ladan Osman

Ladan Osman is a Somali American poet and teacher. Her collection of poetry is called The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony.

Moroccan American

Laila Lalami

Laila Lalami, born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the US, is the author of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, and other novels.

Bangladeshi American

Poet Tarfia Faizullah is the author of Seam and Registers of Illuminated Villages.

Afghan American

Wajma Ahmady, a native of Afghanistan, has studied comparative literature and creative writing at the University of California, San Diego.

Turkish American

Elif Batuman, a staff writer at The New Yorker, is the author of two novels, including The Idiot.

Don’t Miss

News And Events

Stay up-to-date with upcoming news and events, including speaking dates, lectures and workshops.

Poetry Is Contagious

If you give teens frequent and varied opportunities to write, many models, a variety of forms and techniques, and most important, multiple audiences—they will become poets.

read more

Stay in Touch

Don't be shy. Let me know if you have any questions!