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Arab Americans

Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye (born March 12, 1952) is a poetsongwriter, and novelist. She was born to a Palestinian father and American mother. Although she regards herself as a “wandering poet”, she refers to San Antonio as her home. She says a visit to her grandmother in the village of Sinjil was a life-changing experience. She was the recipient of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature.


At the age of seven, Nye began writing poems for a magazine article. She was influenced by her mother. Many of her early works were based on things such as cats, squirrels, friends, teachers, etc. It wasn’t until she was fourteen that she moved to the West Bank with her family. There she visited her Palestinian grandmother and moved back to San Antonio a year later, while the Six Day War was still brewing. She then attended Trinity University, receiving a BA in English and world religions, and lives in San Antonio to this day.

These experiences of being part of both a majority and minority in various cultures heavily influenced her political views and would eventually become part of the messages in her many collections of poetry. Her book “Fuel” is an example. Some of her earlier works were published in Seventeen, Modern Poetry Studies, and Ironwood.

She refers to herself as the “wandering poet” because she has traveled the world to hold writing workshops and inspire people of all ages for about 40 years. She is an author of many poetry books and children fictions. Her poems are based on heritage and peace and are connected to her experience as an Arab-American. Her work has been acknowledged by many journals and reviews throughout the world. In 2009, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.[1]


Nye’s first two chapter books, Tattooed Arms (1977) and Eye-to-Ear (1978), are written in free verse and possess themes of questing. Nye’s first full-length collection,Different Ways to Pray (1980), explores the differences between and shared experiences of cultures from California to Texas and from South America to Mexico. Hugging the Jukebox (1982), a full length collection which won the Voertman Poetry Prize, focuses on the connections between diverse peoples and on the perspectives of those in other lands. Yellow Glove (1986) presents poems with more tragic and sorrowful themes. Fuel (1998), Nye’s most acclaimed volume, ranges over a variety of subjects, scenes and settings.[2]

Awards and recognition

Nye has won many awards and fellowships, among them four Pushcart Prizes, the Jane Addams Children’s Book award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, and many notable book and best book citations from the American Library Association, and a 2,000 Witter Bynner Fellowship.[3] In June 2009, Nye was named as one of’s first peace heroes.[4] In 2013, Nye won the Robert Creeley Award.[5]

In October 2012, she was named laureate of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature.[6] The NSK Prize is a $25,000 juried award sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and World Literature Today magazine. In her nominating statement, Ibtisam Barakat, the juror who championed Nye for the award wrote, “Naomi’s incandescent humanity and voice can change the world, or someone’s world, by taking a position not one word less beautiful than an exquisite poem.” Barakat also commended her work by saying, “Naomi’s poetry masterfully blends music, images, colors, languages, and insights into poems that ache like a shore pacing in ebb and flow, expecting the arrival of meaning.”[7]

Published works



Short Stories


  • Rutabaga-Roo – I’ve Got A Song And It’s For You (Flying Cat – 1979)


  • Naomi Shihab Nye, ed. (1996). This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World. Aladdin Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0-689-80630-8.
  • Naomi Shihab Nye, Ashley Bryan, ed. (2000). Salting the Ocean: 100 Poems by Young Poets. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-688-16193-4.

Critical studies

  • Gómez-Vega, Ibis. “The Art of Telling Stornoyies in the Poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye.” MELUS 26.4 (Winter 2001): 245-252.
  • Gómez-Vega, Ibis. “Extreme Realities: Naomi Shihab Nye’s Essays and Poems.” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 30 (2010): 109-133.
  • Mercer, Lorraine, and Linda Strom. “Counter Narratives: Cooking Up Stories of Love and Loss in Naomi Shihab Nye’s Poetry and Diana Abu-Jaber’s Crescent.”MELUS 32.4 (Winter 2007):
  • Orfalea, Gregory. “Doomed by Our Blood to Care: The Poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye.” Paintbrush 18.35 (Spring 1991): 56-66.