Past presenters


Stephanie Abraham is a cultural studies scholar who passes as a business writer in corporate America by day and blogs at Feminist in the Suburbs by night. She was part of the editorial collective who founded the feminist magazine Make/shift and is a frequent contributor to Bitch. Her master’s thesis,Hollywood’s Harem Housewife: Orientalism in I Dream of Jeannie,” is part of the Jack G. Shaheen Archive at New York University. She’s currently completing a master’s in creative writing at the University of Southern California and writing her first memoir.

Charlotte Karem Albrecht is a creative writer and poet, board chair of Mizna, and a postdoctoral fellow in Women’s Studies at Denison University. She received her Ph.D. in Feminist Studies from the University of Minnesota. She combines creative writing with historical methods to understand how gender, sexuality, race, and class operated in the early Arab American diaspora.

Andrea Assaf is a playwright, poet, performer, theater director and cultural organizer.  She’s the founding Artistic Director of Art2Action Inc. She has a Masters degree in Performance Studies and a BFA in acting from New York University (NYU Tisch School of the Arts).  Awards include: 2011 NPN Creation Fund Commission, 2010 Princess Grace Award for Directing, 2007 Hedgebrook residency for “women authoring change,” and a 2004 Cultural Contact grant (U.S.-Mexico Foundation for Culture).

Moustafa Bayoumi is the author of, among other works, the critically acclaimed How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America (Penguin), which won an American Book Award and the Arab American Book Award for Non-Fiction. His new book, This Muslim-American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror (NYU Press), will be published next year. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Debra Beilke is a Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages at Concordia University-St. Paul, where she teaches writing, Introduction to Literature, American Literature, and World Literature.  Her research interests include Arab and Arab-American literature.

Leila Ben-Nasr is a Ph.D. Candidate in the English Department at The Ohio State University.  She is currently working on a dissertation project entitled “‘In the Presence of Absence’: The Narrative Space of Childhood in 21st Century Anglophone Arab Literature in the Diaspora.”  Her research interests include U.S. Ethnic literature, Postcolonial and Diaspora literature, 20th/21st Century American literature, Arab American studies, and Folklore studies.

Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán is the author of Antes y después del Bronx: Lenapehoking and South Bronx Breathing Lessons; and editor of an international queer Indigenous issue of Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art, and Thought. Awarded 12 artist residencies, his work appears in 180 publications in 21 nations in the Américas, Africa, Arab world, Asia, Europe, Australia, and the Pacific. He is winner of the AWP WC&C Scholarship; Bamboo Ridge Editors’ Choice Award; and NYC LGBT Community Center Poetry Contest.

Leila Buck is a writer, performer, and teaching artist working in the U.S., Australia, Europe, and Arab world. Her plays, In the Crossing and Hkeelee, have been performed at The Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Lark Play Development Center, Chautauqua Institution, Brooklyn Museum, and Culture Project—Women Center Stage. Her work appears in Etching Our Own Image and Four Arab American Plays. She is a member of The Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group, State Department Cultural Envoy, and Wesleyan University artist-in-residence.

Hayan Charara is the author of three poetry books, The Alchemist’s Diary (2001), The Sadness of Others (2006) and the forthcoming Something Sinister (2016). He edited Inclined to Speak (2008), an anthology of contemporary Arab American poetry, and his children’s book, The Three Lucys (2014), won the New Voices Award Honor. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, he teaches in the Honors College at the University of Houston.

Susan Muaddi Darraj is Associate Professor of English at Harford Community College in Maryland. She is the editor of Scheherazade’s Legacy: Arab and Arab American Women on Writing; and author of The Inheritance of Exile: Stories from South Philly, an AWP Book Awards Series finalist. A former editor of The Baltimore Review, she is now an editor at Barrelhouse Magazine. Her articles, essays, reviews, and stories appear in The Christian Science Monitor, New York Stories, Banipal, The Baltimore Sun, Mizna, Sukoon, and several anthologies.

Carol Fadda-Conrey is Assistant Professor of English at Syracuse University. A recipient of an NEH summer grant and a Future of Minority Studies Fellowship, her essays on gender, race, ethnicity, war trauma, and transnational citizenship in Arab and Arab-American literary texts have appeared in a variety of journals and edited collections. She is the author of Contemporary Arab American Literature: Transnational Reconfigurations of Home and Belonging (New York University Press, 2014).

Laila Farah is a Lebanese-American feminist performer-scholar and Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Depaul University. She has toured presenting her one-woman show, “Living in the Hyphen-Nation.” Her creative scholarship includes research with and the performance of “Third World” women and women of color, postcolonial identities and “alien-nation,” and ethnographic and auto ethnographic performance. She is active locally, nationally, and globally in gender-based initiatives through various organizations including the National Women’s Studies Association, the Arab American Action Network, and the International Oral History Organization.

Nouri Gana is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature & Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA. He published numerous articles and chapters on the literatures and cultures of the Arab world and its diasporas in such scholarly venues as Comparative Literature Studies, PMLA, Public Culture and Social Text. He also contributed op-eds to The Guardian, El Pais, The Electronic Intifada, Jadaliyya and CounterPunch. He is the author of Signifying Loss: Toward a Poetics of Narrative Mourning (Bucknell UP, 2011), and the editor of The Making of the Tunisian Revolution: Contexts, Architects, Prospects and of The Edinburgh Companion to the Arab Novel in English (Edinburgh UP, 2013).

Nancy El Gendy is a doctoral candidate in the English department at the University of Oklahoma. She got her BA and MA in English from Ain Shams University and Helwan University, Cairo, Egypt. El Gendy wrote her MA thesis on Louise Erdrich. Her current academic interests include contemporary Multi-Ethnic American discourse by women as well as cultural criticism. El Gendy is finishing her PhD dissertation, “The Muslim Female Body in Twenty-First Century Arab American Discourse by Women,” where she is exploring various ways in which contemporary Arab American women writers deal with the social construction of dominant cultural mythologies and ideologies associated with the Muslim female body.

Hedy Habra is the author of a poetry collection, Tea in Heliopolis, finalist for the 2014 International Poetry Book Award, a short story collection, Flying Carpets, winner of the 2013 Arab American Book Award’s Honorable Mention in Fiction and finalist for the 2014 Eric Hoffer Book Award. Her multilingual work appears in more than forty journals and thirteen anthologies, including Blue Five Notebook, Nimrod, Drunken Boat, Diode, Bitter Oleander and Poet Lore. She received the 2012 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Award.

Marilyn Hacker

Kathryn Haddad is the founder of Mizna. A Playwright’s Center and Archibald Bush Leadership Fellow, and Jerome Foundation, Intermedia Arts, and Minnesota State Arts Board Grantee, her plays, With Love from Ramallah and Zafira the Olive Oil Warrior, have been presented in Minneapolis, New York, and San Francisco. Her upcoming play, tentatively titled Safari, is currently in workshop and scheduled for production in spring of 2015 with her new organization, New Arab American Theatre Works.

Shadab Zeest Hashmi‘s Baker of Tarifa won the 2011 San Diego Book Award for poetry. Her Pushcart Prize nominated poems have been translated into Spanish and Urdu. She is the winner of the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Prize and her work has appeared in Poetry International, Vallum, Nimrod, The Bitter Oleander, The Cortland Review, The Adirondack Review, Atlanta Review, RHINO, Journal of Postcolonial Writings, Spillway, and is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner and Drunken Boat, among other journals. She is a guest columnist for 3 Quarks Daily. Kohl and Chalk is her new book of poems.

Sally Howell is Assistant Professor of History in the Center for Arab American Studies and the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She is the author of Old Islam in Detroit: Reimagining the Muslim American Past, due July 2014 from Oxford University Press. Her previous books include the co-authored Citizenship and Crisis: Arab Detroit after 9/11 (2009, Russell Sage Foundation Press) and the edited volume, Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the Terror Decade (2011, Wayne State University Press).  Her essays have appeared in numerous edited volumes and in Anthropological Quarterly, Diaspora, Food and Foodways, the International Journal of Middle East Studies, the UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law, and Visual Anthropology.

Amir Hussain is a Minneapolis-based poet, writing at the crossroads of natural and social environments. His poems have appeared in various literary journals, including Fugue, Mizna, Water~Stone Review, Midway, and Faultline. His poem “Anhinga” was winner of the annual poetry contest at Big Cypress National Preserve. He was awarded the Loft Literary Center’s Minnesota Emerging Writers’ Grant in 2014.

Happy/L.A. Hyder is a visual artist celebrating 45 years in photography & a published writer. In 2009, she scripted Bareed Mista3jil into a staged reading, since presented in the San Francisco bay area, Istanbul & Amman. This scripting, along with meeting members of Meem, the feminist group that produced the book, led to her first visit to Lebanon in 2010. She often talks about the iconic nature of photographs from ancestors, her responses to that visit, & her desire to return to Lebanon.

Lameece Issaq

Amira Jarmakani is an Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Georgia State University.  She is the author of Imagining Arab Womanhood: The Cultural Mythology of Veils, Harems, and Belly Dancers in the U.S. (Palgrave Macmillan 2008), which won the National Women’s Studies Association Gloria E. Anzaldúa book prize.  Her work has appeared in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, American Quarterly, and Critical Arts: A South-North Journal for Cultural and Media Studies, Arabs in the Americas, Arab and Arab American Feminisms, and Between the Middle East and the Americas: The Cultural Politics of Diaspora. She has a forthcoming book with NYU  press, titled Romancing the War on Terror: Mapping U.S. Imperial Desires in Desert Romances.

Randa Jarrar is the author of A Map of Home. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Utne Reader, Salon, Guernica, The Rumpus, The Oxford American, Ploughshares, and others. In 2010 she was named one of the most gifted writers of Arab origin under the age of 40.

Kim Jensen ( is a writer, poet, and educator, whose books include, The Woman I Left Behind, Bread Alone, and The Only Thing that Matters. Her writings have appeared in many journals and anthologies and her recent doctoral dissertation includes a new novel called Forget Jerusalem. Active in the peace and justice movement for many years, Kim is associate professor of English at the Community College of Baltimore County and the founding director of the Community Book Connection, an interdisciplinary literacy initiative.

Fady Joudah received the Yale Series for Younger Poets prize, the Griffin International Poetry award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His most recent poetry collections are Alight and Textu.

Jacob Kader has experience writing, directing, and producing film, video, and theater.  Food and Fadwa, his off-Broadway debut as co-author, premiered at New York Theater Workshop in 2012.  He is currently developing work for stage and screen.  He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his family.

Poet (E-mails from Scheherazad, 2003) and novelist (The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, 2006), Mohja Kahf was just promoted to full professor at the University of Arkansas, where she has taught comparative literature and Middle East Studies since 1995, including a course in Arab American Literature. A signatory to the U.S. Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Kahf has marched against the U.S. war on Iraq, and won a Pushcart Prize for creative nonfiction in 2010. Kahf’s activism in the Syrian Revolution has focused on nonviolence, nonsectarianism, noninterventionism, prisoners of conscience, and women.

Nahid Khan is a Ph.D candidate in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota, minoring also in Religious Studies and Museum Studies. She is the longest serving board member of Mizna, and her poetry and prose has been published in the Mizna journal. She also is a Collection in Focus Guide at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and is active in area interfaith dialogue activities. Prior to moving to the Twin Cities, she was a staff writer at the Moscow (Idaho) – Pullman (Washington) Daily News.

Taous Claire Khazem has toured her one woman play  “Tizi Ouzou” to Portland, Seattle, Bemidji, Ann Arbor, and Washington D. C. In the Twin Cities she has performed with Theatre Unbound, Pangea World Theater, Interact Center, Off Leash Area, Frank Theatre, and Savage Umbrella. She is a teaching artist with SteppingStone Theatre, Children’s Theatre and COMPAS.  Taous holds a certificate from the Jacques Lecoq International Theatre School in Paris, France and a B.A. from Macalester College.

Jamil Khoury is the Founding Artistic Director of Chicago’s Silk Road Rising.  A theatre producer, essayist, playwright, and film maker, Jamil’s work focuses on Middle Eastern themes and questions of Diaspora. He is particularly interested in the intersections of culture, national identity, citizenship, and class.  Jamil is the 2013 recipient of the Actor’s Equity Association’s Kathryn V. Lamkey Award for promoting diversity and inclusion in theatre, and the 2010 recipient of the 3Arts Artist Award for Playwriting.

Zahie El Kouri’s work has appeared in Mizna, Dinarzad’s Children: an Anthology of Arab-American literature, Ars Medica: A Journal of Medicine, the Arts, and Humanities, Memoir Journal, and Brain, Child: the Magazine for Thinking Mothers. She has a J.D. from Cornell Law School and an MFA from New School University.

Jason Makansi’s fiction has appeared in Mizna, Dos Passos Review, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley (Southeast Missouri  State University), and Marginalia (Western State College of Colorado). He is the author of three non-fiction books, as well as numerous essays and articles. From 1981 to 2000, he was an editor for a McGraw-Hill  publication, serving for several years as Editor in Chief. He is the co-founder of Blank Slate Press.

Farid Matuk is the author of This Isa Nice Neighborhood (Letter Machine) and My Daughter La Chola (Ahsahta). New poems have appeared recently in Iowa Review, Denver Quarterly, The Baffler, and Poetry. His work has been anthologized in American Odysseys: Writing by New Americans (Dalkey Archive) and in the forthcoming Best America Experimental Poetry (Omnidawn), among others. Matuk serves as a contributing editor to The Volta and as poetry editor for Fence. He teaches in the MFA program at the University of Arizona.

Phil Metres is the author of numerous books, including Sand Opera (Alice James forthcoming 2015), I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky (2014), A Concordance of Leaves (2013), abu ghraib arias (2011), and To See the Earth (2008). He is a two-time recipient of the NEA and the Arab American Book Award, and is a Creative Workforce Fellow in 2014, thanks to the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture. He is professor of English at John Carroll University.

Michael Malek Najjar is an assistant professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Oregon. He holds a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies from UCLA and an M.F.A. in Directing from York University (Toronto). Malek directed the world premiere of Jamil Khoury’s Precious Stones for Silk Road Rising and he is the author of Arab American Drama, Film and Performance: A Critical Study, 1908 to the Present and editor of Four Arab American Plays: Works by Leila Buck, Jamil Khoury, Yussef El Guindi, and Lameece Issaq & Jacob Kader published by McFarland.

Dina Omar is a writer and Yale University medical anthropology Ph.D. student examining the development of mental health institutions and regimes in the Arab world. A founding member of Students for Justice in Palestine–National, and Student Teacher Poet with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People Program at the University of California, Berkeley, she has facilitated and taught English and writing in prisons, high schools, and universities. Her work appears in Jadaliyya, Al-Shabaka, Warscapes, The Believer, Mizna, and Yellow Medicine Review.

Therí Pickens researches Arab American and African American literatures and cultures, Disability Studies, philosophy, and literary theory. Her book manuscript, New Body Politics: Narrating Arab and Black Identity in the Contemporary United States (Routledge, 2014) asks: How does a story about embodied experience transform from mere anecdote to social and political critique? Her critical work has also appeared in Disability Studies Quarterly, MELUS, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, Al-Jadid, Al-Raida, the ground-breaking collection, Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions, and the critical volume, Defying the Global Language: Perspectives in Ethnic Studies (Teneo Ltd).

Micaela Kaibni Raen is a Palestinian American lesbian writer and parent whose work explores cultural, socioeconomic, feminist, and queer themes. A community organizer and LGBT and HIV+ communities advocate, she works to increase equality, peace, and positive social change. Her work appears in Bint el Nas; Mizna; Tagg Magazine; Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art, and Thought; A Different Path: An Anthology of the Radius of Arab American Writer; and The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology.

Andrea Shaker is a professor of art at the College of St. Benedict | St. John’s University. She earned a BA from Georgetown University and a MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She grew up in a small New England town and is the granddaughter of Lebanese immigrants. As an Arab American, her work is informed by a tension between a lived understanding of home and an imagined sense of ancestral homeland.

Deema K. Shehabi is the author of “Thirteen Departures from the Moon” (Press 53), co-editor with Beau Beausoleil of “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” (PM Press), and co-author with Marilyn Hacker of “DiaspoRenga” (June 2014).She is the recipient of the Northern California Book Award’s NCBR Recognition Award for Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.

Mejdulene Shomali is a PhD Candidate in the Department of American Culture at the University of Michigan.  She received her master’s degree in Women’s Studies from The Ohio State University and her bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy from The University of Michigan, Flint.  Her work has appeared in various journals, including The Feminist Wire, Arab Studies Quarterly, Social Justice, and Mizna.

Priscilla Wathington is a Palestinian American poet, mother and freelance editor, currently working with Defense for Children International-Palestine. She holds a M.A. in Arab Studies from Georgetown University and a B.A. in Elementary Education from Wheaton College. Her work has previously appeared in Rosebud Magazine, The Baltimore Review and is forthcoming in Mizna. She lives in San Francisco where she is a member of Poets Across the Bay and can be found most days chasing her two boys through sand and forest.

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