23rd Annual Massachusetts Book Awards Ceremony

Honored to receive the 2023 Mass Book Award in Fiction for  The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali at the Massachusetts State House in Boston at the ceremony last week. Given by Mass Center for the Book, the award has this citation from the judges:

'The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali is a sweeping historical epic, set in the Andaman Islands. Centered on the experiences of Nomi and Zee, children born to a convict and his wife, the novel shows how their day-to-say existence is sharply altered with the advent of World War II and their homeland moving from British to Japanese control. Beautiful language and page-turning events combine to make this novel eminently readable, illuminating an under-represented part of the word during perhaps the highest impact event of the 20th century.' 

As returning visitors to my blog likely know, and as I shared in my acceptance remarks, the language took a long time to find. Language was failing me because the archives were failing me. Because of the colonial project itself, the selective erasure that it's built upon. Much of what I know is through sources that omit people like me--brown, Muslim women from the Global South, ourselves products of multiple displacements caused by colonialism and war. Once I understood that I couldn't trust the 'facts,' only then did a language for my characters begin to form, one of imagination, of enchantment. One that I could trust. It took 27 years (+ 3 for US publication). In all that time, though the geography has remained under-represented, tragically, the story has always been as much about the present as the past. 

It touches me deeply that the award is from the state where the book found its completion, and where I still live. Truly, I didn't expect to win. There were v big names up this year that I was sure it would go to. Huge thanks to the judges and again to MCB for promoting books & writers, reading & libraries. Congratulations to all the winners, honorees & must-reads. Enjoy some pics.

Courtney Andree, Executive Director of MCB, our wonderful emcee. Photo: Merrill Shea

Me + the story of the story. Photo: David Maine

Me + the story. Photo Credit: Merrill Shea

2023 Mass Book Awards in Fiction: The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali wins!

The 2023 Massachusetts Book Awards were announced today and The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali is the winner in fiction. What an honor and a thrill! A blessing with a kiss.

Learn more, and buy a copy: https://bookshop.org/lists/2023-massachusetts-book-awards 

Congratulations to all the winners, honorees, must-reads in all the categories--all who dare to write a book and put it out there. 

Writers need privacy and quiet, but also community and reciprocity. Maybe especially those of us who've been at it for a long time. James Baldwin said it best, of course: "Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent is all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance." Endurance needs support. Today I feel the support. 

Immense gratitude to Mass Center for the Book and to Massachusetts librarians for reading and judging. Every librarian, every reader, every organization that supports literature and those who create it, is doing the work of keeping a dying culture of empathy and imagination alive. This is warrior work. Thank you, thank you.  

Read the full list in all categories: https://www.massbook.org/mass-book-awards

Australian Book Review: 2023 Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize / Shortlist, Podcast, Ceremony

The shortlist:

I wrote a story, "Our Own Fantastic," and it's one of three to be shortlisted for Australian Book Review's 2023 Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. Congratulations to all. The stories can be read in full in the August print issue

The podcast:

If you'd like to hear me read the story, listen to the podcast on ABR's website. It's my first time reading a work from start to finish; an advantage of a short story over a novel.

The ceremony:

There's a Zoom ceremony this Thursday, August 17 at 6:00 pm Australian time (Melbourne). If the timing works (it'll be 4:00 a.m. US EST, but better on most other time zones!), RSVP to: rsvp@australianbookreview.com.au They'll send the Zoom link via email on the morning of the event.

There were 1200 entries from 38 countries. Many thanks to the judges and to Australian Book Review 💜



This summer's the 20th birthday of Trespassing, first published in June 2003 and later translated into 14 languages in 18 countries. 

The book began after I left Morocco for Arizona, carrying with me clippings of the media's Islamophobic coverage of the 1991 Gulf War. I also carried articles on silkworm rearing in Pakistan-- the revival of the natural silk production in the country fascinated me, as did the insects' wondrous life cycles. And so the book began to spin its own cocoon, the many story threads seeming to weave themselves, all unfolding during the 1979-89 Afghan War and 1991 Gulf War, and the aftermaths of both--the period when I grew up. The book was already in production when the next bombing of Iraq began in 2003.

Though my second novel, Trespassing was the first to be published internationally. I'd no experience of the hefty publicity expectations that writers (esp. from underrepresented backgrounds) carry. At an English PEN event, people came up to me to say I was 'so shy' and 'reclusive'; I was overall overwhelmed. But I enjoyed meeting Nicola Smyth for The Independent, in which she wrote:

'Trespassing was completed several months before the events of September 2001. Its focus on the first Gulf War, and on previous Afghan conflicts, leaves (Khan) unsettled by her own unwitting prescience.' 

Read the full profile here. Others have since cited the book as a kind of forerunner of post- 9/11 fiction from the region.

Among the scenes I enjoyed writing most are those on Dia's silkworm farm outside Karachi; I kept the cocoons to better understand these cycles. Parts that tug, still, involve Salaamat and his devotion to truck art, even as he gets embroiled in a war that he longs to escape, but can't.  

For more on the book, please visit my website here for reviews & here for interviews. 

Nominations for Nomi: Mass Book Awards + Foreword INDIES

The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali is a Foreword Reviews' 2022 INDIES finalist in Historical Fiction. Thank you Foreword Reviews for supporting writers published by independent presses. 
For a list of Foreword nominees in all categories, click here

The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali is also a 23rd Annual Massachusetts Book Award "Must-Read" (longlist) in Fiction. Gratitude to Massachusetts Center for the Book, and to librarians for reading and judging. My book began with finding a quote by accident in a library; we need libraries, more than ever, in this scary time of book bans and censorship. 
For a list of Mass Book Awards nominees in all categories, click here.

Thank you to all the hands that support writers in doing what we most love. 

Best Historical Fiction 2022--The New York Times

The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali is a New York Times' pick for Best Historical Fiction 2022!

Alida Becker: "These sturdy times machines have two things in common: They're built to last and they're constructed by pros."

There are ten books on the list, including three Nobel laureates, Abdul Razak Gurnah; Olga Tokarczuk; Orhan Pamuk. Read about all ten here.

So grateful and honored 💜

Rochester 9/24 at 4:00/*Reading & Book Signing

Please join me in person for a reading, Q & A, and book signing of The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali on Saturday, September 24 at 4:00 p.m. The event is hosted by Akimbo Bookshop in Rochester, NY.