Naomi Shihab Nye – Biography

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Naomi Shihab

Naomi Shihab was born on March 12, 1952, in St. Louis, Missouri, to Aziz Shihab, a journalist, and Miriam, a teacher. Her father was a Palestinian immigrant who loved to tell Middle Eastern folktales to his children. Her American mother had a fine arts degree in painting. Shihab developed a passion for poetry at an early age, learning to read through the work of the poet Carl Sandburg. She published her first poem in a children’s magazine at age seven and continued to publish steadily thereafter.

Shihab and her family lived in Jerusalem, Israel, for a year when she was fourteen. Her father was editor of the Jerusalem Times, but the family relocated to San Antonio, Texas, when the Six Day War broke out in 1967. Shihab attended Trinity University in San Antonio, graduating summa cum laude in 1974 with a bachelor of arts degree in English and world religions.

After graduation, Shihab worked for the Texas Writers in the Schools project while writing and publishing her own poetry on the side. Hugging the Jukebox, her second full-length collection, garnered national attention and established her reputation after it was chosen as part of the National Poetry Series.

She married lawyer and photographer Michael Nye in 1978 and had a son, Madison Cloudfeather, in 1986. In the 1990s, inspired by her son, Nye began to write for children and to compile anthologies for young adults. The first anthology she edited, This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World (1992), was a response to anti-Arab sentiment during the Gulf War. The poet also wrote a semiautobiographical novel, Habibi, published in 1997. The young-adult poetry collection in which ‘‘All Things Not Considered’’ appears, 19 Varieties of Gazelle, was published in 2002. In thirty-five years of professional writing, Nye has published more than thirty books, collections, and anthologies.

Nye has received many awards for her writing, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, and several Pushcart Prizes. She was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2010. As of 2012, Nye lived in San Antonio, Texas, with her family.


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