Samina Ali Author & Activist

Samina Ali is an award-winning author, activist and cultural commentator. Her debut novel, Madras on Rainy Days (Farrar, Straus, Giroux), was the winner of France’s prestigious Prix Premier Roman Etranger Award and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award in Fiction. The book, about a young woman’s arranged marriage and political awakening, was partly inspired by Samina’s real-life experience growing up bi-culturally in Hyderabad, India and St. Paul, Minnesota. At the heart of Samina’s work is her belief in personal narrative as a vital force for achieving women’s individual and political freedom – and in the power of new and traditional media as platforms for social transformation. As the curator of the groundbreaking, critically acclaimed virtual exhibition, Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices, Samina illuminated the multi-dimensional realities of women’s lives to challenge fears and misconceptions of Muslims and Islam within and beyond Muslim communities. Weaving her personal story with a passionate appeal for women’s equality and justice, Samina’s current project is an account of her near-death experience delivering her firstborn and an unsparing look at gender bias and the crisis of preventable maternal deaths in one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the world. In this memoir-in-progress, Samina describes how she defied the odds by boldly charting her own path to recovery, from relearning to walk alongside her son’s first steps, to retraining her mind — word by word — to write what would become her debut novel. Samina has spoken extensively at a wide range of universities, from Harvard and Yale Universities to community colleges, as well as at other institutions worldwide, including as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department. The recipient of fiction awards from the Rona Jaffe Foundation and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, she has been featured in The Economist, The Guardian, Vogue, National Public Radio (NPR) and elsewhere. A regular contributor to The Huffington Post and Daily Beast, she has written for The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications. Never one to say no to a challenge, Samina defied the odds — again — and gave birth to a second child. She now lives happily with her husband, son and daughter in California.

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