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Born in Damascus, Syria, Mohja Kahf is an associate professor of comparative literature at the University of Arkansas. She came to the U.S. at the age of 3 ½ with her parents, growing up in Utah, Indiana, and New Jersey, where she got a Ph.D. from Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey. Kahf has published three books: a novel, "The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf," a book of poetry, "E-mails from Scheherazad," and a book of scholarship, "Western Representations of the Muslim Woman." She won a Pushcart Prize this year for "The Caul of Inshallah," an autobiographical essay published in the journal River Teeth.
Her poems have been projected on the facade of the New York Public Library by an installment artist, and published in more conventional venues such as Mizna, Banipal, Paris Review, Tiferet: A Journal of Literature and Spirituality, and Atlanta Review. Some of Kahf's short fiction is online at muslimwakeup.com's "Sex and the Ummah" column.
A Fayetteville resident for the last 14 years, Kahf has lived in the Arab world and returns there regularly with her husband and three children. Kahf's next poetry manuscript is about Hajar, Sarah, and Abraham, and she is working on a book of essays on interfaith and faith issues, called "Love, Anyway: Letters from Your Muslim Aunty."
(Editor's note: Dr. Kahf's story is the latest in our sporadic tradition of giving Times readers a literary gift during the Christmas season. For a season bound up in ancient journeys and family traditions, hers seemed particularly appropriate.)