English Professor celebrates first memoir with WC community

By Megan Loock
Elm Staff Writer

The Sophie Kerr series presented a reception and reading on Wednesday Nov. 17th to celebrate the publication of Visiting Assistant Professor of English Sufiya Abdur-Rahman’s first memoir, “Heir to the Crescent Moon.” The event was co-sponsored by the Rose O’Neill Literary House and the Starr Center for the Study of American History.

The reception took place on the Rose O’Neill Literary House’s porch at 4 p.m. Afterward, those who attended the reception, as well as the Washington College campus community, were encouraged to congregate in the Hodson Egg to attend Abdur-Rahman’s reading via Zoom at 5 p.m.

Abdur-Rahman said that “Heir to the Crescent Moon” was originally going to be a larger journalistic book that discussed the experiences of second-generation Black Muslims. 

“But I am a journalist and I didn’t know how to write a book,” Abdur-Rahman said. “The longest thing I’ve ever written was a magazine article.”

Although she wanted to pursue this project coming out of her undergraduate study at Howard University, the idea evolved as she continued into her studies in graduate school at Goucher College where she learned the process of book-writing.

Students also had a chance to win a copy of “Heir to the Crescent Moon” in a raffle. According to Professor and Chair of English, Director of the Sophie Kerr Endowment, and Director of Writing Dr. Sean Meehan, the first 10 students who signed up at the reception received a copy of the book. 

“I love supporting the English faculty,” English Department Communications Intern junior Eylie Sasijima said. “[Abdur-Rahman] really showed me what creative non-fiction can be, so I can be here for her creative non-fiction endeavors.”

At the reading, Abdur-Rahman read her prologue titled “My Father,” a section that discusses her father’s introduction to Islam and activism, as well as her mother’s introduction to Civil Rights activism. The reading was followed by a Q&A that was led and mediated by Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing Dr. James Hall.

Dr. Hall asked Abdur-Rahman about her memoire’s theme of questioning legacy, specifically if  she has to discover herself as a writer and her legacy as a writer, similar to how her father experienced his spiritual journey.

“My classmates kept on saying ‘this is really good, but what about you? What about your story,’” she said. “So, I tried it out and [my classmates] wanted more and I kept doing more and I realized that this is what this story actually is.” 

Abur-Rahman explained that her book is not just personal experience, others’ stories, historical research, or journalistic reportage but a “mish mash” of all of those.  

 “When I say I am a non-fiction writer, I mean all of it,” she said.

Abur-Rahman is excited to hear reactions to her book from students, but members of the English department demonstrated that they share her excitement for the book. 

“It’s always nice when we have colleagues who publish their work,” Professor of English and American Studies Dr. Alisha Knight said. “It gives us a chance to see and learn more about them than we do in William Smith Hall or in department meetings.”

“Heir to the Crescent Moon” is available for purchase at The Bookplate in Chestertown. 

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