- Naomi Shihab Nye photographed by Josh Huskin for the San Antonio Current
Now four decades later, the self-professed “wandering poet” has authored or edited upward of 30 volumes — including poetry collections for children and adults alike, novels for young readers, short stories and picture books — and earned numerous awards and accolades along the way, such as Guggenheim, Lannan and Witter Bynner (Library of Congress) fellowships, a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets and four Pushcart Prizes. Often placing themes surrounding Jerusalem, immigration and Arab-American identity in relatable, imaginative contexts, her works include the collection 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (2005), the novel The Turtle of Oman (2016) and this year’s The Tiny Journalist — a collection inspired by Janna Jihad Ayyad, a young Palestinian activist who began using her mother’s smartphone at the age of 7 to report on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
On Tuesday, Nye’s long list of credits became even more impressive as she was named the 2019-2021 Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation, the Chicago-based organization behind Poetry magazine. Designed to “celebrate a living writer in recognition of their devotion to writing exceptional poetry for young readers,” the two-year laureateship comes with a $25,000 prize and will see Nye bringing poetry to geographically underserved or rural communities through readings and recommending new poetry books to young readers (via poetryfoundation.org) every month beginning in August.
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