Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1952. Her father was a Palestinian refugee and her mother an American of German and Swiss descent, and Nye spent her adolescence in both Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas.
Nye received her BA from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas and continues to live and work in the city. “My poems and stories often begin with the voices of our neighbors, mostly Mexican American, always inventive and surprising,” Nye wrote for Four Winds Press. “I never get tired of mixtures.”
In “Blood” Nye considers the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. She describes a café in combat-weary Beirut, bemoans “a world where no one saves anyone,” and observes “The Gardener” for whom “everything she planted gave up under the ground.”
After the World Trade Center bombing in 2001, Nye became an active voice for Arab-Americans, speaking out against both terrorism and prejudice.
The lack of understanding between Americans and Arabs led her to collect poems she had written which dealt with the Middle East and her experiences as an Arab-American into one volume. 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (2002) received praise for the timeliness of its message.
In 1997 Nye published Habibi, her first young-adult novel. Readers meet Liyana Abboud, an Arab-American teen who moves with her family to her Palestinian father’s native country during the 1970s, only to discover that the violence in Jerusalem has not yet abated. As Liyana notes, “in Jerusalem, so much old anger floated around…[that] the air felt stacked with weeping and raging and praying to God by all the different names.”