Home 5 Articles and Reports 5 From refugee to Congresswoman: Ilhan Omar publishes her memoirs

From refugee to Congresswoman: Ilhan Omar publishes her memoirs

by | Apr 6, 2020 | Articles and Reports, News

Democrat Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American to be elected to the US House of Representatives and one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, is to publisher her memoirs.  Arabic rights are still available according to US publisher HarperCollins which has world rights.  Kate Falkoff, senior foreign rights associate at HarperCollins in New York, handles rights for the Arab market

Omar’s book This is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman tells the remarkable story of her climb from refugee to Representative.  Omar was only eight years old when war broke out in Somalia. The youngest of seven children, her mother had died while she was still a little girl.  Omar was being raised by her father and grandfather when armed gunmen attacked their compound and the family decided to flee Mogadishu.  They escaped to Kenya where Omar spent four long years at Utanga refugee camp where experienced hunger and witnessed death.

Aged twelve, penniless, speaking only Somali and having missed out on years of schooling, Omar arrived in America in 1995.  Her publisher says: ‘Faced with the many challenges of being an immigrant and a refugee, she questioned stereotypes and built bridges with her classmates and in her community. In under two decades she became a grassroots organizer, graduated from college and—ready to keep pushing boundaries and restore moral clarity in Washington D.C—was elected to congress with a record-breaking turnout by the people of Minnesota.’

In 2018 she was elected to the US House of Representatives becoming the first naturalised citizen from Africa to be elected to Congress and the first non-white woman elected from Minnesota.  She has three children and is Director of Policy Initiatives at Women Organizing Women, where she empowers East African women to take civic leadership roles in their community.

Her book is to be published by Dey Street Books, part of HarperCollins US, in May 2020, with Hurst publishing in the UK simultaneously.  Hurst is an independent house that specialises in Islamic studies, the Middle East and Africa.  In Italy it will be published by HarperCollins-Italia.

Alessandra Bastagli, Executive Editor of Dey Street Books told Forbes.com: “From the family’s arrival in Arlington, Virginia, when she was just twelve years old, to their move to Minnesota two years later, Ilhan will talk about the challenges many immigrants face when they first come to America as well as the many opportunities they receive.  The memoir will also cover her education and her personal life, her work as an activist and her entrance into politics, culminating with her election as congresswoman.”

At Hurst, editor Farhaana Arefin said: “Omar is one of America’s most courageous and formidable fighters—a beacon of hope across the world for women, migrants, minorities, and all who push for a more equal and just society. Her astonishing story is one of defiance in the face of difficulty, of always dreaming bigger and struggling harder, and I hope it will inspire us all to stand up for our beliefs without fear or apology.”

The feminist writer Naomi Klein said: “Representative Ilhan Omar is not just pushing America to live up to its best ideals—she’s showing us how the struggle for inclusion and solidarity can transform our communities in the here and now. This book is a gripping, wonderfully frank account of a remarkable political journey that is just getting started. As dazzling as its author.”

Onar’s fellow Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez commented: “This book will give people insight into the person and sister that I see—passionate, caring, witty, and above all committed to positive change.”

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