Shihab Nye, poet and children's author, writes about conciliation. Nye writes as Swiss/German-American-Palestinian, Texan, wife, mother, and teacher (of both children and graduate students). William STAFFORD has been a major influence on her work. Nye's writing focuses on ordinary experiences and the importance of surpassing the ordinary. Her poetry draws from Mexican-American neighbors in Texas, Arab-American perspectives, and other cultural traditions.
The daughter of an American mother and a Palestinian father, Nye grew up in St. Louis and Jerusalem and has spent her adult life in San Antonio. Nye has worked as a journalist and has taught at the University of Texas, Austin. Her poetry has been featured on National Public Radio's The Writer's Almanac and A Prairie Home Companion, and on PBS The Language of Life and The United States of Poetry. Nye's many honors include fellowships from the Library of Congress (2000) and the Lannan Foundation (2002). She won the National Poetry Series prize for Hugging the Jukebox (1982) and was a National Book Award finalist (2002) for 19 Varieties of Gazelle.
The scope of Nye's work is global. Common human characteristics and universal acceptance are her major themes. Nye often illustrates these through her own life. In her autobiographical novel Habibi (1997), Nye presents the meeting of displaced Americans, newcomers to Palestine, and Palestinian villagers. Tensions in the meetings are removed through the nurturing of mutual acceptance and mutual experience.
Nye promotes self-questioning. In "Words to Sit In, Like Chairs" (2002) she asks, "If people . . . could use words instead of violence, how would our world be different?" (159). Much of Nye's poetry deals with how to reconcile belonging to more than one ethnic or national group. In "Half and Half" (1998), soup is made by a worman with "what she had left / in the bowl, the shriveled garlic and bent bean. / She is leaving nothing out." To leave nothing out is Nye's prescription for living. Her overriding principle, in life and in her writing, is acceptance.
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