The Washington College English department sees another publication possibility among its faculty this year.
Visiting Professor of English Sufiya Abdur-Rahman’s memoir manuscript, “Heir to the Crescent Moon,” was shortlisted for final judging in the Santa Fe Writers Project Award. Earlier this year, her manuscript was runner-up in a contest with Autumn House Press, a small independent press in Pittsburgh.
The competition began with approximately 1000 entries and has now been cut down to 20, according to Chair of English, Director of Writing, Creative Writing, and Journalism, Editing, and Publishing (JEP) Dr. Sean Meehan.
Abdur-Rahman’s manuscript survived that initial cut, and now competes for one of three remaining spots for publication.
“Heir to the Crescent Moon” tells the story of her Muslim American family and Abdur-Rahman’s own upbringing as a second generation black Muslim.
It’s a lot about faith, what I learned as a kid, and the search for trying to fill in the gaps,” Abdur-Rahman said.
She first experienced the urge to start writing more personal pieces after receiving her undergraduate degree in print journalism at Howard University in 2001. Then Abdur-Rahman began working on her manuscript while pursuing a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction at Goucher College in Towson.
“Memoir projects have students work on telling their own stories and finding out what they are,” Abdur-Rahman said.
Once in graduate school, she started writing things down. As her perspective changed, she began to see snippets of her life as a story, so she weaved them together.
Abdur-Rahman acknowledged that there is apprehension towards exposing oneself in such an intimate manner.
“Most people think that, unless they’re famous, they do not have a story to tell, and that is just something I do not believe,” Abdur-Rahman said.
Whereas Abdur-Rahman sees the importance of autobiography and memoir in a classroom setting for students, Dr. Meehan stressed the importance of writing for professors.
“We are active readers, writers, and scholars as well. Studying and writing informs or approach to teaching, and we want to actively do what our students are doing,” Meehan said.
The Santa Fe Writers Project winner should be announced by this December. If “Heir to the Crescent Moon” wins, it will be sent to print.
Dr. Meehan said that Abdur-Rahman would likely give a reading at the Rose O’Neill Literary House in celebration if her book is accepted for publication. If she does not, Abdur-Rahman will send her manuscript to agents, trying to get it in print.
In a bit of Toni Morrison-esque philosophy, she said that “it’s important for stories that do not get told often to be told because if you do not see a book you want to read, then write.”