2017 AAWW Margins & Open City Fellows

The Asian American Writers' Workshop is the preeminent national arts nonprofit dedicated to the belief that Asian American stories deserve to be told. Our fellowships materially improve the lives of emerging writers of color through an innovative mix of re-granting, publication, and career development. Since 2010, we have contracted to pay $141,500 to 34 emerging Asian American writers. The Margins Fellowship incubates emerging Asian American creative writers, while the Open City Fellowship fosters Asian American nonfiction writers telling stories about inequality in low-income Asian immigrant neighborhoods in New York City. Taken together, these fellowships articulate our wide vision of Asian American writing as combining both excellent literary fiction and poetry and the stories directly from our community.

This year, we are proud to support Muslim, Arab, and South Asian writers through both the Open City Fellowship and The Margins Fellowship. Against a revanchist backlash that targets migrants, women, people of color, and Muslims, we see AAWW as a sanctuary space—a vital site to build new ways of imagining what it means to be an American and a global citizen. Through our fellowships, we aim to nurture writers, activists, and intellectuals so they can dream a new American mythology beyond segregation, immigrant exclusion, and Islamophobia.

Meet our fellows and follow their work in our online magazines, Open City and The Margins.


2017 Open City Muslim Communities Fellows

The Open City Muslim Communities Fellowship was conceived as a way to support emerging writers of color from communities under attack from Islamophobia as they write about issues affecting Muslims in the five boroughs.

The fellowship is a unique six-month opportunity and includes a $2,500 stipend, skill-building workshops, and publishing opportunities in both Open City and The Margins.

Four fellows were selected for the 2017 Muslim Communities Fellowship, and they will join our one Muslim Communities Fellow from Fall 2016.


2017 Margins Fellows

The Margins Fellowship is an opportunity for emerging Asian American creative writers to build a home for their writing on AAWW’s online magazine The Margins and receive guidance and support from the AAWW family.

This year through the Margins Fellowship we are supporting two creative writers from communities under attack from Islamophobia. All four of our 2017 Margins Fellows will develop a body of work in fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction around a project they have proposed. Each will receive a $5,000 grant, publication opportunities in The Margins, residency time at the Millay Colony for the Arts, writing space at AAWW’s offices in the Flatiron, and guidance and mentorship from writers and editors.



Humera Afridi's roots lie in the land of the Sufis—Pakistan—whose tolerant and pluralistic culture has been severely challenged in recent times. She is a proud New Yorker, passionate about this city of robustly-spirited residents.

Humera's writing has appeared in several publications, including Granta, Guernica, The Journal of Postcolonial Studies and the New York Times. Her essays and stories are included in the anthologies And the World Changed (Feminist Press 2008); 110 Stories. New York Writes After September 11 (NYU Press, 2002), and Leaving Home (Oxford University Press, 2001).

Humera was a writer for The New York Women's Foundation, a community philanthropy working to achieve sustained economic security and justice for women and girls. She is currently a Monday columnist at 3 Quarks Daily.



Roja Heydarpour is a writer and editor. Born in Iran and raised in New York City, she has worked for the Daily Beast, the New York Times, Al-Monitor, Columbia Global Reports, and Devex, among others.

She also teaches citizenship classes at the Bay Ridge and Kensington branches of the Brooklyn Public Library, teaching a mix of students ranging from Chinese to Azari to Tajik to Pakistani and Bangladeshi.



Raad Rahman is a writer and a communications, advocacy and partnerships specialist. She regularly consults with international human rights groups working to foster freedom of expression, such as the Center for Inquiry, PEN America, and i-Probono.

She has previously worked in various capacities with UNICEF, the International Center for Transitional Justice, and the Asia Society, in a career spanning the UK, India, Bangladesh, Jamaica, the USA, and Hungary.

Her writing has been published in the Guardian, Guernica, VICE, the Rumpus, Roads and Kingdoms, UNICEF, and has been quoted by the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and the New York Times Now. In 2013, Harvard's Kennedy School named her an emerging leader.



Sumaya Awad is a 23-year old Palestinian-American Muslim activist and writer focused on defending the rights of immigrants, refugees, and the dispossessed.

In 2014 and 2015, Sumaya worked with Syrian refugees in Jordan and Muslim migrant workers in Hong Kong and Chile. Here in the U.S., she has been active in the fight for Palestinian human rights and advocacy for Syrian refugees, as well as in the indigenous resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Sumaya has published political articles in the Feminist Wire, Truthout, and In These Times, and has been featured in the Middle East Solidarity Magazine where she discussed Middle Eastern politics and islamophobia in the Trump era.

Sumaya grew up in Amman, Jordan and Iowa City, Iowa. She earned a Bachelors in History and Religion from Williams College in 2016, where she wrote a senior thesis in the form of a historical novel on the Palestinian Nakba. She hopes to pursue a career in journalism and law.



Sarah K. Khan writes about food and culture. She creates multimedia work that includes photography, film, maps, and the occasional song or poem. Her work derives from academic, clinical and ethnographic field research that intersects migration, gender, race, climate change, environmental degradation and bio-cultural diversities.

Recently returned from a Senior Research Fulbright-Nehru Scholar Fellowship in India, Sarah is in post-production of a film series on Indian women farmers. The films include a South Asian (Desi) super-shero narrator, Persian-Mughal inspired-graphics, and documentary storytelling. The first film, Bowing to No One, is already complete.

Sarah launched The Queens, NY, Migrant Kitchen Series to make the invisible migrants visible, bear witness, and relay their stories with articles, photography, maps, and film.

Sarah spent over 20 years researching Asian and Middle Eastern nutrition, public health, medicine, and traditional ecological knowledge systems. She left the academia to work as a freelance multimedia journalist-artist.

She earned a bachelor's degree in Middle Eastern History/Arabic at Smith College, two master's degrees (public health, nutrition) at Columbia University and a Ph.D. in plant sciences from the New York Botanical Garden / CUNY.

She has received numerous grants and fellowships to pursue her work. She is fluent in French, proficient in Urdu/Hindi and Arabic.

She will write about the Muslim, Arabic and South Asian communities in New York City.



Born to Egyptian parents in Kuwait, Mariam Bazeed began her life a statistic of economic expatriation in the Persian Gulf.

A writer of prose, poetry, and thinly-disguised memoir, Mariam is currently pursuing an MFA in Fiction at Hunter College, where she is at work on her first novel-ish.

Mariam makes her living, as it were, as an editor and a commercial and literary translator. In addition she is a performance artist, singer of old Arabic songs, curator, and cook. She has been the recipient of the Hedgebrook Women's Writing Residency, the Marble House Writing Residency, the Helix Performance Network's NEEDING IT fellowship at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and has been a featured poet at the Bowery Poetry Club. Mariam's first play, PEACE CAMP ORG, debuted in a workshop performance at La Mama Theater in New York City. She was recently accepted into the 2017 class of the Hemispheric Institute's EmergeNYC fellowship for performance and politics.

In her writing Mariam is concerned with themes of migration, death, death, also death, sickness, death, and the estrangements particular to love and family.

Mariam is currently at work on a novel informed by her biography as a life-long expat. She is also at work on a collection of short stories set in Egypt during and immediately following the Arab Spring.



Rami Karim is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. Their work engages dreams, dissociation, and migration and has appeared or is forthcoming in Apogee, The Brooklyn Review, The Invisible Bear, and Peregrine. They are a member of Kaf, an art/publishing collective, and an MFA candidate in creative writing at Brooklyn College, where they received the Himan Brown, Carole Lainoff and Rose Goldstein awards in poetry. This year they will be writing stories, poems, and essays on diasporic life, beginning with a prose lyric set between 1970s Lebanon and present-day America.



Kyle Lucia Wu is a Chinese-American writer living in Brooklyn. She is the co-publisher of the literary journal Joyland and the social media editor at Electric Literature. She has an MFA in fiction from The New School and a BA in psychology from New York University. She has studied at the eight-week fiction workshop at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, was a Byrdcliffe Colony Artist-in-Residence in May 2015, and is a PEN prison writing mentor.

Kyle is interested in hybrid forms of identity, and the invisibility and confusion that accompanies it. She explores how to occupy an identity that hasn't been defined, and how society seeks to categorize individuals who don't fall cleanly into pre-established roles. The ways in which we constitute our identities across race, gender, and class are themes that drive her work. She is working on a novel about a mixed-race young woman who works for a wealthy white family, and how it refracts her own fractured background growing up between two families, between two races, and always as an outsider.



Yanyi is a writer and critic based in Brooklyn. He currently serves as a senior editor at Nat. Brut, contributing editor at Foundry, and curatorial assistant at The Poetry Project. A recipient of a 2015 Poets House fellowship, his poems and criticism have appeared in Model View Culture, The Shade Journal, and cellpoems, among others.

Yanyi's manuscript deals with self-documentation, intergenerational trauma, and how memory lodges itself in the body. His ongoing work explores statelessness—of gender, of nationality, of family—and how lyric, myth, and memoir may work together in its translation. He is accountable to joy, history, and community.

In his fellowship year, Yanyi will play with and around language in archive, law, and pop culture. He believes that poetry should de-codify structures of power, and that no text can be safe from answering to emotional and historical experience.


We thank our funders for their generous investment in emerging writers of color: The Nathan Cummings Foundation, Surdna, The New York Community Trust's Van Lier Fun, The New York Community Trust's fund to support Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities, and the Jerome Foundation.