Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Naomi Shihab Nye was born on March 12, 1952, in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Palestinian journalist Aziz Shihab, an immigrant to the United States after the 1948 nakba expelling Palestinians from their communities, and an American mother, Miriam Naomi (Allwardt) Shihab, who was a teacher. Nye spent her childhood in St. Louis, developing an interest in poetry at an early age partly because of a televised performance by Carl Sandburg and poems her mother read aloud; at the age of seven, she had a poem published in Wee Wisdom, a children’s magazine. Her parents owned stores named World Gifts where Nye occasionally worked. She traveled with her family, including her younger brother Adlai, to Mexico and within the United States. Her father often told his children stories and folktales with Middle Eastern themes.
From St. Louis, fourteen-year-old Nye and her family moved to Jerusalem, where she attended the St. Tarkmanchatz School and absorbed many stories, impressions, and perceptions of the differences in cultures and the similarities among people. Many of her poems draw on her experiences with people she observed and family members she learned about or knew well. These experiences have been incorporated into her poems and her writing for children and young people.
Due to tensions preceding the Six Day War, Nye’s family left Jerusalem in 1967 and settled in San Antonio, Texas. She completed her high school education in that city. Nye read poems by William Stafford and W. S. Merwin, which intensified her interest in poetry. Seventeen printed one of Nye’s poems when she was a teenager. She studied English and world religions at Trinity University and wrote poems that were published in such journals as Ironwood and Modern Poetry Studies while she was in college. She heard Allen Ginsberg at a campus poetry reading and was influenced by Jack Kerouac, whose widow she visited in Florida. Nye earned a B.A. with honors in 1974, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. Employed by the Texas Commission on the Arts, Nye traveled to Texas schools to teach creative writing and later conducted similar workshops for...
(The entire section is 889 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Naomi Shihab Nye (ni) became recognized as one of the most talented and acclaimed American writers in the late twentieth century. In 1982 she won the National Poetry Series and the ALA Notable Book Awards for Hugging the Jukebox; she has received several Pushcart Prizes; she has also received other notable prizes, such as the Texas Institute of Letters Poetry Prize, the Charity Randall Prize for Spoken Poetry from the International Poetry Forum, the I. B. Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Paterson Poetry Prize. Nineteen Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East was a finalist for the 2002 National Book Awards, in the Young People’s Literature category.
The child of an American mother of German-Swiss descent and a Palestinian father, Nye is sensitive to poetic explorations that both embrace and transcend cultural boundaries. In her youth, she lived for a time in Israel with her family; as an adult she has returned to the Middle East as well as to Asia on three speaking tours sponsored by the United States Information Agency (USIA). She settled in San Antonio, Texas, with her photographer husband, Michael, and her son, Madison (born in 1987). Just as her experiences overseas encouraged and assisted her compilation of This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World, the proximity of Mexico to her San Antonio home was the catalyst for The Tree Is Older than You Are, a bilingual anthology of Mexican poets and story writers. In I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You, an anthology Nye edited for teenagers, she examines gender questions in poems that are male-female duets.
(The entire section is 684 words.)