Naomi Shihab Nye Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Naomi Shihab Nye (ni) has published many books for children, both poetry and fiction ranging from picture books to young adult novels, including Sitti’s Secrets (1994) and Habibi (1997). She has published a collection of nonfiction essays, Never in a Hurry: Essays on People and Places (1996), and contributed essays to such anthologies as Going Where I’m Coming From: Memoirs of American Youth (1994), edited by Anne Mazer, and September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond (2002), edited by William Heyen. Nye edited several poetry anthologies, including I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You (1996; with Paul B. Janeczko) and The Tree Is Older than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems and Stories from Mexico with Paintings by Mexican Artists (1995).

In addition to her work as a poet, Nye is a songwriter and singer who has recorded two albums, Rootabag Roo (1979) and Lullaby Raft (1981). She translated poems in the English edition of Fadwa Tuqan’s A Mountainous Journey: An Autobiography (1990), edited by Salma Khadra Jayyusi, and also has translated into English the poems of Muhammad al-Maghut, The Fan of Swords (1991). Nye chose poetry printed in Between Heaven and Texas (2006), with text written by Sarah Bird and photographs by Wyman Meinzer.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Naomi Shihab Nye’s greatest contribution lies in her poetry, work that has been much honored. Both Different Ways to Pray and Hugging the Jukebox received the Voertman Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. Hugging the Jukebox was chosen by Josephine Miles as the National Poetry Series winner in 1981 and as one of the most notable books by the American Library Association. Her honors also include selection by W. S. Merwin as recipient of the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets (1988), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1997-1998), the Witter Bynner Fellowship (2000), a Lannan Literary Fellowship (2002), the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, and the Charity Randall Prize for Spoken Poetry with Galway Kinnell from the International Poetry Forum. You and Yours won the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award in 2005. Her work has been selected for such collections recognizing outstanding writing as The Best American Essays, 1991 (edited by Joyce Carol Oates) and The Best American Poetry 1996 (edited by Adrienne Rich). She became a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2010.

Nye has also received awards for her children’s books. She won the Judy Lopez Medal for children’s literature, the Middle East Book Award, and the Texas Institute of Letters Best Book for Young Readers Award for Habibi. Nye also received the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award twice and the 2000 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. Her book Nineteen Varieties of Gazelle was a National Book Award finalist for literature for youths in 2002. The Arab American National Museum presented Nye with the 2009 Arab American Book Award for children’s literature for Honeybee. The National Council of Teachers of English’s Assembly on Literature for Adolescents selected Nye as the recipient of its 2009 ALAN Award to honor her writing for young adults.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Gruenwald, David A. “Loss, Escape, and Longing for the Sacred in Poems About School.” Educational Studies: A Journal of the American Educational Studies Association 34, no. 3 (Fall, 2003): 279-299. Analyzes Nye’s poetry featuring students and their reaction to educational activities and teachers, commenting that her work, like that of many poets, conveys negative perceptions and deficiencies of school and children’s desire to be home or in other environments.

Mercer, Lorraine, and Linda Strom. “Counter Narratives: Cooking up Stories of Love and Loss in Naomi Shihab Nye’s Poetry and Diana Abu-Jaber’s Crescent.” MELUS 32, no. 4 (Winter, 2007): 33-46. Explores Nye’s use of food-related imagery and themes, noting the role of Middle Eastern ingredients and gardens to create poems examining family, addressing political topics, and connecting cultures.

Nezhukumatathil, Aimee. “Aimee Nezhukumatathil on Naomi Shihab Nye.” In Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections, edited by Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2008. Discusses the author’s discovery of “Mint Snowball” in college and how Nye’s appealing images altered her perception of reading poetry. Describes interactions with Nye and includes author’s poetry influenced by Mint Snowball.


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