Bushra Rehman

Author of
  • Corona: Stories of a Queens Girlhood
    Tor/Macmillan, 2019
  • Corona
    Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013
  • Colonize This!
    Seal Press, 2002

Award-winning novelist Bushra Rehman is an engaging storyteller whose readings and lectures are suffused with humor and wisdom about the peculiar joys and contradictions of being a woman of color, a feminist, and a Muslim-American in post-9/11 America.

Rehman grew up in a tight-knit religious community in Queens surrounding one of the first Sunni masjids built in NYC. In the late 90s, Rehman became a key figure in the South-Asian American arts scene, performing her poetry and comedy in cafes, theaters and universities. In collaboration with writer Daisy Hernandez, Rehman created the anthology Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism which was published in 2002 and chosen by Ms. Magazine as one of the “100 Best Non-Fiction Books of All Time” by Vibe magazine as one of “13 Books Every Mujerista and Womanist should read” and by Bustle as one of the “18 Books Every White Ally Should Read.”

Rehman’s first novel Corona, a lyrical, poignant and funny tale about growing up Muslim and Pakistani-American in Corona, Queens, was included in Poets & Writers Best Debut Fiction issue of 2013, was a LAMBDA finalist for 2014, and featured in the LA Review of Books among a new wave of radical South Asian American Literature. Corona is already considered essential reading in Asian-American studies classrooms around the country.

Rehman’s first book of poetry Marianna’s Beauty Salon, a collection of poems which explore sexuality, poverty and second-generation Pakistani culture, will be released by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2018. Her first Young Adult novel, Corona: Stories of a Queens Girlhood, centers around the friendship between two Pakistani Muslim teenage girls growing up in NYC. It will be published by Tor/Macmillan in 2019.

In her past lectures, Rehman has spoken compellingly of the distinctive effects of Audre Lorde’s “transformation of silence into language” for a Pakistani woman from Queens. She discusses her experience writing about powerful Muslim-American women who do not fit the norm and who are involved in real-life struggles to be their truest selves, despite cultural pressures at home and racism outside the home.

Her readings and lectures can be combined with small- or large-group writing workshops in which students learn techniques to help draw on memory, navigate the tricky business of truth-telling, and overcome the silences that stifle our creative living.

We are currently booking Bushra Rehman for upcoming lectures and writing workshops.

Books by Bushra

Corona: Stories of a Queens Girlhood

Razia Mirza is a young Pakistani woman from a tight-knit Muslim community in Corona, Queens. She prays five times a day, reads Quran and goes to extra religious service on the weekends, all the while wearing skin-tight acid wash jeans, feathering her hair and wanting to date boys break-dancing in the schoolyard.

Without her parents knowing it, Razia applies to and gets into Stuyvesant, a specialized high school in the East Village. When she leaves Corona for the first time by herself, Razia is thrown into the larger world of New York City. The hours-long 7 train rides are filled with danger, and the halls of Stuyvesant are thick with competition and stress. Razia starts to cut school and explore the city with her friends.

When her parents learn about her truant behavior, they decide to take her to Pakistan for the summer. She knows this is code for getting a rushed arranged marriage. Although Razia is a tough girl, she is a romantic at heart. She must make a difficult choice: stay with her family or run away from home.

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Corona

Razia Mirza is a Pakistani woman from Corona, Queens who grew up in a tight Muslim community surrounding the first Sunni masjid built in New York City. When a rebellious streak leads to her ex-communication, she decides to hit the road. Corona moves between Razia’s childhood in Queens and the comedic misadventures she encounters on her journey, from a Puritan Colony in Massachusetts to New York City’s Bhangra music scene. With each story, we learn more about the past she’s escaping, a past which leads her to constantly travel in a spiral, always coming closer to but never quite arriving home.

Praise for Corona

Endearing, irreverent and engaging. Bushra Rehman’s epic journey into various worlds big and small not only exposes the sordid fabric of Americana but does it through the riotously humorous lens of a sharp 2nd generation Queens bred Desi New Yorker. In Razia, she has created a unique character that is daring, hilarious, vulnerable and fierce. You will want to keep traveling with her long after the book ends.

DJ Rekha

These stories have the heft of a novel and the elliptical grace of poetry. Rehman’s hot-blooded, ferociously funny and deeply sensitive protagonist, Razia, travels from the Muslim community of Queens to roadside Florida to the fogged windows of San Francisco and the Lower East Side. Along the way she falls into and out of love, takes frightening, exhilarating risks, repeatedly saves her own life, and comes into sharp-focus like a shaken photograph–she is about to gleefully dynamite every narrow stereotype you might have about a young Pakistani woman from Corona. A stunning debut from a vital new writer.

Karen Russell, author of the novel Swamplandia! and the story collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Bushra Rehman is a lot like her borough—plainspoken, artful, always alert and alive to the rhythms of the world that thrive within the worlds of Queens. A master of mood, her stories brim with bittersweet wit and insight. Corona will have you laughing until you cry and weeping until you smile.

Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation and Who We Be: The Colorization of America
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Colonize This!

Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism

It has been decades since women of color first turned feminism upside down, exposing the ‘70s feminist movement as exclusive, white, and unaware of the concerns and issues of women of color from around the globe. Now a new generation of brilliant, outspoken women of color is speaking to the concerns of a new feminism, and to their place in it. Daisy Hernandez of Ms. magazine and poet Bushra Rehman have collected a diverse, lively group of emerging writers who speak to their experience—to the strength and rigidity of community and religion, to borders and divisions, both internal and external—and address issues that take feminism into the twenty-first century. One writer describes herself as a “mixed brown girl, Sri-Lankan and New England mill-town white trash,” and clearly delineates the organizing differences between whites and women of color: “We do not kick ass the way the white girls do, in meetings of NOW or riot grrl. For us, it’s all about family.” A Korean-American woman struggles to create her own identity in a traditional community: “Yam-ja-neh means nice, sweet, compliant. I’ve heard it used many times by my parents’ friends who don’t know shit about me.” An Arab-American feminist deconstructs the “quaint vision” of Middle-Eastern women with which most Americans feel comfortable. This impressive array of first-person accounts adds a much-needed fresh dimension to the ongoing dialogue between race and gender, and gives voice to the women who are creating and shaping the feminism of the future.

Praise for Colonize This!

The young mujeres in Colonize This! bear eloquent witness to the splintering effects of colonialism, conflicts between realities, and contradictions and challenges common to these times. . . As they brave their rites-of-passage seeking places of belonging, they re-cover themselves and their historias, honoring their mothers and redefining women-of-color feminisms. . . This anthology calls us to action and change in the tradition of the liberation struggle of gente de color and our allies.

Gloria E. Anzaldúa, author of Borderlands/La Frontera: the New Mestiza

Honest, well-written essays that tackle a complex intersection of race, gender, and economics . . . these contemporary “sistah outsiders” don’t shy away from sticky issues when addressing the complexities of their lives. Refusing to simplify in order to fit into someone’s mold, these women dare you to dismiss them.

Bust magazine

I hope Colonize This! makes it onto Women Studies 101 syllabi nationwide. Maybe it can help ensure that race is an integral element of feminist dialogue, and keep women from leaving the women’s studies classroom when discussions of race begin.

bitch magazine
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