Safia Elhillo is a Sudanese American Muslim; she is originally from Sudan and grew up in Washington, DC. She has a Master’s in Fine Arts degree from The New School; along with this, she has received many fellowships including a Cave Canem Fellowship and the 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation.
Safia Elhillo has been writing since her teens and has not backed down. She saw writing as a mode of communication and a way of expressing her feelings. It led her to realize that poetry was not just a hobby but also something that she loved doing. She did try a 9-5 job and realized it was nothing she enjoyed and so worked on pursuing her passion, which led her to be so successful today.
For so many writers and poets who tend to go through writer’s block, Safia Elhillo did everyone a favor by sharing her secret on her Instagram. She stated that she favors reading poems and realizes that it is not the world’s end. Furthermore, she also talked about some of her favorite writers, who she terms as the “holy trinity,” Kamau Brathwaite, Anne Carson, and Aracelis Girmay. She also mentioned her preferred poem, “Blue,” written by the author Carl Philips.
With many impressive writings of hers, some of her recent publishings are Home Is Not a Country, The January Children and the forthcoming Girls That Never Die. Just as amazing as she sounds, she has proven to be beyond just words. Safia Elhillo received the Sillerman First Book Prize for African poets and an Arab American Book award. Talking about some prizes that she has received, back in 2015, she was the co-winner of the Brunel International African American Poetry Prize. Safia was also nominated for the Pushcart Prize, receiving “special mention for the Pushcart Prize in 2016. Along with all this, she was listed in Forbes Africa’s 2018 “30 under 30.”
Putting pen to paper:
Safia’s award-winning book “The January Children” begins with the idea of British rule in Sudan. The opening of the book talks about how children were given names according to their heights, they did not have a birth date, and every kid was given the exact birthdate. Safia has not only made this book impactful but given the idea of one feeling stranded and like a stranger in one’s homeland. There are a series of personal poems that follow this theme.
Next, Safia decided to write in the genre of young adult, which is when she wrote her recently published book “Home Is Not a Country.” This book has proven to be very emotional for a lot of readers. Home Is Not a Country is her recently published book, which has a very heart-touching story. The book revolves around a girl named Nima who tries and fails to adjust to her white suburban hometown. Nima feels as if she does not fit in with the people around her and has difficulty adjusting.
The story’s themes revolved around current issues like islamophobia, oppression against immigrant women, and racism. This heart-touching story just got published on the 5th of March 2021. There is no doubt that the book met with a lot of enthusiasm; thus, Chris Myers and Michelle Frey acquired it.
Safia Elhillo Appearances:
With all this success, Safia Elhillo’s name has appeared in many magazines and articles. Safia’s work appears in POETRY magazine, Callaloo, and The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day series. Her work also appears in anthologies like “The BreakfastBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop” and “The Penguin Book of Migration Literature.” Her book “Home Is Not a Country” was featured in MS magazine and on Amazon, and received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly. Her work translates into different languages so people with other languages can read and hear her voice. Moreover, she has also done Instagram Live to talk about her passion for writing and her thought process.
With a million interviews that Safia has been, with her first interview back in 2012 with “well and often press,” she talked about her life and a bit about her career. In her recent interviews at “Long Talk,” “Sumou,” and “Postscript Magazine,” Safia has talked about her career and writing style. Moreover, she spoke about intimate archives and the vulnerability of writing.
With so much that this young poet has done, Safia has performed on various occasions. She made her appearance on the TEDx stage, where she talked about her family and childhood. Safia was also invited to a Teen Vogue panel, where many other writers accompany her on stage. Her performances have been filmed by Button Poetry twice too.
Moreover, she is the co-editor of the anthology “Halal If You Hear Me” with Fatimah Asghar. The anthology aims to give space to many intersecting identities, to celebrate and protect them at the same time. Currently, Safia Elhillo is a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford University and lives in Oakland.