Elmaz Abinader

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Elmaz Abinader
Elmaz Abinader 1186566.JPG
BornJanuary 19th, 1954
Pennsylvania, United States
OccupationProfessor, Writer, Poet, Performer
GenrePoet, Memoirist, Performer, Writer, Educator
SubjectLiterature and Art
Literary movementEthnic American Poetry

Elmaz Abinader (born 1954 in Pennsylvania) is an American author, poet, performer, English professor at Mills College and co-founder of the Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA). She is of Lebanese descent. In 2000, she received the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award for her poetry collection In the Country of My Dreams....


Born in a small coal mining community in southwest Pennsylvania, she lived with her parents and her five siblings in a household strongly rooted in Lebanese tradition. Her childhood was spent helping out in her family store, attending Catholic church twice a day, and focusing on her schooling. Abinader and her siblings faced challenges due to their ethnicity.[1]

Abinader received her B.A. in Writing and Communication from University of Pittsburgh in 1974. It was during this time that she embrace her heritage and wrote about her family’s history. She earned her MFA in Poetry from Columbia University, School of the Arts Poetry Writing, in 1978. In 1985, she completed her PhD program at the University of Nebraska, English Fiction and Non-fiction Writing, where she taught English and creative writing.


Abinader's first book, Children of the Roojme: A Family's Journey from Lebanon (Norton, 1991, University of Wisconsin, 1997), was published in 1997. This book, a memoir, crosses three generations of Lebanese and covers the challenges of finding a home away from their country. Her second publication, In the Country of My Dreams..., is a collections of poetry focused on dislocation and its various forms. This collection won the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award for Multi-cultural Poetry in 2000 and a Goldies Award for Literature. Along with her books, she has written and performed in several one-woman plays: Under The Ramadan Moon, Country of Origin, 32 Mohammeds, Voices From the Siege, and The Torture Quartet. Her play Country of Origin was performed at The Kennedy Center in 2009.[2] Her plays have also been performed

Her passion for Abinader co-founded The Voices of our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA), which holds workshops for writers of color, during the summer at the University of California Berkeley in 1999. Abinader is currently teaching creative writing at Mills College.



  • "This House, My Bones" Willow Books, 2014
  • In the Country of My Dreams... Sufi Warrior Publishing, 1999
  • The Children of the Roojme, a Family’s Journey from Lebanon, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1997
  • The Children of the Roojme, a Family's Journey, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.


  • Imagining Peace, Southbank Centre, London UK, October 2010
  • Country of Origin, Arabesques Festival, Kennedy Center, Washington DC, March 2009
  • Lies War Discrimination, La Pena Cultural Center, Berkeley CA March 1, 2007
  • Cease Fire, La Pena Cultural Center, Berkeley CA, August 2006
  • Poetry and Music of Arab-Americans, Amazon Lounge, Fresno CA, April 20, 2006
  • Voices from the Siege, debuted 2006, La Pena Cultural Center, Berkeley
  • 32 Mohammeds, Martin Segal Theater, New York NY, March 3, 2005
  • The Torture Quartet, debuted 2005, University of San Francisco
  • Flower Girl, Wyoming Arts Council, Casper College, Casper WY, October 2, 2004
  • 32 Mohammeds, debuted, 2004 University of North Dakota
  • Ramadan Moon, debuted 2000, Porter Troupe Gallery, San Diego
  • Country of Origin, debuted 1997, University of California, Berkeley

Awards and residencies[edit]

  • 2013 Writers in Residence, Grand Canyon National Park
  • 2013 Residency Fellowship, Canserrat Artist Residency, Spain
  • 2011 Teaching Fellowship, Palestine Writing Workshop
  • 2010 Writer in Residence, El Gouna Writers Residency, Egypt
  • 2010 Quigley Summer Fellowship
  • 2010 Faculty Development Grant, Mills College
  • 2007 Arts Fellowship, Silicon Valley Arts Council, Fiction
  • 2006 Residency MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH
  • 2006 Residency, Villa Montalvo, Saratoga, CA
  • 2003 Endowed Chair, Mills College
  • 2003 Pushcart Prize Nomination for The Silence
  • 2003 Residency, Chateau La Vigny, Switzerland
  • 2002 Goldies Award, San Francisco Bay Guardian Recognition in Arts
  • 2000 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, Poetry
  • 1999 Drammy, Oregon’s Drama Award, for Country of Origin, at IFCC
  • 1998-1999 Fulbright Senior Scholarship Egypt
  • 1997-1998; 2000-2003 Quigley Fellowship
  • 1994-2005 Faculty Development Grant, Mills College
  • 1996, 1995, 1994 Quigley Summer Fellowship
  • 1995 Best All Around Award, Writers’ Harvest, Share Our Strength, Annapolis


  1. ^ "Voices from the Gaps". University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts. Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-03. Retrieved 2013-10-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)