English Professor Wins Prestigious Iowa Prize for Literary Nonfiction


Sufiya Abdur-Rahman’s Manuscript – Heir to the Crescent Moon – to be Published Later This Year


Visiting Assistant Professor of English Sufiya Abdur-Rahman has been awarded the prestigious Iowa Prize for Literary Nonfiction for her manuscript, Heir to the Crescent Moon. The book will be published by University of Iowa Press later in 2021. Iowa's programs in creative writing and nonfiction have an international reputation for being the best there are. 

One of the Iowa Prize judges, Susan Steinberg, said this about the work: “In swift, stunning passages, Abdur-Rahman’s brilliant memoir…fearlessly and honestly recounts what it is to inherit religion, to embody wisdom, to protect love, and to assume the immeasurable role of daughter.”

The Iowa Prize for Literary Nonfiction, open to both new and established writers, is awarded for a book-length manuscript of literary nonfiction originally written in English. The winning manuscript is published by the University of Iowa Press.

Abdur-Rahman teaches a range of courses for Washington College in creative writing, nonfiction, and journalism. She has been instrumental in developing curriculum for the College’s new minor in Journalism, Editing & Publishing. She is also creative nonfiction editor for the national literary journal, Cherry Tree.

About Heir to the Crescent Moon

In Heir to the Crescent Moon, Abdur-Rahman, the daughter of two Black Power-era converts to Islam, investigates her Muslim past and that of her parents in a search for self-discovery. From age five, she feels drawn to Islam even while her father, a devoted Muslim, tries to keep her from it. He and her mother abandoned their Harlem mosque before she was born and divorced when she was twelve. Forced apart from her father—her portal into Islam—she yearns to reconnect with the religion and, through it, him.  

Writing with quiet beauty but intellectual force about identity, community, violence, hope, despair, and faith, Abdur-Rahman weaves a vital tale about a family: black, Muslim, and distinctly American. 

About Sufiya Abdur-Rahman

Abdur-Rahman has previously published essays and criticism in Catapult, The Common Online, Gay Mag, NPR, The Washington Post, and other publications. She has been awarded fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation and is a two-time alumnus of VONA writing workshops. She is Creative Nonfiction Editor for Cherry Tree, a national literary journal, at Washington College, where she teaches nonfiction. She lives in Annapolis with her family.