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Off-site event: WHEN WE WERE SISTERS by Fatimah Asghar

Join us at the Harold Washington Library for a free, public event celebrating, When We Were Sisters: A Novel by Fatimah Asghar! For this event, Asghar will be in conversation with Jamila Woods. There will also be readings by very special guests: Hanif Abdurraqib, Kaveh Akbar, Danez Smith, and Krista Franklin.

Women & Children First will be on-site selling books throughout the event. A book-signing will follow the author readings and conversation. 

Attendees are strongly encouraged to wear masks and be fully vaccinated. 

Can't make it in-person? Join us via the HWLC YouTube Channel, where the event will be livestreamed:

LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE • An orphan grapples with gender, siblinghood, family, and coming-of-age as a Muslim in America in this lyrical debut novel from the acclaimed author of If They Come For Us
“A stunning accomplishment in form, storytelling, and heart.”—Safia Elhillo, author of Home Is Not a Country and Girls That Never Die

In this heartrending, lyrical debut work of fiction, Fatimah Asghar traces the intense bond of three orphaned siblings who, after their parents die, are left to raise one another. The youngest, Kausar, grapples with the incomprehensible loss of their parents as she also charts out her own understanding of gender; Aisha, the middle sister, spars with her “crybaby” younger sibling as she desperately tries to hold on to her sense of family in an impossible situation; and Noreen, the eldest, does her best in the role of sister-mother while also trying to create a life for herself, on her own terms.

As Kausar grows up, she must contend with the collision of her private and public worlds, and choose whether to remain in the life of love, sorrow, and codependency that she’s known or carve out a new path for herself. When We Were Sisters tenderly examines the bonds and fractures of sisterhood, names the perils of being three Muslim American girls alone against the world, and ultimately illustrates how those who’ve lost everything might still make homes in one another.

Fatimah Asghar, author of If They Come for Us, is a poet, filmmaker, educator, and performer. Fatimah is the writer and co-creator of Brown Girls, an Emmy-nominated web series that highlights friendships between women of color. Along with Safia Elhillo, Fatimah is the editor of Halal If You Hear Me, an anthology that celebrates Muslim writers who are also women, queer, gender-nonconforming, and/or trans.

Jamila Woods is a poet and singer songwriter born and raised in Chicago. Woods graduated from Brown University with a BA in Africana Studies and Theatre and Performance Studies. In 2012, she published her first chapbook, The Truth About Dolls, which includes a Pushcart Prize-nominated poem about Frida Kahlo. Her poetry has been featured in the anthologies The Uncommon Core: Contemporary Poems for Learning & Living (2013), Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls (2014), and The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (2015). ‍As an acclaimed singer and songwriter, Woods released her debut album, HEAVN in 2016 and her second studio album, LEGACY! LEGACY! (2019).

Kaveh Akbar's poems appear in the New YorkerParis ReviewNew York TimesBest American Poetry, and elsewhere. He is the author of Pilgrim Bell (Graywolf 2021) and Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James 2017), and editor of The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse (Penguin 2022). Born in Tehran, Iran, Akbar teaches at the University of Iowa and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph College and Warren Wilson. Since 2020, he has served as poetry editor for The Nation.

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry has been published in PEN American, Muzzle, Vinyl, and other journals, and his essays and criticism have been published in The New Yorker, Pitchfork, The New York Times, and Fader. His first full-length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much , was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer book award and nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us was named a book of the year by NPR, Esquire, BuzzFeed, O: The Oprah Magazine, Pitchfork and Chicago Tribune, among others. Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest was a New York Times bestseller and a National Book Critics Circle Award and Kirkus Prize finalist and was longlisted for the National Book Award. His second collection of poems, A Fortune for Your Disaster, won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. He is a graduate of Beechcroft High School. In 2021, he was named a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow.

Krista Franklin is a writer and visual artist, the author Too Much Midnight (Haymarket Books, 2020), the artist book Under the Knife (Candor Arts, 2018), and the chapbook Study of Love & Black Body (Willow Books, 2012). She is a Helen and Tim Meier Foundation for the Arts Achievement Awardee, and a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant. Her visual art has exhibited at Poetry Foundation, Konsthall C, Rootwork Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Studio Museum in Harlem, Chicago Cultural Center, National Museum of Mexican Art, and the set of 20th Century Fox’s Empire. She has been published in Poetry, Black Camera, The Offing, Vinyl, and a number of anthologies and artist books.

Danez Smith is the author of three collections including Homie and Don’t Call Us Dead. They have won the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry, the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and have been a finalist for the NAACP Image Award in Poetry, the National Book Critic Circle Award, and the National Book Award. Danez's poetry and prose has been featured in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The New Yorker, GQ, Best American Poetry and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Danez is a member of the Dark Noise Collective. Former co-host of the Webby nominated podcast VS (Versus), they live in Minneapolis near their people. 


Accessibility: Need sign language interpretation or other accessibility assistance for this event? Please call (312) 747-8184 or email to request accommodations. Requests must be made at least 14 business days before the event. This event will also be livestreamed via Harold Washington Public Library.

Event date: 
Tuesday, October 25, 2022 - 6:00pm
Event address: 
Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, Lower Level of the Harold Washington Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago, IL 60640
When We Were Sisters: A Novel By Fatimah Asghar Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593133460
Published: One World - October 18th, 2022