Saffron Dreams explores experience of Muslims in America

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Kristina Lycett
PO Box 204352
Austin, TX 78720-4352


July 9, 2009

Muslim-American novelist explores identity

In the wake of the upcoming anniversary of 9/11, new novel seeks to crush stereotypes and examines the changed landscape of Muslim America

To commemorate the anniversary of the biggest catastrophe in American history, President Barack Obama signed into law an act that establishes September 11 as an annually recognized National Day of Service and Remembrance. In a few short weeks, we will be forced to ask ourselves this question again: what is that we remember? Who do we blame? Once again we will be confronted with our own perception of the actual perpetrators and those who share their race and faith.

“Saffron Dreams,” a novel by Muslim-American author Shaila Abdullah, tackles the volatile subject of Muslim identity in America at a time when it is needed the most. Arissa Illahi, the main character of Abdullah’s new novel, is a Muslim artist and writer living in New York City with her husband. On the morning of September 11, 2001, her husband goes to work never to return. Arissa, a devastated widow must await the birth of her unborn son while dealing with the after effects of a monumental tragedy and a wounded city that reacts harshly to her symbol of faith––her veil. “Saffron Dreams” allows us to see the ways in which human beings triumph over circumstances wrenched from their control and gradually find ways to re-adjust their dreams and move forward.

Hundreds of libraries have acquired “Saffron Dreams” since its release and the book has generated a great deal of interest in the book review world. “Abdullah handled a controversial subject and made the book about our common humanity, rather than about the differences that divide us,” says Swapna Krishna of S. Krishna Books. A master storyteller and an award-winning writer, Abdullah crafts her characters to enhance her themes of tolerance and hope. The novel is a memorial to the victims of 9/11, a source of strength for the survivors, and a vehicle of understanding for those struggling to make sense of the conflict between the East and West. “The author manages to tell this tale with such a delicate touch, never falling into the maudlin and never giving Arissa the powers of a superhero,” notes Jenclair in A Garden Carried in Your Pocket. “A beautifully written narrative that looks at the aftermath of September 11 with a slightly different perspective, the book unfolds and blossoms with an unexpected tenderness while never denying the myriad effects of tragedy.”

Shaila Abdullah is an award-winning author and designer based in Austin, Texas. Her debut book, “Beyond the Cayenne Wall,” is a collection of stories about Pakistani women struggling to find their individuality despite the barriers imposed by society. The collection won the Norumbega Jury Prize for Outstanding Fiction and the DIY Festival Award.

Hailed as “highly recommended” by Library Journal, “Saffron Dreams” (978-1-932690-73-6 paperback, 978-1-932690-72-9 hardcover, Modern History Press, 2009) can be purchased through local and online bookstores. Review copies are available upon request. For more information and an online media kit, please visit


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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites and (Illinois News Network at

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post,, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

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