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Speaking Topics

  • Muslim women and feminism: From stereotypes to diverse realities
  • What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman’s hijab?
  • Reclaiming what’s mine: A Muslim woman’s journey
  • Motivational: a writer with no words

Samina Ali is an award-winning author, activist and cultural commentator. Her debut novel, Madras on Rainy Days (Farrar, Straus, Giroux), was the winner of France’s prestigious Prix Premier Roman Etranger Award and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award in Fiction. The book, about a young woman’s arranged marriage and political awakening, was partly inspired by Samina’s real-life experience growing up bi-culturally in Hyderabad, India and St. Paul, Minnesota.

At the heart of Samina’s work is her belief in personal narrative as a vital force for achieving women’s individual and political freedom – and in the power of new and traditional media as platforms for social transformation. As the curator of the groundbreaking, critically acclaimed virtual exhibition, Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices, Samina illuminated the multi-dimensional realities of women’s lives to challenge fears and misconceptions of Muslims and Islam within and beyond Muslim communities.

Weaving her personal story with a passionate appeal for women’s equality and justice, Samina’s current project is an account of her near-death experience delivering her firstborn and an unsparing look at gender bias and the crisis of preventable maternal deaths in one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the world. In this memoir-in-progress, Samina describes how she defied the odds by boldly charting her own path to recovery, from relearning to walk alongside her son’s first steps, to retraining her mind — word by word — to write what would become her debut novel.

Samina has spoken extensively at a wide range of universities, from Harvard and Yale Universities to community colleges, as well as at other institutions worldwide, including as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department, a Master Teacher for the Mama Gena School of Womanly Arts and a featured presenter at the Nobel Women’s Initiative 2017 International Conference. The recipient of fiction awards from the Rona Jaffe Foundation and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, she has been featured in The Economist, The Guardian, Vogue, National Public Radio (NPR) and elsewhere. A regular contributor to The Huffington Post and Daily Beast, she has written for The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications.

Never one to say no to a challenge, Samina defied the odds — again — and gave birth to a second child. She now lives happily with her husband, son and daughter in California.

Samina's Ted Talk

What Hosts are Saying

Equally gifted as a curator, writer, moderator and speaker, Samina’s sensitivity to the perspectives of other women and her unique ability to connect with her audiences on a deep emotional level, inspires and challenges us to confront stereotypes and perceptions.

A fierce speaker, writer, curator, and activist, Samina is a powerful voice for greater understanding across what are all too often the differences that divide us.

— Catherine M. King, Executive Producer Global Fund for Women

Samina’s firm but gentle voice as a human rights advocate is never shrill, and always persuasive. She speaks from a place of compassion and courage. Today whether she is teaching creative writing, curating museum exhibitions, keynoting at conferences, or helping to shape public opinion nationwide as a popular speaker, her audience senses that same integrity. Yet through it all Samina remains just as she has always been from the first: a young woman fiercely committed to inspiring and informing and empowering us all.

— Dr. Scott Lankford, Author and Professor