My debut book, Technologies of the Self, is a winner of the 2015 Driftless Novella Contest from Brain Mill Press. My short fiction has won the McSweeney’s Student Short Story Contest and Honorable Mention from Glimmer Train. I am a Portfolio Gold Medalist from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (2011), where I now serve on the Alumni Council. My fiction, memoirs, and essays have appeared in Lightspeed, Comparative Islamic Studies, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Buffalo Almanack, The New York Review of Science Fiction, University of Toronto Undergraduate Journal of Middle East Studies, The 2014 Campbellian Anthology, and The Best Teen Writing of 2012 (Editor with Edwidge Danticat), 2011, and 2010. I write monthly for altMuslimah and have appeared regularly on John Hockenberry’s NPR show The Takeaway. I am the youngest writer to be a two-time semifinalist in the Writers of the Future Contest. In April 2015, I was selected to read my fiction at The Unpublished Reading Series “for writers who are or have been underrepresented in mainstream media.” I am a graduate of the Alpha Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Workshop for Young Writers (2009).
As a result of my mixed heritage from the Dominican Republic and Pakistan, and my engineering background, my work explores personal narratives at the nexus of law, technology, and disenfranchised identities, particularly in Latino and post-9/11 contexts.
Publications and awards:
“So true to mixed experience, it feels defiant.” – Sofia Samatar, winner of the World Fantasy Award
“Haris Durrani’s wonderful tale is as much about family, jobs, friends and growing up as it is about demons, time travel, and God–and that’s as it should be. Rich, humane, funny and outlandish, it presages a great career for a young writer with lavish gifts and a generous spirit.” — John Crowley, author of Little, Big
In this timely and instantly notable fiction debut, Haris Durrani immerses readers in the life of a young American Muslim struggling to understand himself in the context of his family, classmates, and contemporary urban life.
Engineering student Jihad, or “Joe” as he introduces himself in the confusing intersections of post 9/11 New York City, finds himself on a personal quest of possibly a spiritual nature, even if he isn’t sure that’s what it is – after all, it’s hard enough to keep halal in his Dominican-Pakistani-Muslim Washington Heights household.
He’s surprised to find himself in the stories his Uncle Tomás tells of his own youth, stories in which Tomás fights both the devil and the weaknesses of the flesh – often at the same time. Culture, nation, religion, family, identity, race, and time fight for dominion over Jihad until he realizes he is facing the same demon his uncle claims to have defeated, and all Jihad has to fight with is himself.
Buffalo Almanack founding editor Maxine Vande Vaarst and Mary Ann Rivers and Ruthie Knox of Brain Mill Press host a roundtable discussion on Technologies of the Self and my short story, “Forty-two Reasons.” Read it on “Woodshop Talk” in Buffalo Almanack (pages 35-44 on issuu) or at the Brain Mill Press page.
“Forty-two Reasons Your Girlfriend Works for the FBI, CIA, NSA, ICE, SHIELD, Fringe Division, Men in Black, or Cylon Overlords,” Buffalo Almanack (December 2015 Issue, page 11, and Inkslinger Award Winner for best of the issue)
Winner of the McSweeney’s Student Short Story Contest judged by Curtis Sittenfeld.
An excerpt was previously read at The Unpublished Reading Series (event on April 29, 2015). About The Unpublished: “Established in New York, The Unpublished Reading Series is a space for writers who are or have been underrepresented in mainstream media — for reasons including, but not limited to, class, race, gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity. With your engagement we celebrate, foster and promote diversity in fiction, non-fiction, poetry and reportage.”
Art for Social Change Exhibition — Barnard Committee on Arts (May 2, 2015)
Excerpts of various works displayed as part of Barnard’s spring exhibition.
About the exhibition: “How can art describe and promote what we find wrong, unethical or upsetting better than words or actions? Art has always been related to the subversive. Art can challenge the definition of beauty, goodness, and the will of the times. Art can be a political act, a conscious effort to facilitate and participate in social change. If we want respect, love and peace among others, and us we must actively promote it through our art.”
“Ciguapa” — Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train (December 2014 Fiction Open). Top 5% of over 1,000 entries.
“In 1965, Tomás Paoli made love to a ciguapa on the sandy banks of the Ozama River.” So begins a story of myth, memory, and history as a young American man recounts his uncle Tomás’ ephemeral adolescent affair with a creature from Dominican folklore, a water-dwelling woman with reversed feet. An elderly Tomás, recalling his past, declares that God has granted him invincibility and remains determined to forge ahead in the cosmic struggle to survive. But for the ciguapa, movement was a backward thing. After all, Tomás is cursed. “Ciguapa” traverses the emotional turmoil of distances — between nations, eras, and souls.
I am grateful to Hisham Matar, whose guidance and support on this piece proved invaluable.
“Literature and Agency in Islamic Discourse”— University of Toronto Undergraduate Journal of Islamic Studies (lead article in 2014-15 Issue).
Abstract: This paper explores the role of amthal (instances of figurative language, translated as “similitudes,” “parables,” or “analogies”) as an element essential to the unity of form and function in Islamic intellectual discourse. The use of amthal across premodern Islamic discourse — from revelation, to legal and theological treatises, to poetry and narratives by ulema — was for authors an essential means of instilling moral agency in their communities, allowing Muslim intellectuals to transcend textualism, empiricism, and individuality and access internal, divine states through dhawq (spiritual or “fruitional” experience). The use of amthal began to erode with the onset of modernity, causing Islamic discourse to lose the spirit of its law and descend into the polemicism of political theology, dividing form from function in scholarly works; a divide between how a work is communicated and what it communicates. Modern literature may provide a means of catalyzing change proactively: to rise above purely empirical, textual, and polemical discourse and embody the “spirit of the law,” Islamic intellectuals should seek to cross barriers between the academic and literary by integrating the use of amthal in and outside of their scholarly work.
Based on research under the guidance of Wael Hallaq at the Columbia University Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies.
Monthly column at altMen — altMuslimah‘s feature on race, gender, and faith.
September 2015: “A Second Look at the Confederate Flag Controversy” on what the flag issue means for Muslims, blacks, Latinos, and women in America.
July 2015: “Eight Myths about Science Fiction and Fantasy” on dispelling common misconceptions about the genre, and why they are detrimental to Muslim communities as readers and storytellers. Republished in print in The Muslim Observer.
April 2015: “A Faithful Telling” on faith, story, and change. Adapted in part from a paper in the University of Toronto Undergraduate Journal of Islamic Studies (see “Literature and Agency in Islamic Discourse”).
March 2015: “Writing Beyond Words” on storytelling as a means of expressing the complexity of Dominican/Pakistani/American/Muslim identity/-ies.
February 2015: “The Power of Story: Footnotes on science fiction, politics, and Muslim protagonists” on my personal relationship to writing and The Muslim Protagonist Symposium at Columbia University.
“Tethered” — Analog Science Fiction and Fact (July/August 2013 Issue) & Writers of the Future Semi-Finalist, 2011 (3rd Quarter). Purchase this issue of Analog here. Republished in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology.
“[This] story worked splendidly… It was effective and even — so rare for SF — moving. I’m sure I’ll be seeing more of your work.” – John Crowley (author of Little, Big)
In the near future, the intricacies of economic competition, political conflict, and mathematical inevitability have clogged Earth orbit with artificial debris, rendering space “an impassible frontier.” Charlie and Kalima are two of a handful of “garbage men” paid by Kradys, Inc. under a U.N. mandate to clear junk out of orbit. When their employer assigns them an unusually hasty mission to dispose of a defunct satellite hovering high above South Asia, the couple begin to suspect that there is far more at stake than next week’s paycheck. A dark and intense descent into modernity’s mechanisms of corruption, power, and violence, this action-packed tale has also been described as “love in space, with trash.”
Based on science research related to the Kessler Syndrome. Learn about the science, politics, and contemporary relevance of “Tethered” and read up on the similarities between “Tethered” and Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film, Gravity.
“The Failure of Post-9/11 Science Fiction“ — The New York Review of Science Fiction (Vol. 25, No. 289, pg.8) Purchase the September 2012 Issue for only $2.99. You can also subscribe to NYRSF. The essay is featured in the Table of Contents.
From culture and politics to religion and extremism, American speculative literature about the Muslim world has unfortunately stepped down the intellectual ladder since September 11, 2001. This article uses William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Matt Ruff’s The Mirage as springboards to critique a wide variety of other well-known works of speculative fiction. Science fiction, which reflects the present more than it predicts the future, wields a remarkable ability to change the present and challenge widespread, prejudiced norms. Unfortunately, this literary strength has waned with respect to science fiction’s portrayal of America’s relations with the Muslim world.
Based on research under the guidance of Richard Bulliet and Khalil Abdur-Rashid at the Columbia University Departments of History and of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies.
A collection of stories, essays and poems written by teen authors who won medals in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The Awards, began in 1923, are the oldest, and largest recognition and scholarship program in the nation for creative teens. The pieces in this book were selected not merely because they are excellent works of writing, but also because they are brave, risky and honest. They are united by a need to discover fundamental truths and mold them — through hard work and inspiration, sacrifice and empathy — into words. To find out more about the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, visit the website here.
“The Photosynthesis of Living Engines” — Writers of the Future Semi-Finalist, 2011 (2nd Quarter)
Centuries into the future, a hulking generation ship hurtles through the cosmos, bearing a population not much smaller than Earth’s. When the lights suddenly go out, ex-Chief Engineer Johannes Borschsevy faces his captor and tells the life story of the abusive Victor Hurriera, an engineer turned sour in his middle age, who decides to break the ship’s environmental law by chopping down the towering oak on his front lawn. Victor forces his pregnant and once-brilliant wife, Erlanda Rahim, onto a journey to the very heart of their allegedly mechanical world, where their love, and the fate of the ship itself, will rest in the balance. Linking environmentalism, quantum evolution, and the social and political forces which determine the distribution of wealth aboard the ship, Borschsevy’s account is disturbing and tragic, but also a testament to the bravery of those who stand up against the powers that be.
Based on science research related to photosynthetic coherence. See also: “Evidence for wavelike energy transfer through quantum coherence in photosynthetic systems” in Nature.
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“U.S.-Man and the Gulab Jamun Machine” (fiction) — After Usman Khan’s father invents a wild and wacky dessert machine for their family’s Brooklyn halal store, he suddenly disappears. As young Usman searches New York City for his father, his jarring encounters with the stigma surrounding Muslims in America defines his coming of age. Two-time national winner of the Silver Medal for Short Story and the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Creativity and Citizenship Award. Roughly based on accounts related to Turkmen v. Ashcroft.
“The Brief Numerous Lives of Tomás Paoli” (memoir) — Follow the diaspora of Tomás Paoli backward in space and time, from gentrification and lost love in modern-day Washington Heights, to a dangerous swim across the Hudson River, to the hot beaches of the Dominican Republic during the Trujillato. From each life to the previous, Tomás Paoli evades death like a cat with nine lives. Winner of the National Gold Medal for Memoir. Based on a true story.
“Jedi Night” (fiction) — A second-generation Dominican American with a penchant for Star Wars gets a new job in Homeland Security, deporting Latino immigrants out of the United States. But the position puts a deep and unearthed toll on him until one fateful Fourth of July. Winner of two National Gold Medals for Short Story and Best-In-Grade (12th). Excerpt performed by Reg E. Cathey (The Wire, House of Cards) at the 2011 Scholastic Awards Gala in the World Financial Center.