Novelist and Alumna Shares Her Work, Writing Advice with Freshmen


Bushra Rehman SAS'98, author of a recently published first novel, returned to her alma mater Wednesday, December 11, to share her work and writing advice with first-year students in the School of Arts & Sciences and School of Nursing.

She gave her presentation at Maura Ballroom, where, as a student, she and her friends would tell scary stories about the ghosts of CNR students past.

The theme of monsters, Rehman said, runs throughout her work. She sought to speak with the voice of "the hybrid, the mutant" -- as someone who feels different from everybody else.

Corona, published this past August, follows the journey of Razia Mirza, a Pakistani woman whose rebellious streak leads to her excommunication from a close-knit Muslim community in Queens.

Rehman read a chapter detailing Razia's ill-fated stint as a tour guide for a Puritan colony in Salem, Massachusetts. It's no coincidence, she said, that her character's first stop after leaving home is a place noted for the trials of alleged witches.

Rehman also took a hybrid approach to writing the novel, using journal entries and poetry alongside traditional prose.

"One exercise that helped me write the book but telling the stories out loud over and over," Rehman said. To that end, she asked the students to find a partner. "Think about a time you got in trouble," then tell your partner your story, she instructed.

Each student had three minutes to tell her tale, then they had to write their story the way they told it. "Capture your oral storytelling voice on the page," Rehman said.

Rehman's poetry has been collected in the chapbook Marianna's Beauty Salon (Vagabond Press, 2001). With Daisy Hernandez, she edited a book of essays titled Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism (Seal Press, 2002). The text has been adopted as essential reading material in women's studies and ethnic studies courses across the United States.

Rehman's writing has also been featured on BBC Radio 4, WNYC, the New York Times, and Newsday, among numerous publications. Her website is