Nafisa Haji


The Writing on My Forehead
The Sweetness of Tears


Nafisa Haji was born and mostly raised in Los Angeles—mostly, because there were years also spent in Chicago, Karachi, Manila, and London. Her family migrated from Bombay to Karachi in 1947 during Partition, when the Indian Subcontinent was divided into two states. In the late 1960s, Nafisa’s parents came to the United States, shortly before she was born, in order for her father to study engineering at Stanford. When she was six years old, they stuck with their original plan of “going back home” and moved to Karachi. In less than a year, they knew that they had become more American than they realized and came back to Los Angeles.

Nafisa studied American history at the University of California at Berkeley, taught elementary school in downtown Los Angeles for seven years in a bilingual Spanish program (she speaks Spanish fluently), and earned a doctorate in education from the University of California at Los Angeles. With an unfinished novel left long behind, she seized upon the birth of her son—when she decided to stay home fulltime—as an excuse to go back to writing, learning to use nap times and weekends very efficiently. She started writing short stories at first, which then developed into an idea for a novel. She lives in northern California with her husband and son.  Nafisa maintains close ties in Pakistan, traveling there regularly to visit family. Nafisa has served on the board at the Marin Interfaith Council, representing the International Association of Sufism. She has also served on the board of Freedom Forward, an organization working to ensure the alignment of American ideals of freedom with the reality of American foreign policy.

Praise for The Writing on My Forehead

A moving meditation on the meaning of family, tradition, and the ties that bind. Lyrical and touching. A story of mother and daughters, and of a young Muslim woman at crossroads, shaped by the forces of her past, her religion, her roots, her culture, and her own determined will.
— Khaled Hosseini, New York Times bestselling author of THE KITE RUNNER and A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS
A masterful first novel.
— Booklist
THE WRITING ON MY FOREHEAD is not only a family history but also a social history with an ambitious arc. Haji deftly illustrates how the Qaders’ lives intersect with defining world events. (Haji is a) talented new writer of sense and a distinct sensibility.”
— San Francisco Chronicle
(An) impressive debut. Haji achieves an effortless commingling of family and social history in this intricate story that connects a young woman and her family over continents and through generations.
— Publishers Weekly
A brainy, beautiful braid of stories about three generations of a Muslim family. This book, if widely read, will go a long way toward deconstructing stereotypes about American Muslims, and that, on top of its value as a work of fiction, makes it a treasure.
— Minneapolis Star Tribune
(A) deeply moving and beautifully written novel about different generations of an Indo-Pakistani family takes the reader on an emotional journey into how family and traditions define us and our choices in life. It’s a fast read, but its deeper meaning resonates long after the last page.
— Associated Press
Just as Saira’s mother tenderly traced the words of protective prayers on her daughters’ foreheads each night, so too does this book leave a stamp on us. As we open ourselves to this culture, it becomes inscribed within us, as if its rich history was written onto our foreheads.
— Chattanooga Times Free Press

Praise for The Sweetness of Tears

The type of storytelling that opens the reader’s eyes to other lives.
— The Columbus Dispatch
The many threads eventually cleave to illustrate how a complicated blend of race, religion, culture, and tradition can create peace rather than conflict.
— Publishers Weekly