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.