Dunya Mikhail was born in Iraq (Baghdad) in 1965 and came to the United States thirty years later. She’s renowned in the Arab world for her subversive, innovative, and satirical poetry. After graduation from the University of Baghdad, she worked as a journalist and translator for the Baghdad Observer. Facing censorship and interrogation, she left Iraq, first to Jordan and then to America (Detroit).
New Directions published her books in English: The War Works Hard (translated by Elizabeth Winslow), shortlisted for Griffin and named one of “Twenty-Five Books to Remember from 2005” by the New York Public Library. Diary of A Wave Outside the Sea (co-translated with Elisabeth Winslow) won the Arab American Book Award. The Iraqi Nights (translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid) and 15 Iraqi Poets (editor).The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq (co-translated with Max Weiss), finalist for PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith award in non-fiction and long-listed for the National Book Award, selected by The New York Times as one of 8 recommended books of the week, and by The Christian Science Monitor as one of top 10 of the month, and by Publisher Weekly as one of top 10 of spring season. In Her Feminine Sign is coming out in July, 2019.
In an NPR interview, Mikhail said, “I feel that poetry is not medicine- it’s an X-ray. It helps you see the wound and understand it. We all feel alienated because of this continues violence in the world. We feel alone, but we feel also together. So we resort to poetry as a possibility for survival. However, to say I survived is not so final. We wake up to find that the war survived with us.”
Mikhail’s honors include the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Knights Foundation grant, the Kresge Fellowship, and the United Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. She is the co-founder of Michigan-community-based Mesopotamian Forum for Art and Culture. She currently works as a special lecturer of Arabic at Oakland University in Michigan.