Somali-American congresswoman gets publishing deal worth up to $250,000

Mildred Europa Taylor January 22, 2019
Ilhar Oman became one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress last November. Pic credit: The Intelligencer

Representative Ilhan Omar, who was widely celebrated last November after becoming the first Somali American ever elected to the U.S. Congress, will chronicle her journey from refugee to congresswoman in an upcoming memoir.

The memoir, titled: “This Is What America Looks Like” will be published by Dey Street Books in a deal ranging from $100,000 to $250,000, Forbes reports.

Scheduled to be published in April 2020, the memoir “chronicles her journey fleeing war in Somalia as a little girl, becoming a refugee in her early teens, and making her way against unspeakable odds to become the congresswoman-elect from Minnesota as a collection of remarkable firsts: first Muslim refugee in Congress, first woman of color to represent Minnesota, and the first person to wear a hijab in Congress,” the report adds.

Apart from being the first Somali American to serve in the Congress, Omar is also one of the nation’s first two Muslim-American women to serve in Congress, along with Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat.

The executive director of Dey Street, Alessandra Bastagli, is elated to be publishing Omar’s memoir.

“I’ve been following Representative Omar’s career since 2016 and was thrilled to receive her excellent book proposal on submission last year. Her voice on the page is very much as it is in real life—fresh and positive even when she is tackling serious issues, with real empathy and deep knowledge. Her story counters everything we keep hearing from the current administration and the right-wing media about refugees, immigrants, Muslims and women. This memoir presents an urgent and important counter-narrative,” she is quoted by Forbes.

Omar’s literary agent, Steve Ross, describes the congresswoman as “smart and strong and thoughtful and empathetic all to a surprising degree.”

“She is not someone who is timid about expressing her thoughts when she sees injustices—at the personal or the legislative levels.”

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Ihan Omar receives applause. Pic credit:

Omar steadily made waves in politics when in 2016, she became the first Somali legislator in the United States.

The 37-year-old was also the subject of a documentary by Norah Shapiro titled, “Time for Ilhan” which chronicled her 2016 run for the Minnesota Representative position.

Omar has always been for social progression. Her additional titles include public organizer, social activist, Director of Policy and Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network – geared towards ending childhood marriages in Minnesota.

Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, Omar emigrated to the U.S., settling in Arlington, Virginia. Her family later moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. She learned English in three months and started attending caucus meetings at the age of 14, serving as her grandfather’s interpreter.

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Ilhan Omar is greeted by her husband’s mother after appearing at her midterm. Pic credit: Haaretz

The wife and mother of three has called Minneapolis home since 1997. Minnesota is also home to the United States’ largest Somali immigrant population.

Her political aspirations signalled the first instance a Muslim woman attempts to obtain a state seat in the midst of religious and racial tensions.

On November 7, 2018, she became one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, after winning the election in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District — the Minneapolis-area district previously represented by Keith Ellison. She beat Republican Jennifer Zielinski to take Ellison’s seat, which he vacated to run for Minnesota attorney general.

Last Edited by:Nduta Waweru Updated: January 23, 2019


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