Thursday, September 7, 2017 - 09:45

No Human is Illegal: Immigrants and the American Idea

Assumption Professor to Host Conversation with Award-winning Palestinian-American Poet Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi NyeAssumption College English Professor Lucia Knoles, Ph.D., will moderate a conversation with Naomi Shihab Nye, an award-winning Palestinian-American poet, essayist and educator, in which Nye will share her thoughts, stories, and poems on how we can create a shared world. The event, which is titled “NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL: A Reading and Conversation with Writer Naomi Shihab Nye about Immigrants and the American Idea,” will be held on Thursday, September 28 from 3-4:30 p.m. at the Worcester Art Museum, located at 55 Salisbury Street in Worcester. Following the interview, members of the audience will be invited to join the discussion. This event is free and open to the public.

In addition to teaching at Assumption, Prof. Knoles is also a member of the board of Worcester’s Clemente Course in the Humanities, which offers tuition-free college courses for low income adults, some of whom are recent immigrants to the United States.  When the national debate over immigration intensified last year, Knoles invited Nye to Worcester “as a way of helping people remember what connects us as human beings,” Prof. Knoles said.  “Each time I read one of her poems I find myself thinking how much I’m like the person at the center of the story—even when we’re from different races, religions, or countries. I also love the fact that Nye sees poetry as something that does real work in the world.’ In fact, when she was recently asked about the divisive political climate, she said she thought ‘poets have their work cut out for them’ these days, ‘No days off,’” she added.

Nye describes herself as a “wandering poet.” According to her biography, “she has spent 40 years traveling the country and the world to lead writing workshops and inspiring students of all ages. Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem, and San Antonio. Drawing on her Palestinian-American heritage, the cultural diversity of her home in Texas, and her experiences traveling in Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and the Middle East, Nye uses her writing to attest to our shared humanity.”

Nye has written more than 30 volumes of poetry and prose and has received awards ranging from a Guggenheim Fellowship and four Pushcart Prizes to the Jane Addams Children's Book Award. She received a B.A. in English from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, where she still lives with her husband and son.  

The event is sponsored by the Worcester Clemente Course in the Humanities, a free 6-credit set of year-long college level seminars in U.S. history, moral philosophy, art history, literature, critical thinking and writing for adults marginalized by economic hardship.  Through rigorous study in a respectful environment, Clemente students gain the tools to improve their own lives as well as the lives of their children and communities. This will be the city’s fourth year of offering tuition-free college level instruction to highly motivated low-income adults in the Worcester community. To learn more about the Worcester Clementer Course in the Humanities, visit

Listen to Nye read her poem “Gate A-4” in which she tells the story of what happens when an elderly Arab woman needs help at national airport. Or download a handout of Naomi Shihab Nye poems and interviews.

For more information, contact or 774-262-8383.  

Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College @AssumptionNews