Aaliyah Bilal ’04 Named National Book Award Finalist

Short-story collection “Temple Folk” shares reflections of former Nation of Islam members.

October 9, 2023

Communications Staff

Aaliyah Bilal headshot.

Aaliyah Bilal ’04 has been named a 2023 National Book Awards finalist. Bilal, who earned a degree in African American Studies and Spanish, was nominated in the fiction category for the debut short story collection Temple Folk (Simon Schuster, July 2023). 

National Book Awards winners will be announced on November 15.

Publishers Weekly describes Temple Folk as a book that “depicts African American Muslims exploring their faith and seeking liberation in the 1970s.” In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered, Bilal notes the community featured in the book “is a collection of African Americans who were once upon a time members of the Nation of Islam, though they have moved on to Sunni Orthodoxy. And the majority of the stories depict these individuals reflecting back on their times in the Nation of Islam, from the perch of, again, Sunni Orthodoxy.”

Born and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Bilal also earned a master’s degree at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies. Her work has appeared in The Michigan Quarterly Review and The Rumpus. She also has a forthcoming graphic memoir, Cloud Country: A Black Life in East Asia.

Read more about the 2023 National Book Award Finalists at the New York Times.

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