Winner of the Iowa Prize for Literary Nonfiction, Sufiya Abdur-Rahman's debut memoir, Heir to the Crescent Moon, was published by University of Iowa Press in November 2021.
From age five, Sufiya Abdur-Rahman, the daughter of two Black Power–era converts to Islam, feels drawn to the faith even as her father, a devoted Muslim, introduces her to and, at the same time, distances her from it. Abdur-Rahman’s father and mother abandoned their Harlem mosque before she was born and divorced when she was twelve. Forced apart from her father—her portal into Islam—she yearns to reconnect with the religion and, through it, reconnect with him.
In Heir to the Crescent Moon, Abdur-Rahman’s longing to comprehend her father’s complicated relationship with Islam leads her first to recount her own history and then delve into her father’s past. She journeys from the Christian righteousness of Adam Clayton Powell Jr.’s 1950s Harlem, through the Malcolm X–inspired college activism of the late 1960s, to the unfulfilled potential of the early 1970s Black American Muslim movement. Told at times with lighthearted humor or heartbreaking candor, Abdur-Rahman’s story of adolescent Arabic lessons, fasting, and Muslim mosque, funeral, and Eid services speaks to the challenges of bridging generational and cultural divides and what it takes to maintain family amidst personal and societal upheaval. She weaves a vital tale about a family: Black, Muslim, and distinctly American.