Who is Najwa Zebian?
At first glance, I would describe her as a Lebanese-Canadian poet, teacher, speaker and all-‘round inspiration.
But then I came across her Twitter bio, which perfectly embodies who Zebian is, so I’ll let her introduce herself:
“Author. Poet. Speaker. Teacher. Doctoral student in Educational Leadership. Human. I write to give a voice to the silenced souls out there.”
Zebian’s poetry has travelled all over the world, resonating with people from all walks of life. Oscar-winning actress Hillary Swank to American Idol winner, Jordin Sparks, are some of the many fans who have been impacted by Zebian’s words, strength, and outlook on life.
At age 16, Zebian and her family immigrated to Canada from Lebanon. The pressure to fit in and rebuild a sense of comfort in a place so foreign, isolated Nawja further. As a child, she had sought refuge in Arabic poetry, novels, and writing, to deal with these feelings. However, upon arriving in Canada, overwhelmed by feelings of alienation and helplessness, she ripped up her diary, vowing to never write again.
“I was bullied for being too sensitive. I was bullied for being too vulnerable, for being too honest, too kind. I started building up walls. I started guarding myself.”
It was only after she began teaching at a high school in London, Ontario, that she rediscovered writing. While teaching students from immigrant and refugee backgrounds, Zebian recognized the same fear and frustrations in them that she had faced as a new immigrant.
So she began encouraging her students to jot down their feelings on paper. Seeing her students take to writing sparked Zebian’s need to express herself. She started to write about her students and their thirst for knowledge.
“When I felt the urge to write on behalf of my students, it was okay to write. I wasn’t writing about myself, but about them,” she writes in her blog.
As she wrote about her students, she began to rediscover her own voice. In her blog, she reveals, “I did not realize how powerful my voice could be until I saw the difference that it made for the students that I read my words to. And the more it empowered them, the more it encouraged me to write.”
In 2016, she self-published her first book, Mind Platter, which went on to become an Amazon bestseller for female authors and Middle Eastern poetry.
“I wrote about my pain. I wrote about it, and as hard as it was, it healed me… Turning your pain into something beautiful, turning it into nectar, instead of turning it into bitterness or coldness. That has given me so much conviction in the fact that our world needs more people who are not afraid to be human. Not afraid to be vulnerable. Not afraid to show who they are.”
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