The Chills at Will Podcast podcast

Episode 160 with Saima Sitwat, Author of American Muslim: An Immigrant’s Journey, Educator, Speaker, and Skilled Chronicler of Profound and Intriguing Stories

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Episode 160 Notes and Links to Saima Sitwat’s Work


    On Episode 160 of The Chills at Will Podcast, Pete welcomes Saima Sitwat, and the two discuss, among other things, her relationship with languages and growing up in Karachi, Pakistan, her early love of reading, her early writing and “chill-inducing” reads, her triumphs and challenges and funny anecdotes mentioned in her book from her days in the United States, her evolving “Americanism” and faith, her activism, places within the American Desi and American Muslim cultures, all chronicled in her 2020 book, and her continuing work to share compelling stories in different media.


         Saima A. Sitwat is an author, speaker and educator. She was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan and migrated to the United States of America in 2003. 

Saima holds an M.A. in English Linguistics from the University of Karachi, Pakistan and a Master of Public and International Affairs (MPIA) from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh. She is also an alumna of the Leadership Pittsburgh Class XXXV.

Saima believes in the power of storytelling. Her love for stories has taken her from corporate boardrooms in downtown skyscrapers to Punxsutawney, a town in rural Pennsylvania, on Groundhog Day. She puts her faith in the word, written and spoken, to provide healing and challenging pre-existing paradigms. Her writings have encompassed a vast array of topics and genres from penning opinion pieces and investigative reports to policy papers and developing strategic plans. 

From professional writings to personal narratives, Saima always strives to find a singular anchor, that is the story at the core. The story might belong to a person, or a business or nonprofit organization, but the vision and mission is always defined by the one true story behind it. 

Saima is the author of her newly published memoir, “American Muslim: An Immigrant’s Journey.”



Buy American Muslim: An Immigrant's Journey


Saima Sitwat's Website


Interview with Saima about “Becoming American” Series


At about 7:40, Saima gives background information on studying linguistics at university, as well as her relationship with languages growing up in Karachi, Pakistan 


At about 11:00, Saima gives further information on growing up speaking Urdu and English, and Pakistani-inflected English


At about 14:40, Saima talks about her reading choices growing up


At about 17:40, Saima explains her career choices growing up, how writing has been a constant companion and how writing as a career she has come to in recent years


At about 19:00, Saima details two pieces written in Pittsburgh around 2015 and 2016 that received meaningful and positive feedback and that propelled her forward in pursuing writing  


At about 21:20, Saima traces an evolution in the type of questions asked in recent years about Muslims and Muslim-Americans 


At about 22:20, Saima shouts the book from which she is still “recovering,” the “realistic” Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng.


At about 24:20, Saima discusses the significance of the book’s cover


At about 26:00, Pete and Saima talk about the timing of the book and Saima’s “urgency” in publishing the book


At about 27:15, Saima describes the “conscious choice” she made in selecting her title


At about 28:35, Pete cites the skillful ways in which Saima charts her early days in the United States, and Saima recounts a humorous discrepancy in Fahrenheit and Celsius


At about 31:55, Saima explains “Americanism” and quotes a fellow immigrant writer discussing the unique way in which Americans make plans, as well as things learned from having two school-age children


At about 34:55, Saima gives background on the first chapter and a story involving the bathroom that is a microcosm of her early American days


At about 36:50, Saima further describes some learning moments in her early US days; she also highlights the warp speed with which globalism has led to shared cultural information


At about 40:30, Saima highlights positive attributes of the US that are charted in the book, including a sense of “want[ing] to understand” about other cultures


At about 41:25, Saima talks about her days in being dependent and independent in her early days in Chicago, and how she put up a “facade” in dealing with a new place without a lot of family around


At about 45:50, Saima shouts out Potbelly Restaurants 


At about 46:35, Saima discusses the intricacies of her fitting in with, and learning about, Desi- American cultures


At about 51:05, Saima cites two turning points that inspired her to become more involved in writing, public policy, and other avenues


At about 56:55, Saima details a successful and unifying protest that she took part in to effect change in the educational arena


At about 1:04:20, Pete highlights Saima’s own learning and reading in preparing herself to discuss life and religious matters with her daughters


At about 1:05:20, Saima delineates differences between American Muslim practices and customs, and the Islamic and other cultural mores of Pakistan 


At about 1:08:30, Saima details trying and triumphant times as the first female president of the Muslim Association of Greater Pittsburgh (MAP)


At about 1:12:30, Pete uses a quote from Saima’s book in framing questions about how Saima and other women are often misjudged and harshly judged for things that males would not be judged for


At about 1:14:15, Pete charts continuing activism from Saima as stated in her book, and Saima responds to Pete’s question about any pressures or burdens felt in being a sort of representative of Islam


At about 1:18:00, Pete focuses on the Covid “chronicle” that is the book’s ending, and he asks Saima how she might update the book


At about 1:21:35, Saima talks about her work with Better Stories work with the MD State Arts Council


At about 1:25:00, Pete and Saima praise Leila El-Haddad, her book The Gaza Kitchen, and her writing and storytelling abilities

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   Please tune in for Episode 161 with Matthew Salesses, who is author of, among other stellar works, The Hundred-Year Flood and Craft in the Real World. He is the author of the forthcoming 2023 novel The Sense of Wonder and has written about adoption and race for NPR Code Switch, among other outlets.

   The episode will air on January 17.

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