By Tamiko Byer

Poet, novelist, and teaching artist Bushra Rehman knows a Queens bully when she sees one.

In her first novel, Corona, and now in her new poetry collection, Marianna’s Beauty Salon, Rehman depicts a tough and tender New York City. Her writing is rooted in her experience of growing up in Corona, an immigrant neighborhood in Queens where too-loved-to-be-abandoned sofa beds bloomed in front yards. At a recent reading, sponsored by the community and literary organizations Kundiman and NY Writers Coalition, Rehman talked about the current resident of the White House as “a Queens bully.” I was intrigued.

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By Tamiko Byer
October 5, 2018

Bushra Rehman 

“Writing from life can be a tricky business,” notes Rehman. It’s an art that Rehman has deftly honed in both her poetry and fiction, and which she teaches in her long-running “Two Truths and a Lie” course. Rehman’s novel, Corona, and her recent poetry collection, Marianna’s Beauty Salon, evokes gasps of recognition, tears of rage, and howls of laughter from her readers—especially from those shut out for too long from literary representation. Her first YA novel Corona: Stories of a Queens Girlhood by Tor Books/Macmillan is hitting bookstores next year.

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Publisher’s Weekly

September 2018

In Rehman’s debut collection, indelible truths permeate slice-of-life recollections and blustery fantasies of desire. Alienation and intimacy, a sensation of stasis, and the comforts of a Queens immigrant household all mark the speaker’s physical and emotional universe. Rehman sardonically illuminates social shifts, such as the tensions of a world kept at bay by a “white picket fence, no, try chain link.” There is also romance, as the speaker imagines her and her lover’s skeletons in a museum: “Will they ever know/ this flesh answered the other/ that my fingers traveled all over/ the empty space around your bones.” At the collection’s core are notions of home, which Rehman redefines in a variety of ways, most cleverly as a backpack, the “thing that’s taught you the lesson/ of what was essential and what was not.” Rehman’s lively evocations of her world illustrate the spellbinding potential of an environment of decay: “There are sofa beds growing/ everywhere in Corona/ on street corners, in yards// Yellow, bright orange, brown/ they burst out of the ground/ mushrooms come full-blown/ in the middle of the night.” Rehman’s poems evolve as the collection progresses, beginning with minimalism and near-passivity before blossoming into deeply felt expressions. This is a rich collection of gratitude, nostalgia, and fidelity to lived experience. (May)

The Queens Tribune
Author: Bushra Rehman

By Thomas Moody
August 2018

In the final chapter of Corona, Bushra Rehman’s debut novel, a bread truck breaks down on a cold Queens winter night on the street the neighborhood has unofficially reserved for abandoned cars. What seems like the whole of Corona looks on from their houses, waiting to see if the driver will return.

“The old Italian ladies were the first to disappear from their windows,” Razia, the young Pakistani-American speaker of the novel, recalls. “They showed up again, on the snow, like black crows on ice.”

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Poetry Society of America

Take Note: Eleven New Collections by Asian American Poets

11. Marianna’s Beauty Salon by Bushra Rehman
(Sibling Rivalry Press, May 2018)

Bushra Rehman’s first collection of poetry is a love song for Pakistani girls from Queens. Feminist, fierce, and often funny, her poems bring us into a world of Bollywood movie stars, mice stuck in glue traps, and queer heartache at the Museum of Natural History.


Teal Mango
Poet Bushra Rehman Searches for Home in ‘Marianna’s Beauty Salon’


NPR Code Switch  Part I

To Achieve Diversity In Publishing, A Difficult Dialogue Beats Silence

By Lynn Neary
August 20, 2014

“Bushra Rehman’s debut novel, Corona, is rooted in the neighborhoods of Queens, where South Asian immigrants live and shop. Rehman’s novel about a rebellious Pakistani Muslim girl from Queens took her five years to finish and another five to get published.”

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NPR Code Switch Part II

In Elite MFA programs, the Challenge of Writing While “Other”

By Lynn Neary
August 19, 2014

“Finding a supportive writing program wasn’t easy for Bushra Rehman, a Pakistani-American writer who grew up in a Muslim community in Queens, N.Y. Rehman’s first novel, Corona, which took five years to get published, is named for the neighborhood in Queens where she lived with her family.

Settled at a table in a restaurant in nearby Jackson Heights, Rehman talks about her own experience in an MFA program at Brooklyn College. Anti-Muslim sentiment was strong in the aftermath of Sept. 11, and she felt her classmates did not understand her work.”

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Lambda Literary

By Theodosia Henney
June 23, 2014

“In her 2014 Lambda Literary Award nominated debut novel Corona, Bushra Rehman describes a life in vignettes; a young second-generation Pakistani woman named Razia Mirza, who is passionate, drifting, bright, and unshakably resilient. In a fine rebuke of linear chronology, Razia’s tales dart back and forth from her childhood in Corona, Queens to a wild tapestry of locations, all filled with characters both odd and entirely believable. Her adventures find her hitchhiking through Florida, navigating the Bhangra scene of New York City, working as a tour guide in a Massachusetts Puritan Colony, living with drunk anarchist Italians, and falling in love with unlikely people and places.”

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The Four Quarters Magazine

By Bhaswati Ghosh
December 8, 2013

“For second-generation immigrants born to South Asian immigrant parents in the Western world, life is a two-fold quest. While their parents float in self-created bubbles by popping open the time capsules in which they arrive from their home country, the offspring have to oscillate between the period drama they’re expected to feature in while at home or in ethnic gatherings and the ‘real’ life they lead in school, with friends and the community at large. Notions of tradition, identity, home, and assimilation haunt them at every step. Caught in this quandary is Razia Mirza, the young protagonist of Bushra Rehman’s debut novel, ‘Corona.'”

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Cornell Sun

By Madeline Salinas
November 26, 2013

“Ultimately, in Corona, Rehman’s strategy is to convey the complex gender dynamics of her culture by telling a variety of different stories, each exploring a different perspective on the relationships between men and women in relationships and families. To the colored women writers in the audience, Rehman says, “The more of us there are, the less weight each of our stories will take,” urging more women to share their opinions and contribute to a more comprehensive societal perception of Muslim culture. ”

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B*tch Magazine

By Kjerstin Johnson
November 2013, Food Issue

“Rehman uses humorous and honest powers of observation to tell more about
America than any academic book, and reminds us that we come of age our entire

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Feminist Wire

By Shubhra Sharma
October 30, 2013

““I am not that kind of an Indian,” says Razia Mirza, thus uttering all that can and needs to be said. In Bushra Rehman’s new collection of short stories, Corona–and no, she is “not talking about the beer,” but rather Corona, New York—the author foregrounds the category called experience in its many hues and colors. Her crafting of “fictionalized” moments is so editorially, deliciously devious that you are left shaking your head in disbelief regarding the feelings it evokes in you. You feel like you are being dragged into your own life in your own borough/town/city in order for you to see it more clearly or even with a certain degree of mirth mixing with everyday angst.”

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LA Review of Books

By Chaitali Sen
October 9, 2013

“In a similar vein, Bushra Rehman’s exquisite novel in linked stories, Corona, inserts unexpected South Asian characters into places of deep cultural significance. It begins in an immigrant enclave of New York, no longer the Jewish and Italian neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan, but Corona, “a little village perched under the number 7 train in Queens between Junction Boulevard and 111th Street […] The Corona F. Scott Fitzgerald called the ‘valley of ashes.’”

Read the full article here


Publisher’s Weekly

August 19, 2013

Razia, our Desi born heroine begins life in Corona, Queens, a neighborhood once referred to by F. Scott Fitzgerald as the “Valley of Ashes.” From there she starts a journey that has her giving historical tours in Salem, M.A., where her darkness aggravates donors and history buffs, smoking pot in the tenderloin of San Francisco with a domineering boyfriend, and hitchhiking through southern Florida with a beautiful girlfriend.(Aug.)
Read full review


The Wellesley News

By Alice Liang

“The sharp irony of Corona begins with it’s title and continues through the novel’s short stories.”

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Muslimah Media Watch

November 4, 2013

“Corona is Bushra Rehman’s riveting first novel. The first sentence of the book begins by smashing assumptions; we think “Corona” and think alcoholic beverage. Well, I certainly do. But that’s not what Rehman is writing about.

‘Corona, and I’m not talking about the beer. I’m talking about a little village perched between under the number 7 train in Queens between Junction Boulevard and 111th St.’

Corona is a close community in Queens, previously inhabited by many Italians, in which Pakistanis and Dominicans have more recently set up halal meat stores and places of worship. Our protagonist is the intrepid and intelligent Razia Mirza. Razia journeys through sexual, spiritual, cultural and familial realms. In the novel, Rehman subtly focuses on how shame is often a large part of the narrative of Pakistani Muslim girls who are brought up in Western countries.”

Read the full article here.


Samar Magazine

October 23, 2013
By Zohra Saed

“Corona is a poet’s novel. Bushra Rehman’s narrative voice is strong and musical. It leaps off the page and speaks directly to you, as if you were catching up with a long-lost friend. In a series of linked stories, Rehman paints a vibrant memorial to small treasure neighborhoods tucked deep in the outer boroughs of New York, capturing the intricate vein work of Corona, Queens from its alleyways, streets, and blocks to its network of railway tracks. Even when her young Pakistani American protagonist Razia Mirza is not in New York City, when she is out on the road vagabonding through America, she carries her childhood—a cocoon of friends, cousins and uncles—with her. Rehman offers us an honest sketch of Razia, as we follow the travels, mistakes and chance decisions that shape this flawed and beautiful main character.”

Read the full article here.


Chhaya Community Development Fund

Chhaya’s 13th Anniversary Architects of Change Reception will honor Bushra Rehman as well as The Daily Show correspondent, Aasif Mandvi, and Shelley and Donald Rubin, founders of Rubin Museum of Art on Thursday Oct 1st, 2013.

Read full interview here


Asia Pacific Radio (WBAI)

Writer and poet Bushra Rehman assembled an evening’s ode to her native Queens, in conjunction with the release of her new novel, Corona. A multi-media presentation, Rehman and fellow artists shared stories swirling through close-knit communities of the South Asian diaspora in the city’s most diverse borough. The Asian American Writers’ Workshop hosted the event along with the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective. Join us for memories of childhood sweeties, illicit porn stashes, family secrets, and final goodbyes.
Listen to the full interview


Flip the Script

Interview with Amita Swadhin and Saba Waheed
Listen to the full interview


Giant Robot Q&A

By Ed Lin
September 11, 2013

This is one of these short books that you finish in a few hours and it resonates with you for weeks, maybe years and possibly for the rest of your life. Corona reads like a fascinating collection of journals and fiction mashed together in a backpack and bound as is. It’s quite fitting that author Bushra Rehman was a vagabond poet.

Bushra and I met not even a year after 9/11 and it’s a complete coincidence that I’m posting this on an anniversary of 9/11. 9/11 actually figures into the fabric of Corona, as narrator Razia Mirza, a Pakistani woman from Corona, Queens, travels through the country and through time, through troubled relationships and relationships with trouble. Smoking pot with asshole soon-to-be-ex-boyfriends. Drinking beer with racists in the burbs. It’s funny, it’s sad and, if you hang on long enough like Razia manages to, it’s funny again. The book is a brilliant rendering of life and if it is not always life-affirming, it is always genuine and honest.

Read the full Q&A here


The Margins

By Swati Marquez
September 10, 2013

I have been waiting for Bushra Rehman’s novel Corona for at least 14 years. Bushra and I first met at a South Asian Women’s Creative Collective (SAWCC) meeting in 1998 at the St. Marks’ Location of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Vividly, I remember her performing the following year for SAWCC’s “Tattoo This!” fundraiser and artists showcase at the Joseph Papp Public Theater—the petite poet towered in all black, a flowing skirt, combat boots, shaved head, and read “Marianna’s Beauty Salon” with incredible conviction and poise. From that performance, it was clear Bushra was a gifted storyteller, one who could weave keen observation, personal experience, creative imagination, and spiritual allegory with her stories. It was also clear that she had deep roots in Corona, Queens, and that she would be returning there in her writing.

Read full interview here


Love, inshallah interview

August 2013
“Love, InshAllah is proud to feature occasional author interview podcasts. This episode features Deonna Kelli Sayed interviewing Bushra Rehman about her Poets and Writers featured novel, Corona.

Deonna Kelli Sayed (DS): Here at Love, Inshallah, we are proud to focus on powerful personal stories from Muslim women and men, and sometimes, writers of other faiths, on love, marriage, family and life, in general. The 2011 call for Love, InshAllah book submissions asked for something simple yet transformative: American-Muslim women writing on something many people do not associate with the Muslim experience – love and relationships.

New York City-based poet, Bushra Rehman, found the idea of writing about love intriguing. Love, InshAllah inspired one chapter from her debut novel, Corona, a collection of stories about love, loss and transcultured identity, a book she says is:

Bushra Rehman (BR): Corona is a dark comedy about being South Asian in the United States. It is a poetic, on-the-road adventure novel starring Razia Mirza, a Pakistani girl from Queens, who gets disowned by her family, and who ends up taking a Greyhound bus and having adventures all over the country.

Listen to the program


Village Voice

By Heather Baysa
July 31 2013

Bushra Rehman’s first novel, Corona, is a fragmented, poetic, on-the-road adventure told from the perspective of the charismatic Razia Mirza. After coming of age in a tight Muslim community surrounding the first Sunni Masjid built in New York City, a rebellious streak leads to Razia’s excommunication, prompting the young heroine to flee. Stories that alternate between childhood memories and the misadventures of her young adulthood slowly reveal glimpses of the past that Razia is escaping and the Queens neighborhood that has shaped her life.

Read full article here


Poets & Writers

July/August 2013

“These stories have the heft of a novel and the elliptical grace of poetry. Rehman’s hot-blooded, ferociously funny, and deeply sensitive protagonist travels from the Muslim community of Queens to roadside Florida to the fogged windows of San Francisco and the Lower East Side. Along the way she falls into and out of love, takes frightening, exhilarating risks, repeatedly saves her own life, and comes into sharp-focus like a shaken photograph. She is about to gleefully dynamite every narrow stereotype you might have about a young Pakistani woman from Corona.”

Interview with Karen Russell
Read an excerpt from the novel


Asia Pacific Forum

July 13, 2010

“And the World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women — the first English anthology of Pakistani women writers — and Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry — the first English anthology of South Asian American poetry — have one thing in common aside from both being firsts: Bushra Rehman. In addition to reading from her work, we’ll talk to Bushra about what both these anthologies signify, for her and for South Asian English literatures.”

Listen to the program


SAJA Interview
And the World Changed

November 24, 2008

And the World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women” is an important new book of 25 short stories. SAJA is hosting a live webcast with the editor and several of the writers, including Bapsi Sidhwa (calling from Houston), Humera Afridi (calling from NYC), Bushra Rehman (calling frm San Francisco) and editor Muneeza Shamsie (calling from Karachi). MODERATOR: Kiran Khalid, SAJA Board member; producer, “Good Morning America”; and filmmaker, “We Are Not Free,” a look at press freedom in Pakistan.

Listen to program on SAJA


India Currents
Walking Down the World: The New Face of South Asian Poetry

by Shruti Swamy
Jul 02, 2008
read article


BBC Radio Show
featuring British Muslim and Muslim-American poets
Sing Your Own Psalms

In this two-part series, poet Shamshad Khan will be speaking to poets in Britain and the USA exploring just what it means to be a poet and Muslim here in the West. Shamshad interviews UK poets Imtiaz Dharker and Tariq Latiff, and Brother Dash and Bushra Rehman contribute from the USA.

December 2006
Listen to program on BBC Radio 4


WNYC-The Brian Lehrer Show

May 5, 2005

In celebration of the People’s Poetry Gathering, I read a poem about Corona. But I was so sick that day, you can hear me coughing throughout the show. I couldn’t quite figure out how to use the “cough” button.

listen to show


CITY PAGES: The News and Arts Weekly of the Twin Cities

July 13, 2005

This is a little article about the fabulous magazine Mizna’s humor satire issue.



May 26, 2002

This is a PG-13 view of my life. During this interview, this reporter had to put his notebook away since there was so much of our conversation he couldn’t report, but he did a great job with all the bio data he could.