Author Questionnaire Extraordinaire: Samira Ahmed

This post is one in a series introducing the contributors. We hope you’ll stick around to learn more about us and to follow our writing adventures in and around Chicago!

*waves* I’m Samira. I write YA. And poetry. And short stories. Also, essays. But mostly YA these days. I’ve lived in the City of Chicago (with a 13 year break) for 13+years.

So here’s some questions. I have some answers. Some of them are totally made up. Because the first rule of answering questionnaires:


Who is your fictional hero?

To me, heroes loom largest in childhood when you can literally look up to someone. And when I was a kid, I often imagined life in the little log cabin of Laura Ingalls. Never mind the atrocious indoor plumbing situation. I wanted to run wild in the prairie and make molasses candy in the snow and have calico dresses and survive a frontier childhood.

Who is your real-life hero?

I’m not gonna lie on this one. There are a lot of people in real life and through history that I look up to, but I’ve never really thought of anyone as my personal hero. And those people I admire, probably change to suit my life at that moment. Right now, it’s these guys. Because, CHICAGO.


If you were a fictional character, who would you be?

Growing up, I couldn’t really imagine myself as any character because no character really looked like me, felt like me. That’s starting to change, but even with that, I still have a hard time really seeing myself as any character.

But if there could be an Indian Nancy Drew…Yeah, I’d be her. Because of my (solely aspirational) sleuthing abilities and gumption. Also, because the TV show Nancy Drew got to kiss Parker Stevenson (Frank Hardy) in the late 70s. 4th grade Life Goals. That is all.


What is happiness to you?

Sun.Sky.Beach.My little family.

The startling good fortune of these moments of life’s perfection.


What inspires you to write?

Turns of phrase in my favorite poems and short stories that I read over and over.

The extraordinary moments in quotidian life.

My strong desire to have my children, and all children, walk into a bookstore or a library and see themselves on a shelf.

If you could give three books to every young adult, what would they be?

Okay, I’m gonna straight up skirt around this question and give you 2 short stories and a book (of connected short stories). In each of these selections, young people face stark choices that pit them against others and themselves. Every human should read these.

1) Everyday Use by Alice Walker
2) Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates
3) The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

What’s your favorite work of art (book/movie/song/sculpture/etc.) with a Chicago connection?

One. Single. Favorite? Now, that’s just cruel. I can’t choose. The choices are endless and all important.

Don’t believe me? Here’s John Cusack in the greatest Chicago-showcasing movie, ever, High Fidelity. Telling it like it is:


And here’s my favorite Chicago Art Institute montage. Go. See. All of them.


Also, this skyline. Architecture is Art. Fight me.


What’s your favorite hidden gem in Chicago?

Gwendolyn Brooks. Yeah, I’m cheating again. But she is one of our greatest poets. And she lived here and I heard her read here and  you must read When You Have Forgotten Sunday.

And here’s what she thought of our fair city: “(L)iving in the city, I wrote differently than I would have if I had been raised in Topeka, KS…I am an organic Chicagoan. Living there has given me a multiplicity of characters to aspire for. I hope to live there the rest of my days. That’s my headquarters.”

The Fountain of Time. Lorado Taft, 1920. An overlooked but brilliant sculpture on Chicago’s South Side.


But pictures don’t do this work justice, so here’s a video (dramatic music=bonus).

HOLD UP. That’s all? I didn’t even get a chance to add my favorite Chicago parade scene from a movie. Here it is. You’re welcome.


Version 2

This post is brought to you by Samira Ahmed at

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