"The Safed House submissions this year came from immigrants and refugees from all over the world," says Hannah Lillith Assadi, head judge of the Safed House Essay Contest. "Every year our judges have difficult decisions to make, but this year, the essays were full of resilience, creativity, beauty and wisdom, that the award prcoess was particularly challenging."
"It is with great pleasure we announce that First Place Award goes to Samreen Jamil, a Pakistani immigrant, whose gorgeously written essay describes the intricate connection between memory and home," continues Assadi. The Second Place will be awsarded to Kholoud Hussein, a Syrian refugee, for her intense story about leaving home in the thick of war. The three runners up are Francisco Valenzuela Angel, Lillian Sabuni, a Congolese refugee and Eh Paw, a refugee with roots in Burma. Francisco's essay confronts the hauntedness that home can become for someone who is not accepted within it. Lillian's essays creates a beaufiful allegory for home despite hardship. Eh Paw's essay viscerally evokes the poetry of home left behind.
Samreen will receive a $500 award and Kholoud will receive a $250 award. Both will be interviewed for a testimionial of their story, to appear on the Safed House website.
The runners-up will join the two top ranked essayists in a writing and video workshop. All will receive college essay mentoring from Brooklyn-based Ivy-league graduate and published author.
The contest was open to any student not yet pursuing a higher education, i.e. in high school, who migrated to the US during their own lifetime. The contest was made available to students in the Phoenix, AZ area including Alhambra High School, Dobson High School and Tempe High School. For the first time Safed House expanded the essay contest to New Dawn High School, a Brooklyn, New York school.
A team of seven judges selected the winners. The head judge Assadi holds an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University School of the Arts. Recently she was awarded the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters. Her novel Sonroa was a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Debut Fiction Award and she has a forthcoming novel to be published by Riverhead. In 2018 The National Book Foundation named her a 5 under 35 honoree. This year Safed House Judges also included: Roger Lurie, Barbara Trapido-Lurie, Maha Kapageridis, Lindsay Rayball and Michael Rayball. This team is also on the advance planning committee for Safed House. This award is announced annually on World Refugee Day.
“This project is supported in part by the Arizona Commission on the Arts which receives support from the State of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts.”