Four Questions with Naseem Jamnia
Author: Emmanuel Henderson
June 6, 2023
Lambda Literary has played a pivotal role in nurturing the development of exceptional new LGBTQ writers through the Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices, internships, and writing and performance opportunities. Supporting emerging LGBTQ writers is central to our mission: they are the future of LGBTQ literature.
The Judith A. Markowitz Award for Exceptional New LGBTQ Writers recognizes LGBTQ-identified writers whose work demonstrates their strong potential for promising careers. The award includes a cash prize of $1,500. This year, the award goes to Naseem Jamnia and Maya Salameh.
Naseem Jamnia (they/them) is the Locus-nominated author of The Bruising of Qilwa, a novella introducing their queernormative, Persian-inspired world, which was shortlisted for the IAFA’s Crawford award. Named the inaugural Samuel R. Delany Fellow, they’ve also received fellowships from Lambda Literary and the Otherwise Award, and their nonfiction has appeared in The Rumpus, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, New Orleans Review, Sarah Gailey’s Stone Soup newsletter, and other venues. They are the managing editor of Sword & Kettle Press, a tiny independent publishing house of feminist speculative writing, and their debut middle grade horror, Sleepaway, is out in 2025 from Aladdin. Find out more and sign up for their newsletter at naseemwrites.com, or follow them on social @jamsternazzy.
How has access to queer literature/queer stories impacted your life as a queer person and shaped you as a queer writer?
When I was growing up, the closest I saw my gender portrayed in stories was with the “girl disguises herself as a boy to do the thing” trope, a la Mulan and Tamora Pierce’s Alanna books. I had to resort to fanfiction to explore queerness in terms of sexuality (and even then, rarely or never saw a portrayal of someone on the asexual spectrum). Much of my own writing growing up explored these issues inadvertently and vaguely, as I did not know what I was exploring at the time. However, once terms like “nonbinary” or understanding of transness outside a binary entered the public lexicon in the last 10-ish years, the wealth of queer literature we’ve seen explicitly including various identities has made a world of difference, helping me to understand and embrace my own various identities, which has since allowed me to live as my truest self. With this clearer understanding, I’ve taken the lack of what I saw growing up to turn into what I wish I had seen and where I wish we can go in the future. I’m grateful so many queer books exist now for kids and adults alike to explore the multiplicity of queer experiences.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process (besides finishing)?
I love working on the planning stage of revisions. I’m a dreaded plantser, so much of my first draft is exploratory. I spend a ton of time afterward with white boards, a marked-up manuscript, post-it notes, and the like to turn a disaster fire of a first draft into something legible. This is the stage where the story really comes together, and I find it immensely satisfying to plan! (Then I have to write it up again, alas.)
What’s your emotional support writing habit?
I’m on team “reward yourself with food whenever you do the thing,” so I often bribe myself with snacks (Flaming Hot Cheetos con Limón is a fave). And finishing anything leads to a milkshake. It’s gotten to the point where my agent will remind me to get a milkshake anytime I turn in a draft or when something good happens, so maybe it’s turned from emotional support to a problem…
What’s next for you?
My debut middle grade horror, SLEEPAWAY, comes out from Aladdin in 2025. I also have a story in THE WHITE GUY DIES FIRST, a YA anthology of BIPOC-authored horror reimagining classic tropes edited by my dear friend and incredible author Terry J. Benton-Walker, out in 2024. My story reimagines body horror (with a splash of creature feature) from a trans perspective. I currently have some projects out to editors as well, including another installment in the same universe as my debut novella, The Bruising of Qilwa, so I hope that will get picked up soon!