Introducing ‘Becoming American’

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? /

The world would split open.

            I read these profound words by the American poet, Muriel Rukeyser, last year, which was much too late in my life. But they had a profound impact on me. As a non-white, minority woman in America I have thought about this multiple times, every day. A time of Pink Tax, violence directed at the East-Asian community and specifically Asian women during the COVID-19 pandemic and the social media movement #herstory, planted seeds for the ‘Becoming American’ project.           

Becoming American is by women but it is for all Americans. It documents stories of resilience and hope, of breaking barriers and achieving success. It also tells of loss, pain, and hardship. Additionally, it acknowledges the silence of women who had the opportunity to share their fears and apprehensions through this platform but decided to stay quiet. At times, the cost of raising voice might outweigh its benefits. 

            Each of the 10 women featured in ‘Becoming American’ had to overcome one singular barrier before they could take on more: They were all born outside of the United States of America. All storytellers are residents of the State of Maryland. Why so, you would ask? It is because of my belief in the power of local journalism in connecting neighbors with each other. My years of working with local communities in Western Pennsylvania has strengthened my belief in storytelling as a crucial tool for information as well as reconciliation.             

Join me on the below mentioned social media pages, every Wednesday, Sept. 1- Nov. 10, as I introduce you to these powerful stories of what it takes to ‘make it’ as an immigrant woman in America? Each story is unique, just as the woman it belongs to is, in her country of origin and journey to America. We all can learn something from these stories. I feel humbled for the trust with which these stories were shared with me and pass on that trust to you; the readers. Please help share these stories, pass them on and help build a movement for more women to shatter ceilings. 

            Thank you for your help in documenting better stories. 

Writer and Producer: Saima Adil Sitwat 

Author: American Muslim: An Immigrant’s Journey

Follow, like and share from: 

Facebook: @betterstories4all   Instagram: @saimasitwat_author    Twitter: @SaimaSitwat  LinkedIn: Saima Sitwat

Funding for Becoming American has been provided by Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC)

Partners (listed in alphabetical order)

#herstory #welcomingAmerica #immigrantstories  #betterstories #americanstories

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American Muslim captures a remarkable odyssey of an audacious woman, an immigrant, a mother and a brilliant leader. It’s powerful and honest. It reminds us all what it means to be an American, how it’s up to each and every one of us to make America meet its promise and ambition, no matter where we came from, no matter where we work or where we pray. Saima’s writing is captivating and engaging. It’s a beautiful memoir, nuanced and honest. In this book, you will learn a lot of things: about American Islam, about being a first-generation immigrant, about being a mom and a good neighbor. And if you read carefully, I guarantee it — you will learn a few things about yourself. I know I did. 

~ Mila Sanina, executive director and editor of

A profoundly honest account of the immigrant experience that confronts preconceived notions heads on. It never idolizes or vilifies either the culture left behind or the newly adopted one but looks for a gracious and graceful understanding of both. You’ll fall in love with the narrator as she discovers herself.

~ Kornelia Tancheva, Ph.D., The Hillman University librarian and director of the University Library System, University of Pittsburgh 

Saima’s memoir, American Muslim, captures autobiographical details of her life, as an educated, professional girl from Pakistan who migrated as a married woman to the United States of America. The vivid descriptions of the initial difficulties that she faced make an interesting read. The book also details racial disparities systemically rooted in the American society.  Motivated by her desire to be part of the movement to do social good, Saima has found her calling in building bridges across identities and cultures. 

~ Sayeed Hasan Khan, former BBC journalist, author and a social activist who marched on Washington in 1963, with Martin Luther King Jr. 

American Muslim written by Saima Adil Sitwat illustrates the process of cultural assimilation of an immigrant in the New World. The landscape of this journey is painted with the brilliant choices of otherwise minor events selected with deep observation. The journey of a physician’s young wife begins with a Karachi- Chicago flight in 2003. Gradually unfolded are the family’s bright and hazy days, which are a delight to read.  Sitwat writes with sensitivity the struggle with sweet memories of her old home and contrasts it with the loneliness of the new home. Depressive and jolly, the high and low swings of life are depicted with keen insight. As our narrator exchanges her place in life— from a humble library volunteer to a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, she meets limitless possibilities of the American dream – one of them becoming the first woman president of one of Pittsburgh’s leading mosques. Sitwat’s prose is straightforward, concise, fluid and engaging. It is difficult to put the book down and it’s well- worth the read. American Muslim will warm your heart and fill in a much-needed void in immigrants’ stories.

~ S. Shaukat Ali Zaidi, Pakistani- Canadian author, essayist and poet

Saima’s story is the story of her own experiences, her own voice.  But it is also a story of common heartbreaks, common jolts of happiness, and the hope, and pride, that ties all of us to each other. 2020 has been a year for awakenings, none all that great, but all necessary.  At the heart of these communal awakenings is the belief that diversity is not to be feared of but to be celebrated. It is not a weakness but is the only form of strength we need to survive.  And, in this diverse country, until we start treating each other as equals none of us will be truly free.  Saima’s story of her life in the U.S., her education in Americanization, her continuous struggle to learn, unlearn, and relearn, her daily inner struggle to juggle her multiple roles and responsibilities, truly show immigration to the United States of America is not for the faint of heart.  It takes constant effort, endless perseverance, and yet remains fragile and can be broken by a slight comment of a coworker or a neighbor.  Saima’s story illustrates how the definition of a migrant in the textbooks as one “seeking permanent residency outside the country of origin” is truly understated.  Through her story, as much as our own, we affirm that ‘origin’ is anything but one single place. And, that is a really good thing for all of us. 

~Dr. Müge Finkel, Graduate School for Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), University of Pittsburgh