Tarfia Faizullah was born in 1980 in Brooklyn, New York City to Dr. AM Faizullah and Fahmida Faizullah, and she has one brother, Tausif. She was raised in Midland, Texas. A Trinity Lifer, while at Trinity she served as a Chapel Prefect, and she was involved in theater, journalism, choir, and was the manager of the varsity basketball team. As an Upper School student, Tarfia started The Coffeehouse, an open mic/variety show. Twenty plus years later, The Coffeehouse continues to be a beloved Trinity tradition. Tarfia also started a poetry corner in the Upper School and was vice president of student council her senior year. She earned her B.A. Liberal Arts, from the University of Texas at Austin, and a M.F.A., Poetry, from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2009
In 2006, after attending a poetry panel at the University of Texas which featured the Bengali author Mahmud Rahman, she was inspired to begin researching the survivors of rape by Pakistani soldiers during the 1971 Liberation War, the Birangona. After applying and receiving a Fulbright Scholarship, she traveled to Bangladesh, in 2010 to interview survivors.
Seam, her first book, was a collection of poems that were inspired by the many interviews she had with the Birangona and won the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Award. Tarfia is also the author of the poetry collection Registers of Illuminated Villages.
In addition to being a recipient of a Fulbright fellowship, she has received three Pushcart prizes, Drake University Emerging Writer Award, Poetry Magazine Frederick Bock Prize, Great Lakes College New Writers’ Award, VIDA Book of the Year Award, and countless other honors. Tarfia’s writing appears widely in the U.S. and abroad. She has been featured at the Liberation War Museum of Bangladesh, the Library of Congress, the Fulbright Conference, the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, the Radcliffe Seminars, NYU, Barnard, UC Berkeley, the Poetry Foundation, the Clinton School of Public Service, and elsewhere.
Tarfia’s writing has been translated into Bengali, Persian, Chinese, and Tamil, and is part of the theater production Birangona: Women of War. In 2016, Tarfia was recognized by Harvard Law School as one of 50 Women Inspiring Change, and is a 2019 USA Artists Fellow.
Tarfia is a writer, editor, educator, and artist. She teaches graduate classes at the university level, most recently, she was a visiting artist at the Art Institute of Chicago, and before that, a visiting graduate professor at the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program. When it comes to philanthropy and service work, she teaches youth community workshops for organizations such as Bangla International School, Young Chicago Authors, the Muslim Community Center in Dallas and the Room Project, based in Detroit.
She mentors up and coming young writers who regularly go on to have successful careers in literature and the arts. Tarfia serves on several nonprofit boards including the Muslim Community Center, Orison Books and BreakBread Literacy Project. She is passionate about working with youth, particularly high schoolers, youth of color, and helping to create a space where they can dream big and grow creatively.
Tarfia has found ways to give back to Trinity School by lending her voice to Trinity’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and hosting writing workshops with current students of color and their allies.