Najwa Zebian was born on 27th April 1990 in Lebanon.
Lebanon was her home where she had her family, her friends, and where she attended school, like any other normal girl, her age.
Najwa Zebian Childhood
She attended a private school in Lebanon and according to her, she was bullied at school all the time, emotionally not physically. She had no idea and was too young to know about her own feelings.
The others around her made her feel that she was too sensitive and too kind and as a child, she had no idea what these words sensitive and naïve meant. She just believed and internalized whatever people told her about herself.
She started believing it and believing that being sensitive was actually a bad thing. A young child’s mind is like clay and can be molded whichever way. Najwa Zebian started to believe at a young age that she was too sensitive and what she felt made her weak.
The young mind internalized everything and she started to feel weak. She remembers days in school when her classmates would gang up against her and make her feel excluded.
They knew how terrible she would feel and how she would cry about it and feel herself less than the others. She describes those days as a dark time where others would laugh at her for being sad and for crying.
As a young innocent child, Najwa Zebian’s mind just could not fathom why people were treating her so badly. She did not think and did not want to believe the world could treat someone that way.
To add to the misery at school, her life at home was not easy too, she did not live completely with her parents from the age of 8 to 16, she lived with different relatives. That was when she learned, as a youngster, to hide her feelings.
She felt no one cared, no one was interested in how she was feeling. She felt she was being strong by hiding her sorrow. She believed she did not matter to anything. It can be so destructive for a child.
In her own words,” I felt like I was in the margin of life.” That translated into her adulthood.
She grew up not seeing or knowing her own value, believing that she had nothing to offer this world. That’s when she started penning down her feelings and thoughts.
“Good Enough! What does it even mean? Good enough for what? For whom?”
When people read her work and responded, thanking her for putting their feelings and thoughts to paper, saying things they could never say, she realized something.
She realized that the world was full of people who were made to feel that they were not good enough. There were hundreds of people out there who felt that they have no purpose in life, and they’re not good enough.
Najwa Zebian moved to Canada during the Lebanon War. She was an adult and had started penning down her thoughts. She started writing poetry, sharing it on her #instapoetry and that was when she started gaining popularity.
Zebian completed her Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2010, a Bachelor of education in General Science and Biology in 2012, and a Master of Education in Curriculum Studies in 2013, all at the University of Western Ontario.
Her first teaching assignment at the University of Western Ontario was to teach writing to a group of young Libyan refugees. While teaching the young refugees, she was taken back in time and saw her 16-year-old self. That was where she found the courage to resume her journey of writing.
Najwa Zebian Career
An extract from Najwa Zebian’s poem….
The first time I met you, I felt my heart go to you and coming back from you, to you and coming back from you.
My heart said be careful remember what happened the last time you tried to save someone.
So I put my heart on hold until the next time I met you. This time my eyes screamed at you save me, save me.
I guess we’re equal now, so I went to the place where I normally go, when I don’t know what to feel.
The night she wrote this poem Najwa, Zebian remembers waking up with actual pain in her heart. She cried herself to sleep and woke up with the pain still as fresh.
She says that she called her friend and said she never wanted to feel that pain again. She never wanted to ever write a heartbreak poem again about anyone. Her friend told her that the problem was not with anyone else, it was deep within her.
So she thought deeper that if she was convinced that this is her story if she herself has accepted it, why does it still hurt so bad every time? Is it because she equated her work with what she got in return? Maybe not. Maybe it was the shame of exposing her heart.
Najwa Zebian shares her definition of courage.
“Courage means to share what’s in your heart.”
She encourages her readers to allow their hearts to be brave, to liberate their hearts.
Najwa Zebian self-published her first book in January 2016 called, “Mind Platter”. She describes it as, “a compilation of reflections of life as seen through the eyes of an educator, student and human who experienced the early days in silence.
” It helped raise $2300 where 100% of the profit for the first month was donated to the Syrian refugee fund in London. She also distributed a percentage of the profits to summer activities ran by the city for high school students.
The revised and expanded version of the book was published in March 2018 with Andrews McMeel Publishing. People started to recognize her work through social media.
Nectar Of Pain
Her second book, “The Nectar Of Pain” was a collection of poetry and prose self-published in October 2016. She wrote about feelings that come out from a painful heartbreak.
A revised and expanded version of the book was published in March 2018 with Andrews McMeel Publishing. An educator, a poet, an author, now it was time for her to be an activist.
She took part in the forefront of the #metoo movement when she talked about what people go through when they come out with sexual harassment and the investigations that follow. She spoke about the pain the victim goes through. And she spoke about an authority figure where she worked as a teacher.
This was in the year 2017. And she wrote, “I was blamed for it. I was told not to talk about it. I was told that it wasn’t that bad. I was told to get over it.” Her poem went on to be featured in news stories about the #metoo movement from The Huffington Post, BBC News, CBS News, and Glamour.
Sparks Of Phoenix
At the age of 16, Najwa Zebian experienced discrimination, abuse, and displacement when she moved from Lebanon to Canada. She says that she always wanted a home where she would be loved unconditionally.
The home is in you according to her, so don’t go looking for homes and people and places. Najwa Zebian released her third book, “Sparks Of Phoenix” last year in 2019.
Speaking of “Sparks Of Phoenix”, Najwa Zebian says that the book allowed her to build her home inside of herself. She no longer needed to look outside or get people to tell her she is worthy.
Hailing from a Muslim community, Najwa Zebian attended an Islamic school in Lebanon. As is with the traditions in Muslim households, she and her sister started covering their heads and wearing a hijab at a very young age.
It was normal for girls to be wearing a hijab. They were celebrated and considered to be good, loyal, and faithful. Both she and her sister wore hijab.
When they moved to Canada at the age of 16, she continued covering her head. She comments that at such a young age she was not aware that people might treat her differently, because she looked different.
She recalls an incident when, in her second year of University, she got on a bus. There was an elderly man who kept staring her down the whole way. While getting down, he said to her that since she was in Canada, she did not need to dress like that.
This was her first experience of being judged by the way she dressed. After many sleepless nights where she cried her eyes out, she decided to take it off and relieve herself of that.
It was also used as a way to raise awareness and make young girls feel, that relieving yourself of this does not mean you’re a bad person. It does not define you.
No Labels Please
According to Najwa Zebian, she felt that she was being labeled as the first Muslim author to do something or the first hijabi author to do something.
She wanted to be known as the first human author and activist. She does not believe that emphasis should be laid on how a woman dresses rather than who she is and the work she does.
“I don’t see myself that way and I feel that my manners and the business that I’m spreading into this world are more important than the way that I dress.”
A Muslim at heart, she believes in Islam, which sees the human heart before anything else. These strong emotions that she felt made her no longer see herself covering the way she did before.
“I’m going to stop this cycle. I’m going to break this cultural norm or religious belief that just does not make any sense to me.”
And she did, leading the way for the next generation to say, “She broke it. I can break it too.”
Her poetry and prose give people the strength to stand up and say no. Those who feel helpless and hopeless feel empowered and find their courage deep within themselves. They know that they can change, that there is hope.
Commonly Asked Questions…
Where Is Najwa Zebian’s Ethnicity?
Najwa Zebian was born in Lebanon and moved to Canada at the age of 16, forced by the outbreak of the Lebanon war in 2006.
How Old Is Najwa Zebian?
Najwa Zebian was born on the 27th of April, 1990, which makes her 30 years old today in 2020.-
How Many Books Has Najwa Written?
Najwa Zebian has authored three books, “Mindplatter”, “Nectar Of Pain”, and “Sparks Of Phoenix”.
Najwa Zebian is an activist, author, educator, and poet. She gained popularity through Instagram where she shared her poetry and later on by playing an active role in the METOO movement.
An achiever at the age of 29, Najwa Zebian is leading the way for the empowerment of women all over the world. She is based in Canada and has written three books of poetry and prose. Subsequently, her Tedx Talks and her interviews on Canadian News outlets such as CBC, Entertainment Tonight, and others have gained her immense fame and popularity.
Featured Image credit
Source: Wikipedia Commons (The image was extracted from this source) Author of image:Farrah Benni (According to the Wikipedia link)