Rep. Ilhan Omar, Somali refugee turned congresswoman, to publish memoir in 2020 

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., center, at the Capitol this week.
(Andrew Harnik / AP)

Rep. Ilhan Omar, who made headlines last November after becoming the first Somali American ever elected to the U.S. Congress, will tell her life story in an upcoming memoir, Forbes reports.

Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, is writing “This Is What America Looks Like” for publisher Dey Street Books. The memoir will cover Omar’s childhood in Somalia, which she left as a child with her family after the outbreak of the Somali civil war, and the years she spent as a refugee in Kenya before moving to the United States in 1995.

In addition to being the first Somali American to serve in Congress, Omar is also the first woman of color to represent Minnesota in the U.S. House, as well as one of the two first Muslim women to serve in Congress. (The other, elected at the same time as Omar, is Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat.)


Dey Street executive editor Alessandra Bastagli told Forbes that she was “thrilled” to publish Omar’s memoir, scheduled for publication in April 2020.

“Her voice on the page is very much as it is in real life — fresh and positive even when she is tackling serious issues, with real empathy and deep knowledge,” Bastagli said. “Her story counters everything we keep hearing from the current administration and the right-wing media about refugees, immigrants, Muslims and women. This memoir presents an urgent and important counter-narrative.”

Omar worked as an educator before getting into politics. She was elected to the Minnesota state legislature in 2016 and ran for U.S. Congress two years later, defeating Republican Jennifer Zielinski by a 56-point margin. She is the first U.S. congresswoman in history to wear a hijab, a head covering that some Muslim women choose to wear.

Steve Ross, the literary agent representing Omar, called the congresswoman “smart and strong and thoughtful and empathetic all to a surprising degree.”

“She inspires me in how seemingly effortlessly she excels in juggling so many crucial responsibilities, as a parent and as a leading voice in the new Congress during a time of great upheaval,” Ross told Forbes.