Your future self, your past self

Category:  The Arts
Friday, September 20th, 2019 at 11:23 AM
Your future self, your past self by Abby Martinson
The front and back cover of 'Rain and Embers,' written by Edinboro graduate Ali Nuri.

Edinboro graduate releases book, discusses the asylum experience

By the time Edinboro alumnus Ali Nuri was 3 years old, he and his family were in a Saudi Arabia refugee camp, fleeing persecution in Iraq from Saddam Hussein. During his time there, Nuri recalls having little to no access to food, water, medicine and other living necessities. Meanwhile, his days were spent walking around barefoot, wearing the same clothes every day and struggling to even properly breathe due to harsh conditions.

Finally, at the age of 7, Nuri and his family were able to leave the camp, making their way to the U.S.

After moving around the country for some time, they would end up in Erie, where he then located resources to tend to his autistic brother, as well as the proper tools they would use to rebuild their lives.

Each year, thousands like Nuri navigate the complicated process of seeking asylum in the U.S. for protection from war, violence and persecution. This experience, and many others, is captured in the alum’s newly released book “Rain and Embers.” 

Available both digitally and in paperback through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, “Rain and Embers” has the writer diving deep into being a refugee and “the personal consequences that the forces of discrimination, persecution and brutality have had in shaping both who Nuri has become and the modern world at large,” as stated in his press release.

In the memoir, he speaks of the hope and community he was able to find here in the U.S., specifically in Erie.

Regarding the nearby city, Nuri noted in an interview that it was the place he truly learned what it meant to be an American, “where a community of people would come together to open their hearts and their lives to help those who were less fortunate.”

However, Nuri did have to experience some initial mistreatment and racism from his peers, especially during his early education years when he was still learning English. He specifically recalls many of his teachers making little effort to help him in the process of learning English, leaving him feeling discouraged. Even worse, Nuri can recall being spit on in second grade on the school bus, and he would also hear the children sing the song “Bombs Over Baghdad.”

After his elementary years, Nuri attended East High School and was able to find a group of

classmates also from Iraq. Together, they formed a support system to help one another with navigating the racism and poverty they faced.
After graduating high school, Nuri continued his education at Edinboro University, majoring in urban planning. Fortunately, he was able to thoroughly enjoy his time spent at Edinboro not only due to the students he met, but also because of the professors, who he states, “became instrumental in shaping the person I have become.”

Upon graduation, Nuri moved first to Pittsburgh before leaving for Las Vegas, where he would soon pursue his dream of finally writing a book. In fact, Nuri can recall the very moment that inspired him to write “Rain and Embers.”

On a late-night trip from Las Vegas to Pittsburgh last fall to see his family, Nuri started writing the poem “Dead Matter,” which he said was about “the futility of cities and the hubris of humanity continuing its harmful trajectory in light of climate change.”

As he gazed out the window on his plane watching civilization, he stated that he could recall “feeling guilty but realizing that this is the way our infrastructure was built. We live this way because the alternative is virtually impossible in the industrialized West and our proliferation has outpaced our adoption of renewables.”

Stemming from that moment on the plane, Nuri explained that he had much more to say than what he could put in just one poem.
To this day, the author says his healing from personal trauma is still a “work in progress.” However, he has writing to thank in helping with the process.

“Once those memories and emotions were written down on paper, it became slightly easier to work through them,” said Nuri.
In addition, he makes sure to remind himself of the things he is grateful for. “[I have a] community of loved ones who always listen and remind me of how far I’ve come.”

He added: “This world isn’t without hope; you are never truly alone. You are accompanied by your future self and your past self, at the very least. One is an experienced survivor, which is an accomplishment of its own. That person who carried on despite all odds to bring you where you are will get you through. The other is a guide leading you toward a better life and what could become a much brighter future.”

“As a survivor, that traumatic experience is behind you and your future is unwritten,” he concluded.

As of right now, Nuri lives in Las Vegas working as a software engineer. Eventually, he hopes to move back to Erie.

In the meantime, Nuri plans on continuing to write poetry and openly sharing his story with the world. His other work can be found on his website

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