Author Profile – Shahd Alshammari

Shahd Alshammari - Head above water

As a University of Kent Alumna, I studied English Literature with great faculty and scholars of literature. I was inspired by the various scholars I encountered and their research areas. At the same time, I always knew I wanted to write. I started writing poetry, fiction, and finally came to narrative nonfiction.

My work, Head Above Water, is published by a British publisher, Neem Tree Press. This made me incredibly happy as an Arab author living abroad but having studied in England. I am thrilled that Head Above Water is born in London, and is available at UK bookstores and the University of Kent’s wonderful bookstore Blackwell’s where I spent so many days staring at authors’ names and books. It was a place I often admired and sought to find meaning in. I loved the people who worked at the bookstore and the students, scholars, and visitors who frequented the bookstore.

It was amazing to see the quietness and stillness in the same place, meshed with life, books, and inspiring names. Abdulrazak Gurnah, Noble Prize Winner, was on my PhD defence committee and I remember thinking how inspiring it was to have a published author and academic sit across from me. Today, I hope readers will consider reading Head Above Water: Reflections on Illness and consider it a tribute to Kent, to academia, to scholars I met, friends I made, and to allow us room to consider mortality, disability, friendship, and survival.

From the publisher’s synopsis:

Head Above Water takes us into a space of intimate conversations on illness and society’s stigmatization of disabled bodies. We are invited in to ask the big questions about life, loss, and the place of the other. The narrative builds a bridge that reminds us of our common humanity and weaves the threads that tie us all together. Through conversations about women’s identities, bodies, and our journeys through life, we arrive at a politics of love, survival, and hope.


Author Bio: Shahd Alshammari is Assistant professor of English Literature and the author of Notes on the Flesh (2017) and Head Above Water (Neem Tree Press, London, 2022).