The American Writers Museum: A Home for Writers and Their Readers

Fatimah Al-Sharif is an AWM member who lives in Saudi Arabia. While spending the winter in Chicago, she discovered the museum by chance. This is her story.

In my travels through America, I have noticed and appreciated how this country celebrates its heroes and keeps their legacies alive. The idea of “the only major museum solely dedicated” to celebrating certain people is an American tradition that always draws me in. Like the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington DC (another one of my favorite museums), the American Writers Museum (AWM) is great addition to the American portfolio of world-class cultural institutions.

In 2018, I was lucky to stay most of the winter in the wonderful Windy City. Chicago raised Ernest Hemingway, Henry Blake Fuller, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Scott Turow, Shel Silverstein, Floyd Dell, and Sandra Cisneros. It gave voice to authors from Carl Sandburg and Sherwood Anderson to Gwendolyn Brooks and many more — so it is fitting that this city is home to the American Writers Museum. Like many others who live in or visit Chicago, I feel lucky that the American Writers Museum found its home here.

While searching for events and places focused on American literature, I found the AWM. When I first visited the museum in February 2018, I was astonished by its exhibits, which are artistically and technologically stunning. I knew I wanted to visit again and again — so I became a member on that first visit.

Soon after, I discovered the AWM’s author events, which I could attend free as a member. My appreciation for American writers deepened as I attended author events and heard some of the most popular American writers talk about their writing process and the themes they write about. On a practical level, I love that the AWM is centrally located, making my visits safe and convenient.

The AWM deserves our ongoing support — not only because they rely on donors to grow and thrive, but also as a sign of gratitude to America’s great writers. When I think of how much I have been enriched by their work, I feel supporting their museum is one small way to say thank you. The AWM is their home, and ours too.

A stroll through the AWM always reminds to revisit my old favorites, like Faulkner, Hemingway, Anzaldúa, and Douglass — those who go deep into our hearts and minds and challenge us on issues related to moral paralysis and spiritual desolation. Their many and varied characters triumphed over adversity and provide the best kind of hope. The AWM inspires me with lines from the great writers about the American dream …Longfellow’s — “act in the living Present! /Heart within, and God o’erhead!”…Whitman’s “I hear America singing”… Dickens’ “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers—/That perches in the soul—”

I am grateful for many happy hours spent in the museum, and look forward to staying involved, whether I am in Chicago or at home in Saudi Arabia.

-Fatimah Al-Sharif

What have you experienced at the AWM? Share your member story in the comments!

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