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Photos by Patrick Dodson / University at Albany

Moderator Alyssa Lotmore and Aaliyah Bilal at the University at Albany Recital Hall during the evening conversation on Thursday, Feb. 8 (photo by Paul Grondahl); Bilal meets with UAlbany students following her afternoon event; Bilal and moderator Ian Ross Singleton . 

(Photo credit: Tasha Pinelo)


Aaliyah Bilal

Thursday, February 8, 2024

4:30 p.m. — Craft Talk, Standish Room (3rd Floor), Science Library. See map.
7:30 p.m.— Reading / Conversation, Recital Hall, UAlbany Performing Arts Center. See map.

Both events at University at Albany, 

1400 Washington Avenue, Albany NY 12222

Free and open to the public. No registration required.

Aaliyah Bilal’s debut story collection, Temple Folk (2023), is a groundbreaking portrait of the lived experiences of Black Muslims—a community rarely featured in U.S. literature—as they grapple with the challenges of faith, family, and freedom in America.


Bilal, who grew up in a Black Muslim family outside Washington, D.C., presents a diverse cast of flawed, heroic, and memorable characters. Edward P. Jones said, “Temple Folk is more than a special literary accomplishment, it is a gift of glorious songs…. this gift should be praised from as many rooftops as possible.”


A finalist for the 2023 National Book Award for Fiction, it was named one of TIME magazine's “100 Must-Read Books of 2023.”

Aaliyah Bilal, credit Tasha Pinelo
Aaliyah Bilal's Temple Folk


“Temple Folk is more than a special literary accomplishment, it is a gift of glorious songs. The people in the nation of Islam have not appeared very often in literature. Now, Aaliyah Bilal arrives with a splendid and grand collection of 10 stories that, with sensitivity and insight and skill, give us a world of people, our loved ones, and neighbors, who decided that life might be better in the nation. We have long needed these stories, these songs, and this gift should be praised from as many rooftops as possible.” —Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Known World


“Obviously a student of history, and even more so, a student of the human heart, Aaliyah Bilal lays bare the interior lives of Black Muslims in these ten extraordinary stories. Across decades, generations, and continents, Bilal's finely wrought and unforgettable characters grapple with religion, culture, family, desire, and most compellingly, themselves. Every story was an eye-opener for me. Bilal is a gifted storyteller, and Temple Folk is quite simply a masterpiece.” –Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Life of Church Ladies

“Aaliyah Bilal is a gifted storyteller who understands how to build a world that feels both particular in its contours and universal in the challenges, triumphs and yearnings of its characters. The stories that make up Temple Folk explore love, faith, loyalty and disillusionment while offering up gorgeous langauge and unforgettable imagery. Temple Folk feels like no collection I have read before and announces Bilal as a literary talent worth championing.” –Angela Flournoy, Author of The Turner House

“A beautiful and vivid collection of stories. Aaliyah Bilal is the truth. Grateful for her voice in the world.” –Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author

“Temple Folk is a remarkable debut that does many things at once. It opens the door to a people we barely know, yet opens our eyes to the struggles that make us all human. People surprise and they disappoint. They stumble spiritually and soar morally. They love with all they have and lose all they've got. Put between faith and family, duty and self, Temple folk live through all the ties that bind and break.” –Marlon James, Winner of the 2015 Booker Prize

Cosponsored by the English Department’s Creative Writing Program and Young Writers Project.

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