where the writers are
Minneapolis Star Tribune Feature

Samina Ali's Second Life and First Novel

Article by Sarah Williams

Samina Ali had a critical question for her doctor, one that she feared would decide her future. "What part of the brain," she asked, "does a person need in order to write?"

"You need this part, this part, this part and this part," he told her, pointing to the front, back and sides of his head. A writer, he explained, uses the entire brain -- both left and right hemispheres -- to imagine, remember, theorize and calculate.

The news devastated Ali, 33, a budding author who grew up in the Twin Cities and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1993. Her first novel was still a rough draft, and her mind and body had been ransacked by two brain hemorrhages she suffered while giving birth to her son, Ishmael, in 1999. It had been months since her seven-day coma and two-week stay in the neurological intensive-care unit at University of California Hospital in San Francisco, where she lives. But she still was experiencing short-term memory loss, blinding headaches and eyesight that would capriciously come and go.