British Association for American Studies


60 Seconds with Sima Jalal Kamali

The U.S. Studies Online 60 Seconds interview feature offers a short and informal introduction to a postgraduate, academic or non-academic specialist working in the American and Canadian Studies field or a related American and Canadian Studies association. 

For the next week we will be spending time with the postgraduate BAAS conference organisers Shima Jalal Kamali,  Sima Jalal Kamali and Anna Maguire, just in time for the conference on the 15 November.


Where are you right now?

I am in the postgraduate study space of our department.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?

As part of my current research is focused on the Civil Rights movements, I would like to go back to the March on Washington in 1963 to experience that historic moment in person.

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

I would like to invite the authors whose works have left a huge impact on my life: Henrik Ibsen, Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston and last but not least Maya Angelou.

You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?

The book that will keep me occupied on the island is The Collection of Maya Angelou’s Autobiographies. It contains all the six volumes in one and I would never get tired from reading them.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

The most memorable moment in my career so far has been being accepted to PhD at Sussex, which changed my life.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

Based on my own experience, the best advice I can give is to try to attend as many related workshops, seminars and conferences because it allows you to view your research in a broader scope and to make connections with other academics.

What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?

Right now, I am excited about co-organizing the next BAAS postgraduate conference at Sussex in November.

How did you come to your current area of research?

After doing my M.A dissertation on Toni Morrison’s trilogy Beloved, Jazz and Paradise, I really wanted to expand my research on Black Women’s literature. This interest introduced me to Maya Angelou’s autobiographical oeuvre, which became the focus of my PhD research.

What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?

I have not thought about this for a long time but I used to think I would become a marine biologist and maybe even a historian!

What book is currently on your bedside table?

I just started reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Americanah is a new book so it has just been there for two days.

What’s in your fridge right now?

Right now, the fridge has just the essentials e.g. dairy products, fruits and vegetables so I definitely need to go shopping this week.