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University Commencement

G. Willow Wilson

Honorary Degree Recipient: Doctor of Letters

G. Willow WIlson
Photo credit: Amber French

Rutgers is proud to bestow upon G. Willow Wilson an honorary doctor of letters degree. Wilson is an American comics writer, prose author, essayist, and journalist.  A New Jersey native, Wilson is the co-creator of the Marvel character Kamala Khan, a teenager in Jersey City, New Jersey, who took on the mantle Ms. Marvel after the previous Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers, became Captain Marvel.

In 2014, Wilson was invited by Marvel Entertainment to co-create a new version of Ms. Marvel.  Wilson and her co-creator envisioned a Muslim teenager from Jersey City, New Jersey, Kamala Khan.  Since the character’s launch, Ms. Marvel has been a popular and recognizable character within the Marvel Universe having starred in approximately 63 individual comic books. In 2016, the Village Voice featured Kamala Khan in a cover illustration akin to the “We Can Do It” posters and proclaimed Wilson to be the creator of “the superhero of our times.” Kamala Khan provides a positive depiction of a young Muslim-American woman living in New Jersey; her friends are as diverse as the state of New Jersey; and her core values, struggles, emotions, and opinions are realistic and resonate with her readers.

An acclaimed writer, Wilson is the author of The Bird King (2019) and has written for some of the world’s best-known superhero comic book series, including X-Men, Superman, and Wonder Woman.  Her first novel, Alif the Unseen, won the 2013 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, was a finalist for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and was long-listed for the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction. In 2015, she won the Graphic Literature Innovator Prize at the PEN America Literary Awards. Wilson’s novel The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam (2010) was named a Seattle Times Best Book of 2010. Wilson was awarded Best Writer, Mainstream by Broken Frontier Awards (2014), a Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story (2015), and the Dwayne McDuffle Award for Diversity in Comics (2016).  Wilson is current writing The Dreaming, which is a part of The Sandman Universe for DC Comics.

Raised in an atheist household, Wilson studied many religions while she attended Boston University and ultimately decided to convert to Islam. Upon graduating from Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences, she moved to Cairo, Egypt, to teach English. While in Cairo, Wilson was a freelance music critic for DigBoston (known as The Dig) and contributed articles to the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times Magazine, and the National Post (Canada). She was also the first Western journalist to be granted a private interview with Ali Gomaa after his promotion to the position of Grand Mufti of Egypt.