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In a beautifully written, science-packed, and inspirational memoir, Egyptian-American astrophysicist Sarafina El-Badry Nance shares how she boldly carved out a place in the field of astrophysics, grounding herself in a lifelong love of the stars to face life’s inevitable challenges and embrace the unknown.
As a child, Sarafina El-Badry Nance spent nearly every evening with her father gazing up at the flickering stars and pondering what secrets the night sky held. The daughter of an American father and Egyptian mother who both pushed her toward academic excellence, Sarafina dreamed of becoming an astronomer and untangling the mysteries of the stars overhead. But it wasn’t long before she was told, both explicitly and implicitly, that girls just weren’t cut out for math and science.
In Starstruck, Sarafina invites us to consider the cosmos through fascinating science lessons to open each chapter. But she also traces more earthbound obstacles—of misogyny and racism, abuse and intergenerational trauma, anxiety and self-doubt, cancer diagnoses and recovery—she faced along the way. As her career and passion for space brought her from UT Austin to UC Berkeley, and even to a Mars astronaut simulation in Hawai’i, Sarafina learned how to survive—and ultimately thrive—in a space that was seldom welcoming to women, and especially not to women of color.
Honest and empowering, Starstruck sits at the intersection of the study of our cosmos—itself constantly changing—and the transformative experience of embracing resilience to pursue one’s passion.
Sarafina El-Badry Nance is an Egyptian-American astrophysicist, analog astronaut, and women’s health advocate. She has been awarded fellowships by the National Science Foundation and her work has been featured by the BBC, NPR, National Geographic, and more. Sarafina is one of Forbes’ “30 Inspirational Women” and was on Forbes’ list of “30 Under 30” and the Arab American Foundation’s “40 Under 40.” She lives in Berkeley, California, with her partner and their dog, Comet.
Moderator Sasha Sagan is the author of For Small Creatures Such As We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World, and the host of the podcast Strange Customs. Her essays and interviews have appeared in The Cut, O the Oprah Magazine, Parents, Lit Hub, Atmos, and beyond.
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