Haris Durrani did not attend Tuesday night’s Staples High School awards ceremony.
The soon-to-graduate senior was in a different auditorium: Carnegie Hall. He was accepting a Scholastic Art and Writing Award gold medal, for his portfolio of work.
This is a biggie. Previous winners include Joyce Carol Oates, Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.
Out of 185,000 writing and art entries, Haris received — in addition to his portfolio gold — a gold medal for short story, a gold medal for memoir, and a gold medal for Best in Grade. He earned $10,500 in scholarships for his efforts.
At Carnegie Hall, he hung out with Mayor Bloomberg. Professional actors read his words.
And he was interviewed for NPR’s “The Takeaway.”
For nearly 10 minutes, Haris talked easily with John Hockenberry about his life — literary and otherwise.
The son of a Dominican mother and Pakistani father, Haris grew up Muslim in a post-9/11 world. Feeling a duty to represent himself and his communities well, Haris writes about diversity and social justice with insight and perception.
Writing allows Haris to try to figure out who he is — while challenging readers’ preconceptions and assumptions. One of his stories about racial profiling explores a policeman’s misjudgment of an Asian/Hispanic woman.
But, Hockenberry noted, Haris also shows sympathy for the cop.
“We’re all on the good guys’ side,” the young author explains. His feelings about diversity and human rights derive, he says, “from growing up in America.”
Hockenberry got Haris to reveal that one of his early influences was Isaac Asimov. What the interviewer did not say — and may not have known — is that besides being a national award-winning writer (with Scholastic Gold Key honors for memoir and short story, along with his portfolio), Haris is also captain of Staples’ robotics team.
That is, Staples’ world champion robotics team.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Only Haris Durrani could.
To read NPR’s Takeaway story on Haris, click here. To view a video of Reg E. Cathey from “The Wire” reading Haris’ “Jedi Night,” click below:
To hear the Takeaway interview, click the arrow below: