Photo credit Team Linya
South Asian American, Journalism, Radio
Liyna Anwar’s short life was filled with illuminating the lives of ordinary people through storytelling. Born in Mission Viejo, California in 1989, Anwar was the child of Siddique and Sajida (Ikramuddin) Anwar, immigrant parents from India. Her experiences as a second-generation Indian Muslim American shaped her future goals. She graduated with a BA in anthropology from University of California, Los Angeles, in 2011. Her passion for journalism began with an internship at a local broadcast outlet while an undergraduate and grew to include work with American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” and Los Angeles-based radio stations KPCC and KCRW. Anwar went on to produce audio stories for the Los Angeles Times and NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “Weekend All Things Considered.”
Anwar’s most influential work was for StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization that records and preserves stories of everyday Americans archived at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress. It was her passion and deep commitment to raising awareness of the extraordinary in the ordinary lives of individuals that inspired her to collect and record their stories. Her podcasts showcased struggles and triumphs of the everyday in a way that captured people’s attention. She interviewed people whose lives and gifts would have otherwise gone unheard and unseen, including new immigrants, transgendered people, victims of hate crimes, and those who had lost loved ones in the attacks on 9/11. Her ability to capture the humanity of individuals impacted her listeners, connecting many across racial and political divides.
Through her own experiences as an Indian Muslim American, Anwar was keenly aware of the Asian American narrative. She joined the Los Angeles Times as Senior Podcast Producer in 2018 and created, “Asian Enough,” inviting celebrity guests to reflect on their ethnic, cultural, and racial identities. That same year she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The struggle to find a stem cell match donor from within her ethnic community led to a nationwide social media campaign that raised awareness about the lack of donors from minority communities. Despite her heroic efforts to battle the disease, in 2020, two years after her initial diagnosis, Liyna Anwar died at the age of 30. In her honor, StoryCorps organized the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices, which will be preserved as part of their archive at the Library of Congress.
Among her work are podcasts as well as the projects and series to which she contributed:
Memories of a Sister and Daughter Murdered in a Transgender Hate Crime
In Memory of Liyna Anwar: The Temple of Knowledge
American Pathways – StoryCorps