Starstruck: A Memoir of Astrophysics and Finding Light in the Dark
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.
Praise for Starstruck: A Memoir of Astrophysics and Finding Light in the Dark
“Fascinating memoir…Nance [is] a passionate advocate for science literacy, cancer prevention, her fellow Arab Americans, and women in science. Readers will be intrigued by these topics and more, and inspired by the young scientist who brings them to life.” —Booklist
"Nance is all about making space feel accessible and personal through education and engagement. Should help STEM-curious readers feel less alone in the universe." —Philadelphia Inquirer
“Thanks to Nance’s genius for clear explanations, I understand how, with pressure and time, suns are created. How fitting, then, to be learning of Nance’s own journey: the dark pressures of childhood, the molten hot passion for science, and the way these forces combined to make the brilliant light that is Sarafina Nance. A star is born!” —Mary Roach, New York Times bestselling author of Fuzz and Packing for Mars
“Sarafina Nance’s story is utterly unique, but universal at the same time. It’s about having a dream—in this case, to devote one’s life to investigating the mysteries of the universe—and pursuing it in the face of incredible obstacles. The best book you will ever read about growing up to be a scientist.” —Sean Carroll, New York Times bestselling author of The Biggest Ideas in the Universe: Space, Time, and Motion
“Starstruck is a warm, poignant, heartfelt, and deeply moving exploration of what it means to come of age in this universe.”—Sasha Sagan, author of For Small Creatures Such as We
“Nance weaves together poetic aspects of the astrophysical universe with her own lived traumas and triumphs, producing a memoir like none I’ve ever read. A powerful reminder that scientists are very human, and science a very human endeavor. The universe doesn’t care about our personal traumas, but Nance still finds hope and a means to reflect on her own life by looking to the stars. After reading this, perhaps you will, too.” —Phil Plait, author of Under Alien Skies: A Sightseer’s Guide to the Universe
“Nance’s vulnerability and lyrical prose shine on the page like the stars she studies. She has artfully woven together honest vignettes of her life with loving descriptions of the universe. Reading Starstruck made me wish I loved space half as much as Nance clearly does.” —Moiya McTier, author of The Milky Way: An Autobiography of Our Galaxy
“With breathtaking intimacy and fearlessness, Sarafina shows us how life—just like the massive stars she studies—can undergo periods of turbulence: violent and messy, but also beautifully transformative. I was enchanted by the joy of discovery and inspired by her resilience.” —Alexi Pappas, author of Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas