Deborah Williams lives and writes in New York City, where she also teaches at NYU’s Liberal Studies Program.

From 2011 to 2022, she lived in Abu Dhabi—no, that’s not the same as Dubai— teaching at NYU’s campus there.

Before going to the Gulf, she lived in Manhattan, where she wrote a blog about the eternal quest for life-work balance. (Spoiler: that balance doesn’t really exist.)

The name of her blog—mannahattamamma—comes from Walt Whitman’s poem “Mannahatta,” which starts like this:

I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,

Whereupon lo! upsprang the aboriginal name.


Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid sane, unruly, musical, self-sufficient,

I see that the word of my city is that word from of old,

Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays, superb, with tall and wonderful spires …

You can read the full text of the poem here.

Whitman’s description, amazingly, also applies to Abu Dhabi, a city that also nests in water-bays and is populated with tall glassy buildings that have spires reaching into the clouds.

You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @mannahattamamma. You can email her here.