Welcome to the first Unapologetically Muslim post of 2021! This project has been in the making for quite some time. I started this project with the Muslim bookish community in mind. This community has meant the world to me, and over the years we’ve had more and more authors and content creators graciously bringing our voices and stories to the forefront. I couldn’t be prouder of this community, and this is my way of contributing to it. This is in no way enough but I hope you’ll follow this project throughout the coming months, and that you’ll listen and uplift these wonderful people and their stories with me.
I’m so happy to be starting the project in this way and that’s by interviewing such a wonderful author on the blog today. I present to you Saadia Faruqi, author of A Thousand Questions, Yasmin, and A Place at the Table!
- Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! I want to start by welcoming you to the blog, I’m so happy to have you here today. The first question I would like to ask is, what inspires you to write your stories?
Saadia: Thank you so much for inviting me! I think my children, who are first-generation American kids, are my biggest inspiration. I’m watching them grow up in the U.S. in an environment that is very different to my own at the same age. Their struggles and joys, the challenges they face as well as the happiness they find, are big motivators for me to write stories.
- I also want to ask about representation, how important was it for you to bring Muslim rep to the forefront? To have unapologetically Muslim protagonists in your book?
Saadia: I’m a Muslim American immigrant from Pakistan, and it’s incredibly important to me that my kids who are first-generation American, see themselves in the books they read. At the same time, I want their peers to know about the diversity of the Muslim world. It’s the main reason I write my books, to showcase Muslim culture in stories, in a way that it not only reflects my identity but also helps others learn about it. My Muslim characters break stereotypes and showcase a broad spectrum of how Islam is practised in the U.S. while using good storytelling.
- Do you have any advice that you would like to pass on to Muslim writers?
Saadia: My biggest piece of advice for Muslim writers, in particular, is to write real, flawed characters. Often Muslims are so caught up in defending Islam from attacks, that we attempt to write the perfect Muslim characters and stories that shy away from anything negative. This isn’t reality. There is no perfect Muslim, and there is no one way of practicing Islam. Write authentic characters struggling with their faith, and let the readers see the diversity of the Islamic world.
- What do you hope your readers will take away from your books?
Saadia: That depends on the reader. For my Muslim readers, I hope they take away the understanding that they’re not alone, that their stories and struggles are important. For my first generation readers, I hope they understand that their life will be richer for straddling two cultures. For other readers, I hope they’ll see Muslims for what they really are: just like everyone else.
- Not exactly a book related question, but how have Ramadan preparations been for you? Do you have any favourite traditions and dishes during this month?
Saadia: I don’t have any cultural traditions, honestly, that I follow any more. Ramadan is all about worship and rest for me, and I’m not the sort of person you’d ever find in the kitchen on regular days, let alone when fasting! I do make pakoras once in a while, or fry frozen items like samosas or spring rolls. That’s the extent of my Ramadan prep.
About the Author
Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” published by Capstone and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” (HMH/Clarion 2020) co-written with Laura Shovan, and “A Thousand Questions” (Harper Collins 2020). She has also written “Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan” a short story collection for adults and teens. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children.
Please make sure to check out Saadia Faruqi’s amazing books!
(Click on the image to be directed to the Goodreads page)