Author Spotlight: Saadia Faruqi
July 6, 2018
Today we are excited to feature middle-grade author Saadia Faruqi and her new series of books, YASMIN! (August 1, 2018 by Capstone/Picture Window Books) illustrated by Hatem Aly.
Tell us about your background and how you came to write for children.
I’m a Pakistani American writer and cultural sensitivity trainer. For more than a decade I wrote essays and other nonfiction pieces for adults. I transitioned to fiction for adults, and my short story collection called Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan was published in 2015. The children’s writing grew from our current political environment, where my children and those like them were feeling bullied, scared and unheard. I decided that these children needed books that reflected their hopes and dreams.
Congrats on your early chapter book series YASMIN! Tell us about it and what inspired you.
Thank you. When my children began reading independently. I saw a need for books that reflected their own realities, as dual-culture kids and as first generation Americans. Being a writer, I decided if there weren’t books to satisfy those needs, I must write a few. I wanted to write books about girls that would inspire my daughter. I wanted to write books about Muslims that would shatter stereotypes. I wanted to write books that not only my children but everyone’s children would enjoy regardless of their religious and cultural backgrounds. That’s how YASMIN was born.
You are an interfaith activist. What does that mean and how does it affect your fiction?
I bring people of different faiths together to have discussions and learn from each other. For instance I’m co-founder of an online group called Have Faith Will Parent, where parents try to solve every day parenting challenges from a religious and cultural perspective. During my work, I often heavily rely on storytelling to bring across my message about diversity, tolerance and communication. Somewhere along the way I realized the power of fiction and began to write first for adults and then for children. I see my writing as part of my activism, and use stories to not only entertain but also inform and educate.
You are also an adult author, editor, and essayist. How do your different writing hats influence your children's writing?
I think writing for adults has helped hone my craft tremendously. I’m able to look at a story through the eyes of a child and write a book – whether early reader or picture book or middle grade - that showcases real issues. Often times this means I write what is called an issues book. To me, every book that includes characters from marginalized communities will be an issues book because of challenges those groups face in everyday living. I find that my adult work improves that thought process.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m working on a middle-grade novel and a picture book. I’ll be announcing more about those projects in the near future.
What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?
My advice is to read books in the genre and age group that you want to write. I do this all the time. When I’m gearing up to write a picture book, I make multiple visits to my local library and spend hours in the children’s section, just reading tons of books.
I also advise aspiring authors to join a writing group. Even if you never share your work, you will benefit from being around people who are going through the same struggles and experiencing the same joys.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I didn’t wear a hijab until my early thirties. Most people who aren’t Muslim think hijab is a part of dress for Muslim girls as soon as they’re in elementary school. This is greatly a stereotype, and while some families do encourage girls to cover themselves at an early age, mine wasn’t one of those families. I’m still the only one in my family who wears hijab, and I didn’t start to do so until relatively recently.
Where can people find you online?
My website is www.saadiafaruqi.com and my Twitter account is www.twitter.com/saadiafaruqi. I’m always on Twitter!
Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American writer, interfaith activist and cultural sensitivity trainer recently profiled in O Magazine. She is author of the adult short story collection, "Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan”. Her essays have been published in Huffington Post, Upworthy and NBC Asian America. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children.