When Wings Expand by Mehded Maryam Sinclair is now available! It’s a searing story that sees a young girl face the tragedy of her mother’s death. But, instead of her encountering a crisis of faith, her religion gives her the strength to overcome the pain, and eventually bring joy into the lives of others. http://ow.ly/fLHEf
The interview below was originally posted on http://woodturtle.wordpress.com/
Why did you want to write a book about hijab?
I think hijab is beautiful. The styles. The fabrics. The religious concept behind it. I personally am not a hijabi, but I know women who do adhere. This story idea blossomed when my Bangladeshi-Canadian family doctor decided to become a hijabi as an adult. I wanted to explain this process of change through the eyes of a child. I wanted to teach the values of Islam surrounding hijab. So I did my research, and learned.
I also used my main character, Farah, to point out the frustrations some kids face as a result of their mother’s devotion to hijab. For instance, Farah labels her mother “b-o-r-i-ng” in respect to how glamorous the other students’ mothers appear at Miss Peabody’s Academy. Soon enough, both Farah and readers learn how interesting Mrs. Khan actually is. Her life experiences speak for themselves.
Do you see yourself as a feminist/womanist? And if so, how do you describe your feminism/womanism?
I believe in the power of women. I believe in equal rights. I believe in freedom of choice. In other words, I am a FEMINIST!!! However, you won’t find me burning my bra under the false stereotypical image of what it (cough) means to be a feminist.
I think as a feminist it’s really, really important not to judge other women. We shouldn’t become enemies within ourselves. For instance, Farah Khan (the main character in my book) learns via her mother that some people are quick to judge hijabis by rationalizing that Muslim females are “oppressed” women. Farah now knows better than that. In actuality, many feminists believe hijabis are the ultimate feminists because they refuse to be seen as sex objects. Neat concept, huh?
On the flipside, I’ve learned a lot about European culture through my wonderful fiancée, Alan. In many of our conversations, he’s remarked how some women from his origins (Italy) feel the freedom and choice to reveal their bodies is a form of feminism. It’s ironic how two opposing sides of the same coin fit under one umbrella of “feminism.”
The bottom line is: We’re not here to judge. Rather, as women we should feel compassion for one another. Our world would be much better that way.
What is your religious background and do you consider yourself to be religious now?
I don’t think my religion should be a promotional tool. I don’t want people to purchase my book based on the fact that I am Muslim or not. I want people to take an interest in the “The Hijab Boutique” because they want to read a good story.
Yes, I do believe in a Higher Power. When I pray, I do it with passion. It comes from my heart. Insomuch, I’ve burst into tears with emotion at times. Read: The concept of religion fascinates me. Dearly. In fact, I took religion courses while studying at University of Toronto. Someone once asked: “Why do you want to study such a silly topic?” At the time, I was dumbfounded. My answer today: “I don’t regret it one bit.” I only believe this knowledge has added dimension to my character.
Do you have any children? If so, how have they influenced your writing?
No, I don’t have any little ones yet. I’m not sure if I ever will. I can’t seem to make up my mind! However, like religion, children fascinate me. I’m always curious to know how their thoughts operate. I love how they absorb the world around them. I admire their energy. I can’t get enough of their carefree attitude. Is it any surprise that I write for
kids? (Insert laugh.) You’ll often find me gabbing or playing with some special kiddos in my life. We interact like friends. I guess I have that luxury since I don’t have to enforce rules!
In any case, I’m often told that I’m a “big kid at heart.” Being in touch with youthful innocence helps me tune into writing children’s literature. While penning “The Hijab Boutique,” I made it a point to think like Farah all the time. In the same way, an actor does to make a screenplay come to life. This is just my way of nitpicking details out of my characters.
What made you decide to write an Islamic children’s book?
This story came to me very naturally. Scene after scene, played in my head like a machine. Islam is a very beautiful, rich religion. Why wouldn’t I want to write about it?
The latest Kube catalogue of children’s books is available to peruse at your pleasure.
Inside you will find sequels to three popular series we recently started: ‘Islamic Fairy Tales’, ‘Muslims in the Modern World’ and ‘A Concise Life’. There is also our latest title for teenage readers, which will be out in a month!
We are putting the final touches on a new children’s book at the minute. It’s still a few months away though so don’t start a stampede down to your local book seller just yet.
Snow White: An Islamic Tale by Fawzia Gilani, illustrated by Shireen Adams
Involving the power of a djinn, poisoned dates, seven dwarf sisters-in-faith and a mysterious old peddler woman in the woods wearing a face veil, this lyrically-told story offers a unique twist on this fairy tale, whilst keeping the classic much-loved story intact, that includes a hateful and vain stepmother, a considerate huntsman and a charming prince.
Set in the heady snow-strewn woodlands of Anatolia by the illustrator Shireen Adams, this tale of flight, friendship and forgiveness is richly detailed, and beautifully brought to life.
Snow White is the second book in the ‘Islamic Fairy Tales’ series, which looks to offer meaningful and faithful variants of these popular worldwide stories.
Fawzia Gilani has worked as a teacher, librarian and school principal in the UK, USA and Canada since 1993. She is the author of thirty children’s books, mostly on the topic of Eid.
Zaufishan, the Eco Muslim blogger, has written a piece about Dawud Wharnsby’s latest book. It was intended to recommend it as an Eid gift, but it doubles as a very positive review too.
After partnering for such a successful project the first time around we are busily thinking of new projects to work on together. In the next year we’re hoping to have another book published by Dawud Wharnsby.
If you are a budding writer, parent, teacher or young person with ideas bubbling in your head for picture books, then here is an incredible way to bring them to life: http://storybird.com
Their mission is to be an ‘advocate for the imagination’, and to make storytelling more social, fun and easy — everything it typically isn’t in publishing.
Here is the finalist of a recent ‘best of’ challenge. If anybody produces something using StoryBird let us know and we can share it with our readers here.
An interview with Mehded Maryam Sinclair
I re-discovered the power of story thirty years ago when my sons were toddlers. That led me to using story as a therapeutic technique when I later worked as a therapist in an adolescent alcohol and drug abuse treatment center. This work paved the way to a fourteen-year career as a touring and teaching storyteller in the US with the Vermont Council on the Arts. From there I reverted to Islam, around 20 years ago, and since then I have been very interested in the work of serving the Muslim community by researching what has been lost and writing with a new eye stories that are edifying and inspiring and reflect the Truth.
When Wings Expand is your latest book. Tell us a bit about it.
Wings is a journal of a well-loved Muslim girl whose mother is dying of breast-cancer. She names her journal, a gift from her mother, and then chronicles her days as one would to a trusted friend for the next two years. We learn from her how it feels to anticipate, then experience, then grieve and then recover, and we witness how she is able to share her newfound capacities with a girl in dire need of help.
What was your inspiration for When Wings Expand?
Alhamdulillah I was given experiences of death to learn from. My mother died when I was fifteen, my brother died just after I delivered my second son, and my dear friend died six years after that. These were all deaths among non-Muslims before I reverted to Islam. After I became Muslim and began to learn more about the truth of death, I wanted to explore that in greater depth and started writing this work as a story. At that time it wasn’t a journal, and I hadn’t covered much of the main character’s struggle and grieving. I showed it to the then-Kube children’s editor Fatima D’Oyen, and she suggested turning it into a journal and focusing more on grief and healing. This frightened me, I must say, and I had to live through a few more years looking inward and studying before I could finish the writing.
The book presents an affirmation of faith, rather than the typical crisis of faith, after a life-changing event. Was this intentional?
Yes, it was. Most of what gets published is about the crises of faith and the failures of faith. That is actually a very one-sided picture. I wanted to give a view of the felicity, aid and peace that comes with being committed to taking the Deen as it has been prescribed rather than the way we think it should be. Those are the stories that sometimes get ignored in the current marketplace atmosphere. And yet people want and really need those stories, maybe even more than the sensational ones, which reinforce a prevalent world-view of cynicism.
Do you have any future plans for more Muslim books?
Please make dua for me! I want to finish two other projects, young-adult novels of historical fiction based on the history that has been lost and obliterated.
Greetings of Peace,
Dawud Wharnsby was traversing the Midlands, Lancashire and Glasgow in June, bringing his unique blend of song, sketch and spiritual show to children and adults.
Some photos of each event are online and can be viewed at our Flickr account. http://www.flickr.com/photos/65927580@N04/sets/72157630386930568/
If you attended any of the events and want to leave some feedback it would be wonderful to hear about your experience.
A fantastic new website has been launched by ISB: http://www.islaminschools.com.
“It is a one-stop shop for all your pupil and teacher needs on Islam.
“This website aims to make it easier for pupils and teachers to find out more about the subjects of Islam and Muslim culture, in a safe and reliable way. It is presented in an easy to read manner, to enable children as young as 7 to explore the subject, as well as teachers to access information that can be used in the classroom.”
If you want to munch away on some scrumptious rhymes with Dawud Wharnsby, then you’re in luck! Dawud Wharnsby is returning to the UK to perform songs from his latest children’s production A Picnic of Poems: In Allah’s Green Garden.
Each event has limited seating so book soon to avoid missing out on these brilliant fun-filled family events with Dawud.
To see more pictures of his recent tour see our Flickr pages.