All moving, unpacking and getting settled in is hereby interrupted for the Summer Blog Blast hosted by Colleen at Chasing Ray. All posts for the Tour are being linked back to Chasing Ray so be sure to check there everyday to start you summer with interviews with some of your favorite YA authors!
My first interview this week is with Randa Abdel-Fattah. Randa is the author of Does my head look big in this? Where the streets and a name and Ten things I hate about me. Randa lives and works in Australia. Let me introduce you to this amazing woman!
What’s your favorite place?
I’m a Gemini and therefore I’m fickle and ‘my favourite’ questions are always so hard to answer. But I’ll have a go and say that in my Top 5 favourite places is a wonderful tree house in my mother’s home in Cairo, Egypt. It has views of a fruit market, several foreign embassies, beautiful tree-lined streets and the minaret of a mosque two streets away. Gorgeous!
What book(s) are you currently reading?
I’m re-reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, one of the most brilliant novels I’ve ever read.
As a child, what did you do for fun?
Obsessively played with Barbies, tormented my little sister, converted cardboard boxes into mansions for my Barbie collection, read anything I could get my hands on, watched Disney classics, rollerbladed, basketball.
Your writing has gained international success! In what countries are your books selling best? From which country(ies) are teens most likely to contact you?
First and foremost, the USA. Next would be the UK.
I am so impressed by your unflinching sense of self. Where did you get that?
My sense of self isn’t always unflinching. There are days when I feel confused about my life goals and choices. But the one constant is my identity as a Muslim woman. It centres me and grounds me- spiritually and emotionally. It’s only now that I’m a parent that I’m starting to really appreciate the way my parents raised me to be proud of my heritage and identity; to be aware of my responsibilities and rights; and to embrace all the opportunities that come my way with hard work and passion. Their own lives as migrants and, in the case of my Palestinian father, as an exile, undoubtedly drove them to instil a strong sense of identity in my sister and I.
I hate to admit that you were born the same year I graduated from college! A generation younger than me, a different ethnicity and thousands of miles away, I would like to think that you would have experienced less racism, had better opportunities and read more books with characters that look like you. From your writings, that doesn’t seem to be the case. What about the next generation of Muslim girls in Australia? Do they have more opportunities? More books with characters like them?
There is an exciting generational shift among Australian Muslims who are not just reacting to the negative discourse that surrounds Muslims in an increasingly Islamophobic world, but who are also creating, and defining themselves on their own terms, through the arts, comedy, writing, theatre, film, music, politics. It’s exciting to see this happening and to be a part of it.
I read your memoir “Living in a Material World”. While reading about how Muslim women are viewed for wearing the hijab, I couldn’t help but think of my Black sisters here in America, -here in 2012 no less!- who face similar discrimination in the job market for wearing their hair braided. We’re looking at women who are in quite different ways glorifying what some see as their crowns, yet they are belittled for doing so. The piece ended on such a sad note, I’m wondering what brings you joy?
What brings me joy is creating a space for my characters to live and breathe outside the monotonous world of stereotyping. My children bring me joy. Prayer brings me joy, giving me a sense that there is something more to the daily grind. That there is a higher purpose.
You have a new book, The Friendship Matchmaker, coming out in the US in July. How were you inspired to write such a book about a young girl who matches friends? It’s sounds like such an interesting book!
The inspiration came to me while I was at my first boot camp session! The instructor told us to all get into groups of four and I was terrified, as I didn’t know anybody, A feeling of dread came over me as I worried that I’d be the last person to be chosen. And it clicked then that the desire to belong and not stand out as ‘a loner’ never quite leaves you, even after your school days are long gone. So I started to think about a girl who makes it her mission in life to sort out the playground, helping kids through their fights and squabbles; holding mediation sessions and offering a wealth of ‘wisdom’ and ‘rules’ about how to survive the playground. Until her tight order is threatened when a new girls arrives who sees that things can be done differently. It was a joy to write. And the sequel is just about to be released in Australia and I’m even more excited about how the story and characters have developed!
Thank you, Randa!
Other interviews today:
Kate Milford at Chasing Ray
Tim Lebbon at Bildungsroman
Nalo Hopkinson at TheHappyNappyBookseller