I met author Saadia Faruqi when she came to speak at my local library. She is a strong woman who writes books so that children can learn to respect different heritages than their own.
She said she always tries to give special attention to the kids who are not in the majority during her school visits. For instance, she tells the kids who speak multiple languages to raise their hands. She even high fives the kids that speak Urdu, like her!
I reviewed her Yasmin series earlier this week. The books are about a Pakistani girl who dreams of having all kinds of careers and she takes the reader on an adventure as she tries them out.
Here is my interview with Saadia Faruqi:
Question: Where did you get the name Yasmin from?
Answer: I wanted to choose a name that was easy to pronounce, and that was familiar to a lot of children from many different cultures. Yasmin is popular among so many different ethnicities, so I thought it would be perfect!
Q: When you speak to children about your Pakistani heritage, what is one thing you really want them to know?
A: I want them to know how normal my Pakistani heritage is, how there are similarities in every culture and every place. We may be speaking a different language or wear different clothes, but our feelings, our goals in life, and our challenges are the same.
Q: Do you possess some of the traits Yasmin has when you were her age?
A: Not really. Yasmin is everything I wasn’t. I was shy and unfriendly, and very unwilling to try new things, so I made Yasmin the opposite of myself. That’s the fun of being a fiction writer, you can create characters who are pole apart from reality.
Q: Why do you like writing books for children?
A: I write books that help open doors to understanding, tolerance and respect. When I write for children I feel like the message of hope and tolerance is well-received. Kids are so open to learning new things, to see the positive in other points of view. That’s why I feel like my writing can help promote that sort of positivity and understanding among children better than among adults.
Q: Do you think having diverse characters in the book helps grow the story?
A: Of course not. Diverse characters are PART of the story. They are reality, they are the essence of the story. If we think of diversity as a prop to improve or grow our story, it will surely backfire. I use diverse characters because that’s my world view, not with any intention of growing my stories.
Q: Are you planning on any other Yasmin books, or maybe a new series?
A: The Yasmin series continues, with new titles each year. I’m not planning on writing any other series right now, but I do have several middle grade novels coming soon!