Written in the Stars: Author Interview with Aisha Saeed

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In Love, Inshallah, Aisha Saeed eloquently introduced readers to her traditional, Pakistani match-made love story. When she met her future husband, Aisha already knew that she wanted to write about a story different than her own – a fictional account of Naila, a young Pakistani-American girl, who is forced into marriage.

Aisha fully explores Naila’s journey in her first young-adult novel, Written in the Stars, released in March 2015 from Penguin Nancy Paulsen books.  Publishers Weekly says the book “…movingly conveys the intense cultural pressure that motivates Naila’s parents and the heartbreaking betrayal Naila feels as she is deprived of her rights, cut off from the outside world, and threatened with shame and death.”

Deonna Kelli Sayed speaks with Aisha about how she met her husband, the initial trepidation dealing with an often cliched subject matter, and her involvement with We Need Diverse Books.  Listen to the interview after the jump!
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#RamadanReads – A Book Buying Revolution

Photo credit: Aisha Saeed

Photo credit: Aisha Saeed

When novelist & #WeNeedDiverseBooks co-founder Aisha Saeed walked into her local Barnes & Noble ten days ago, she was surprised & thrilled to see a Ramadan book display for children. She wanted to buy all four books displayed but after chatting with the bookseller, she realized that those were the only books in stock.

If she bought those books, not only would they be sold out of all of their Ramadan-themed children’s books, but the Ramadan display would disappear too. Shockingly, her bookstore was not located in a small town, but in Atlanta, GA. B&N thought they could only sell four Islamic-themed books in a city with a huge Muslim population.

Aisha’s blog post explaining the situation and asking that Muslims “be the change we want to see” was the spark we needed to ignite a book-buying revolution. Using the hashtag #RamadanReads, we asked our communities on social media platforms to share their children’s, young adult, and adult book recommendations for our Ramadan/Eid gift list. We based the extensive list below on your feedback.

This Thursday, July 3rd, marks the second phase of our campaign: Muslim communities will visit or call their local bookstores and libraries to order books from the list, letting them know that their request is part of the National #RamadanReads Campaign. We want this to become an annual event, inshAllah, and for Ramadan to become known as the month in which Muslims flock to bookstores to support their storytellers.

Muslims were once renowned as a community that loved, wrote and bought books, built libraries, and engaged in vigorous coffeehouse debates over the ideas that lie at the core of our humanity. At 8 million strong in the US, and with an estimated $170 billion in annual consumer purchasing power, we have the power to shape our own narratives. The key? Simple: The more Muslim storytellers we support with our dollars, the more diverse Muslim stories we will see.

The publishing industry is demand-driven. Buying available books sends a resounding message to publishers and bookstores that our representation matters and that we want to hear more Muslim voices and stories.

Please join us! Call/visit your bookstores/libraries with your book orders on Thursday morning, and then share the books you chose and what your experience was like with the #RamadanReads hashtag. We’d love to hear about what it means to you to read books written by and about Muslims. What were your childhood experiences like with or without books reflecting you? What kind of stories do you hope your children will have access to? Why is supporting Muslim authors and books important to you? Let’s talk about it all on Twitter at 11 am PDT/2 pm EDT this Thursday!

Let’s “be the change” – together.

– Aisha Saeed, aishasaeed.com

Ayesha Mattu, Deonna Kelli, & Nura Maznavi, LoveinshAllah.com

Jennifer Zobair. Storyandchai.com

Sabina Khan-Ibarra, MuslimahMontage.com

PS: The list below features books by diverse Muslim authors, including those who identify as orthodox, cultural and secular. If you’d like us to consider adding a book, please leave a comment below, tweet or email us!

Love InshAllah’s Top 10 Editorial Picks – The books we love to give as gifts

1. Night of the Moon by Hena Khan: A delightful children’s story about Ramadan/Eid with a female protagonist.

2.  The Conference of the Birds by Alexis York Lumbard, Demi and Seyyed Hossein Nasr: Gorgeously illustrated book based on Attar’s 800-year-old Persian parable that will illuminate the hearts of both children and adults. In fact, all of Demi’s books that I’ve read (Muhammad, Rumi, The Hungry Coat, & One Grain of Rice) are wonderful.

3. A teenage Pakistani-American Muslim superhero? Yes, please! Check out the cool new Ms. Marvel comic,, issues 1-5 today!

4. E-mails to Scheherazade by Mohja Kahf: This powerful book of exquisite poems was shared between three generations in my home, each one feeling as if Professor Kahf had written the poem just for her.

5. The best biographies of the Prophet (saws) soften your heart and make you fall in love with him all over again. Omid Safi’s Memories of Mohammad does just that.

6. That gaping emptiness inside? It’s why I read Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s Purification of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart every year.

7. If you haven’t read Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson yet, you’re missing out on one of the most fantastic debut novels ever. The NYT selected it as a notable book of the year and called it “a bookload of wizardry and glee.”  We agree.

8. Do Muslim Women Need Saving? by Lila Abu-Lughod: if you are a Muslim woman, or have an opinion about us, Read This.

9. Haldol & Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life by Melody Moezzi: My cousin received a bipolar diagnosis, so Melody’s memoir hits close to home. Evocative, funny, and informative, she’s helping to open up a critical conversation around mental health in the Muslim community.

10. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X: A classic that changed my life and perspective when I read it at 16. Great for teens and adults alike.

And, if you haven’t already, check out the books of the writers who created the campaign:

Painted Hands by Jennifer Zobair: Zainab Mir is a beautiful, sharp-tongued campaign strategist with a penchant for stirring up controversy. Her best friend, Amra Abbas, is a seemingly-unflappable attorney on a grueling partnership track. Can these ambitious Muslim women juggle two cultures, high-powered careers, and unexpected men—including a right-wing talk radio host—to have it all?

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. This beautiful novel follows a Pakistani American teenager who falls in love with a boy in her community against her parent’s wishes. When they find out, the consequences are greater than she could have possibly imagined.

Our Salaam, Love & Love, InshAllah anthologies. The search for love is universal, but every love story is unique. #MuslimLove

See the complete list of books below. Search Indiebound for the independent bookstore nearest you, or order from Powell’s Books online. Don’t forget to tell them that #RamadanReads sent you! Read the rest of this entry »