“A timely and honest coming-of-age story that explores the complicated relationship between identity, culture, family, and love.”
We are thrilled to have the brilliant Sabina Khan answering a handful of questions about her newly released YA title Zara Hossain is Here.
What inspired you to sit down and write Zara Hossain is Here?
I wrote Zara Hossain is Here because to highlight the plight of so many legal immigrants in the US who have been waiting for their green cards and whose hopes and dreams are often in a state of limbo while they wait. Even though they go about their daily lives, it’s hard for them to feel safe because it doesn’t take much for everything to fall apart and undo all the hard work they’ve done to build a good life in a new country.
Can you tell us about how your real life experiences inspired this story?
My family and I went through a very difficult ordeal about twenty years ago when we were living in the US awaiting our green cards. Upon checking in with our lawyer about the status of our application we were told that due to a clerical error on his part our process was stalled and we would now have to leave the country with our very young children when our visas expired in a few months. It was incredibly difficult to realize that no one was interested in helping us find a way to rectify the mistake or figure out what to do next.
Their only response was to tell us to leave. So we did. But since we hadn’t been prepared for such a situation, it was very hard emotionally and financially to move to another country yet again and start all over. I decided to write this story to show how precarious life is often for immigrants while they try to pursue their hopes and dreams.
What’s one thing you want readers to take away from Zara Hossain is Here?
I want readers to take away a sense of hope and to know that they’re not alone. And I want young readers in particular to know that they can fight back and that it’s okay to be angry at injustice and to want to fight for your place in the world.
Are there any similarities between you and the teen protagonist?
Yes definitely! We’re both Muslim immigrants from South Asia trying to build a life in a new country who care about the community we call home. We both feel that we deserve to be treated with fairness. Like Zara, I too try to push back against racism and Islamophobia which, sadly I have had to do quite a lot in the almost thirty years that I’ve lived in North America. And just like Zara, I love my puppy, Karaoke and Bollywood movies.
What is one book that you cannot wait to read in 2021?
I’m dying to read Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto.
What did you find most challenging about writing this story?
The hardest thing about writing this book was having to dig up painful memories from twenty years ago when I moved to Canada with my husband and two little children. It was incredibly difficult to leave behind our lives in Texas where we had started our family and where we had hoped to live for many years.
Can you share anything about your next project?
I do have a book coming out next year, which has not yet been announced. So, for the time being all I can say is that it has a dual POV and plays with time.
Sabina Khan writes about Muslim teens who straddle cultures. She was born in Germany, spent her teens in Bangladesh, and lived in Macao, Illinois, and Texas before settling down in British Columbia with her husband, two daughters, and the best puppy in the world.
Order your copy of Zara Hossain is Here here at Bookshop.org (and help support local Indies!) or Waterstones.
You can find Sabina Khan on Twitter or Instagram.
Thank you for reading! Please do follow our blog to stay up to date with our posts and content.