Mini Author Q&A ft Saadia Faruqi

Yusuf Azeem is Not a Hero explores this from the perspective of a passionate, intelligent and warm young Muslim boy weighed down by the expectations of the world. It’s a heart-wrenching and eye-opening exploration of identity, grief and discovering who you are in a world quick to label you, and finding the strength to be happy anyway.

Yusuf Azeem has spent all his life in the small town of Frey, Texas—and nearly that long waiting for the chance to participate in the regional robotics competition, which he just knows he can win.

Only, this year is going to be more difficult than he thought. Because this year is the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an anniversary that has everyone in his Muslim community on edge.

With “Never Forget” banners everywhere and a hostile group of townspeople protesting the new mosque, Yusuf realizes that the country’s anger from two decades ago hasn’t gone away. Can he hold onto his joy—and his friendships—in the face of heartache and prejudice?

Published 14th October 2021 with Harper360

What part of the story did you find most challenging to write?

Overall, this was a very challenging book to write. September 11 is a very important topic, and the need to do justice to it — and the stories of Muslims everywhere — was foremost in my mind. The most challenging to write were the journal entries, since the aim was to translate the interviews I conducted into a format that would be interesting for readers and still come across as fiction.


What part of the story did you enjoy writing most? What’s one thing you hope readers take away from Yusuf’s story?

I loved the interactions between the characters: Yusuf and his friends, but also Yusuf and his little sister, whom he adores. Plus, the descriptions of the robotics competition was very fun to write.


What’s one thing you hope readers take away from Yusuf’s story?

I want readers to understand that historical events shape our world in ways that resonate today, and that in order to understand the present, we must analyze the past. I also want readers to understand that September 11 had serious and long lasting effects on the Muslim community around the world, even though this isn’t really taught in schools or talked about in the media.


Are there are any similarities between you and any of the characters in Yusuf Azeem is Not a Hero, and did this make it less or more challenging to write?

Not me personally, but I thought about my son a lot while I was writing Yusuf’s character. He’s 15 years old now, and in the past has often suffered in school because of his identity. It didn’t really make it any more or less challenging as a writer, though, because I’m usually inspired by one or more real people when I write my books.


Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? And a children’s writer, more specifically?

I always loved writing stories, but never thought in my youth that this could be my profession. Many Muslim and South Asian parents don’t encourage their children to pursue the arts, and that definitely happened to me as well. As an adult I decided to try this path to see if I could be a success.


Are there any tips you would give to Muslim writers trying to tell their stories in the Western world?

My tips for all writers are the same: read a lot of books similar to the ones you want to write, and write regularly. Make it a habit to write in a journal no matter how busy you are, because you need that practice. For Muslim writers in particular I’d say, write your truth, no matter what anyone else says. You don’t have to stick to any one narrative that will please a single audience, whether it’s Muslim or non-Muslim. Authenticity and passion are key to writing success.


And last but not least, what is your must-have snack when writing?

I don’t really like to eat or drink when I’m writing. It not only distracts me, but also makes a mess on my laptop!



Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” co-written with Laura Shovan (a Sydney Taylor Notable 2021), and “A Thousand Questions” (a South Asia Book Award Honor 2021). Her new book “Yusuf Azeem Is Not A Hero” details the experiences of the Muslim American community twenty years after 9/11. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She lives in Houston, TX with her husband and children. 


Order your copy of Yusuf Azeem is Not a Hero at Bookshop.org (and help support local Indies!), or Waterstones.

You can find Saadia Faruqi on Twitter and Instagram.


Thank you for reading! Please do follow our blog to stay up to date with our posts and content.

Mini Author Q&A ft Ayisha Malik

A beautiful story with an equally stunning package, Ayisha weaves a story of sisterhood, which, paired with Erika Meza’s beautiful artwork makes for an unforgettable read.


Publishing 5th August 2021 with Little Tiger, illustrated by Erika Meza

Erika’s illustrations paired with your writing makes for such an wonderful read. How did you find working on such a heavily illustrated project?

I actually wrote the story before Erika drew the illustrations and so it’d be more appropriate to ask Erika how she felt about working with my words! I was so delighted with her work though; the way she brought the girls to life and just her vision for the treehouses and forest is quite breath-taking.


Do you have any sisters/siblings, and how did that influence this story in particular?

Yes, I have an older sister, but really it was understanding the dynamic between a group of girls who are very close, but also different, that fed into the story. And, of course, that you have no choice in who your family is, but you do have a choice in how you foster those relationships.


What’s one thing you hope readers take away from Seven Sisters? What were you trying to tell with this story?

I want readers to feel hopeful and warm – and that any child that reads the book can find something of themselves in one, if not more, of the characters. That they understand there should be a place and home for everyone, no matter how different people might be.


Which sister would you say you are most like?

From a practical point of view, I suppose I am more like Zayna, who’s a writer, than anyone else. Although whenever one writes, I think there is often a part of the writer in each character they create. I can be moody like Esher, eccentric like Saffah, sometimes even quiet like Ayla.


You have been a part of publishing for many years, first on the inside – working with books as a publicist and editor – and, for a while now, as an author. What do you think about Muslim representation, or representation in general in the books we publish in the UK? Has it improved?

We’ve come a long way since I started work at (the then) Random House in 2008. The conversations around how Muslim characters are created and portrayed, coupled with the fact that there are a growing number of Muslim writers, shows me that though change can be slow, things do change. And that is a great thing. 


You’ve got an amazing portfolio, and this is your first (solo) children’s title (if I’m not mistaken), how did you find the writing process? Do you plan on writing more children’s?

That’s very kind of you to say. I’ve previously written a retelling of Austen’s MANSFIELD PARK for 9-12 year olds. I have to say there was a magic in writing for children that is sometimes missing when writing for adults. I also felt I could indulge in the fantasy world of SEVEN SISTERS and just have fun. It also taught me a lot about the rhythm and beat of sentences, and I hope that I might be able to translate some of that playfulness of language in my adult fiction. Possibly for future children’s titles, if the opportunity arises.


What is your must-have snack when writing?

Everything. In theory. Nutella, mini-rolls, chocolate fingers. . . Bags of Kettle crisps. . . But, alas, if I ate everything I wanted when writing then I’d have some issues in life. Coffee is a must though. I never start a writing day without coffee.



Ayisha Malik is a British Muslim, lifelong Londoner, and lover of books. She read English Literature and went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing. She has spent various spells photocopying, volunteering, being a publicist at Random House, and managing editor at Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. Her novels include, ‘Sofia Khan is Not Obliged’ and ‘The Other Half of Happiness’. She is also the ghost writer for GBBO winner, Nadiya Hussain and has contributed to the anthology, ‘A Change is Gonna Come. ‘Ayisha was one of WH Smith’s Fresh Talent picks, Winter 2016. ‘Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged’ is her debut novel.


Order your copy of Seven Sisters at Bookshop.org (and help support local Indies!), or Waterstones.

You can find Ayisha Malik on Twitter.


Thank you for reading! Please do follow our blog to stay up to date with our posts and content.

Books to Gift this Eid al-Adha!

Mini Author Q&A ft Sabina Khan

“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.


Zara Hossain is Here, 2021 UK cover

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.

MVP x Hachette Muslim Employee Network: Ramadan FAQs

زيادة المبيعات في رمضان : 12 نصيحة لترتقي بأعمالك التجارية وتطورها | Ramadan  gif, Ramadan mubarak, Ramadan

Ramadan Mubarak!

We are so thankful that this blessed month is upon us and thrilled to have the Hachette Muslim Employee Network, chaired by Tanjiah Islam and Zakirah Alam, on the blog today!

MVP and the Hachette Muslim Employee Network have teamed up to bring you a list of Ramadan FAQs; questions that Muslims are asked A LOT during this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, most of us enjoy talking about what Islam means to us — it’s such a big part of who we are, after all. But I, for one, know that when I’ve been fasting for 15hrs+ and my mouth is as dry as the Sahara, I’d rather not waste my last morsel of energy answering yet another ‘not even water?’/’but aren’t you hungry?’/’what’s Ramadan again?’

We hope this list of FAQs might be a handy resource, and the chairs have kindly agreed to make it widely available — so, please do share and tag their Twitter or Instagram!


YOU CAN’T EAT ANYTHING? Nope, we can’t eat or drink anything until Iftar (breaking of the fast).


NOT EVEN WATER? Yep, not even water. It sounds difficult, but Muslims have done it every year for around 1,400 years!


IS IT DIFFICULT? Some days are more difficult than others, for sure, but then there are days where the hours fly by. It takes some getting used to, but again, we do this every year. Usually the first ten days are the most challenging — and your stomach is at its most vocal — but it does get easier.


DO YOU ENJOY IT? Yes! Most Muslims look forward to Ramadan every year, as it’s a month that prioritises God, gratitude, the act of giving and self-reflection, and spending time with family and loved ones.


CAN I EAT IN FRONT OF YOU? Yes! Please don’t feel awkward or guilty about eating around us. You’re not being offensive or insensitive – we are choosing to fast! Just behave as you normally would, but be understanding if someone wants to skip a lunch date. Also, it’s okay if you mention or offer food, we won’t burst into flames! Seriously, we’re pretty chill about it.


HOW CAN YOU SURVIVE WITHOUT EATING FOR 30 DAYS? We don’t fast for 30 whole days straight – we just limit the hours we do eat each day. Think of it as intermittent fasting. Except from sunrise until sunset, every day for a month.


I THOUGHT YOU WERE FASTING THIS ENTIRE MONTH, WHY ARE YOU EATING TODAY? Is this really how you want to find out that a colleague is on their period? Because that may be the answer! There are several reasons why someone might not be fasting, including personal health reasons, which they might not feel comfortable disclosing, so please do be considerate and sensitive about this topic.


IS EID THE EQUIVALENT OF CHRISTMAS? WHY DO YOU GET TWO? We gather with loved ones, dress up, exchange presents and eat far too much, so it is similar to Christmas! Muslims celebrate two Eids because each one marks a different occasion in the Islamic calendar; the first Eid (Eid ul-Fitr) happens after Ramadan to celebrate the closing of the blessed month, whereas the second Eid (Eid ul-Adha) marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah (Mecca).


HOW DO YOU WISH SOMEONE A HAPPY RAMADAN OR EID? If you wish to greet your Muslim colleagues, you can say ‘Ramadan Kareem’, which means have a blessed Ramadan. And at the end of the month, on Eid, you can wish them ‘Eid Mubarak’, which means have a blessed festival! Or you could just say ‘happy Ramadan/Eid’, I’m sure they’d be incredibly grateful either way.


If you would like to learn more about how you can support your colleagues/employees during the month of Ramadan, check out these handy tips shared on Twitter by the Hachette Muslim Employee Network — and don’t forget to give them a follow.

And last but not least, have a wonderful and blessed Ramadan, insha’Allah.