My two year journey as an aspiring Muslim picture book author has been full of rewards and challenges.
The challenges of trying to publish America's first Libyan picture book has been exhausting at times. There have been countless people that have stood in the way and the constant door closing on this dream would cause anyone with thinner skin to give up by now.
I have applied for numerous scholarships, fellowships, and grants to be told repeatedly no, before finally early 2021 when the Children's Book Academy and Kweli Journal awarded me diversity scholarships to attend their courses and conference. I have sent my manuscripts to over a hundred agents, publishers and editors who have sent back enough rejections letters to wallpaper my kitchen.
This is normal in the publishing industry, and I knew this when I signed up. I have been keeping track of Arab and Muslim published books through a database since 2008 and knew how few books were created by Muslim in #OwnVoice. The desire to have Libyan American children finally find themselves in a library, something I was never able to do as a child immigrant, is far bigger than me, so I keep writing.
One of the major rewards of this publishing journey has been meeting wonderful Muslim authors who want to help other aspiring authors succeed. These Muslim authors have stood in my corner, encouraging me and sending me words of kindness to keep going. To keep writing every day and that someday Libyan children will be invited into a library because I am the one keeping that dream alive.
I wanted to take a few moments to point out these Muslim storytellers so that you can support them by buying their books to show them that kindness does pay off.
Hena Khan - I went to a book reading with Ms. Khan and she was one of the first to encourage me to write. She told the room that there were a lot of Asian Muslim children stories being published and not enough from other Muslims. Her book, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets, is one of my favorite books to use in my art lessons with kids. Ms. Khan has written many books across various genres and is very giving of advice.
Khadija Abdul Hajj - This wonderful soul is full of encouragement and bright light, Ms. Adbul Hajj must be the sweetest person online. She is always there to like a tweet or offer words of support. Her groundbreaking book children's book, Nanni's Hijab, was one of the first about a Muslim child wearing a hijab.
Reem Faruqi - I met Ms. Faruqi online and she encouraged me to go after my dream agent. Even though the agent turned me down (six months after I first queried), I would have never put myself out there and gone on to other agents without her encouragement. Her book, Lailah's Lunchbox, is one of our favorite Ramadan reads.
Susannah Aziz - While new to the book publishing industry, Ms. Aziz has been looking out for other authors and pulling up another chair to the table, since before her picture book had even hit the shelves. Her fun book, Halal Hot Dogs, is the perfect summer read. The main protagonist shares parts of my name, and it was such a thrill to see that in print.
Rabiah York Lumbard - I have been a huge fan of Ms. Lumbard for years and her picture book Everyone Prays: Celebrating Faith Around the World has to be one of my all time favorite picture books. I used it as a mentor text for a picture book I am working on about how to welcome friends in 22 Arab countries. Once I became an aspiring author, she and I met online and she has been very helpful in learning the publishing ropes. Similar to Ms. Khan, Ms. Lumbard has also written across several genres and her YA read, No True Believers, was a hit with my teen daughter.
I hope you enjoyed meeting these 5 Muslim storytellers, who have been helpful in my author journey to join them on a book shelf someday, inshaAllah.
I am going to share more Muslim storytellers from my database of over 1000 Arab and Muslim children's books at the upcoming September 18 & 19 Children's Book Academy Palooza. I will be speaking on the Jewish, Muslim, & Christian KidLit panel on Sunday, September 19th at 10am Pacific Time.
Visit https://bit.ly/PBPalooza2021 to check out the other in-depth panels and submission opportunities available.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with editor/art director, & CBA Director Mira Reisberg PhD who is handing her Mondays over to awesome former now tradtionally pubbed students to widen their audience.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays feature funny Aussie author Sharon Giltrow sharing awesome Aussie books.
And 5th Mondays will feature Libyan American author Koloud Tarapolsi sharing wonderful diverse books.