Interview with Darshana Khiani

I’m excited to introduce all of you to Darshana. She is the mastermind behind the blog Floweringminds.com where she features authors and promotes diversity in kidlit. My kind of gal.

Hi, Darshana! I’m excited to get to know you better because we share a love of Richard Scarry and Blondie. That pretty much sums up my childhood!

I’d like to focus on diversity since that’s what you advocate. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen recently in books for children.

Thank you very much for having me. I’m happy to be discussing diversity here.

Ever since the We Need Diverse Books organization came onto the scene in 2014, there has been an uptick in diverse books being published, more discussions on the topic of diversity at conferences, and publishers understanding the need for sensitivity readers. It is an exciting time; I hope this momentum continues and doesn’t get relegated to a trend. We are a diverse nation and our children’s literature should continue to reflect that.

What are some changes you project to be in the pipelines in the future?

I would like to see the continued breadth of stories within the various diverse categories. This will help break down stereotypes and give readers a richer experience. Nigerian author, Chimamada Adiche, gave an eloquent speech on “The Danger of a Single-Story”. Her talk struck a chord with me, as I remembered having to defend and explain my summer holidays in Kenya and India to fellow students when I was a child. Looking back, can I blame my classmates for their unawareness when the only images they saw of those countries were of malnourished, poor, and hungry children on fundraising infomercials? Within any diverse group, there will be a range of people and experiences and it is important for there to be a body of literature to show the full spectrum.

With the political climate being what it is today, there is a need for books where multiculturalism is at the forefront, discussing inclusivity and understanding. As our nation’s awareness increases, I hope we can see more stories with diverse characters where the primary focus is a universal truth and the multicultural part is secondary.

Are there any topics you’d love to read about that you haven’t read yet?

While there is a lot of discussion around racial, gender, religious diversity and neurodiversity, there isn’t much about economic diversity. There has been a smattering of books in MG and YA dealing with economic hardship but not enough. Back in 2008, I remember watching a 60 Minutes segment about the high percentage of homeless kids in Florida wondering if there were books that reflected their reality. Recently, there was a picture book, STILL A FAMILY by Brenda Sturgis, that had a lovely message of still being a family even though the father had to stay at a men’s shelter while the young daughter and mother were at the women’s shelter. Katherine Applegate’s MG novel, CRENSHAW, touched on childhood hunger.

Across the various diverse groups there has been an increase of books coming out in the YA and MG categories, but I’d like to see that diversity also reflected in both Picture Books and Early Chapter Books.

What’s your dream book that you’d like to read or even write?

As for my dream book to read, I’ll let you know once I find it. As for writing, one of the things on my writing bucket list is to create a modern rendition of the Akbar and Birbal Indian folktales. I loved the wit and wisdom in those stories.

What are you working on now?

Currently, I’m learning the craft of early chapter books as I try to convert one of my picture book South Asian characters into the longer format. I’m also constantly writing and revising picture books.

Also, I know you work with the We Need Diverse Books campaign as a picture book application reader. Do you have any advice for authors writing PBs?

Perfect timing! The We Need Diverse Books organization is currently accepting applications for readers until the end of August. Whether you are a picture book writer or a novelist, I highly recommend taking advantage of any opportunity that has you reading many stories in the category that you write. You will gain an appreciation of how fresh, original, and well-crafted a story needs to be in order to stand out.

 Additionally, for picture book writers, I would recommend reading as many current picture books as possible. I read about 250 a year. When I started back in 2011, the focus was on character-driven stories, then quirky and subversive – the market is constantly changing. Finally, of course: write, write, write. Picture books are a bit of a numbers game. The more stories you have out there, the better shot you have at something getting picked up. Kate Messner wrote an awesome post a while back titled “Picture Book Math”, where she discusses her productivity over a year.

On that note, I had better get back to my stories! Happy Writing!

Thank you so much, Darshana for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share with us. 

You can find out more about Darshana on her blog, twitter, Instagram: @dkwriter and Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/floweringminds/

Kristi Wientge is the author of KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE out August 15th 2017 with Simon & Schuster BFYR. She is represented by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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10 Epic Muslim Picture Books

The Islamic New Year was October 1st. It came and went and few of us noticed. Well, this list of epic Muslim books for children is there to change that.

Islamic literature has been underrepresented for a long time. It used to be filled with stereotypes and false information, but more and more own voice writers are emerging, and Jee, do their books rock!

 

basraThe Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq (2005), written & illustrated by Jeanette Winter is the story of Alia Muhammad Baker, a chief librarian in Basra, Iraq. When bombs hit her library, in 2003, she and a Muslim friend save 70% of the books by hiding them in their homes. This story shows how the civilians are the ones who suffer the most during armed conflicts because the country’s art, artifacts and knowledge are burned away and destroyed. We also learn that the library of Basra contained books in other languages picturing other people in the world like we have in our own libraries.

 

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Deep in the Sahara (2013) by Kelly Cunnane (illustrated by Hoda Hadadi) is the story of Lalla, a girl who lives in Mauritania. Her dream is to wear the malafa, a beautiful local garment, but she is still too young. The story, beautifully illustrated, gives an inner look at the complex reasons why Muslim women freely wear their veil.

 

kingKing For a Day (2013) by Rukhsana Khan (illustrated by Christiane Krömer) tells the story of Malik, a Pakistani boy, who, despite his handicap, masters the art of kite making and kite wrestling. The story really shows that it’s not enough to become the “king”. A king is not truly one unless he shows compassion and shares from his wealth.

 

 

skyThe Sky of Afghanistan (2012) by Ana A de Eulate (Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer) is a gorgeously illustrated and powerfully written story of an Afghan girl, Malala, and her dreams for peace.

 

 

 

Four Feet, Two Sandals (2016) by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed  (illustrated by Doug Chayka) tells the story of two young Afghani refugees living in a refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan. Relief workers bring clothes sandalsand Lina finds a beautiful sandal. Feroza, another refugee, finds the other sandal. They haven’t had shoes in years. They decide to take turns wearing the sandals and from then on a friendship grows between them. This is a moving story that shows the difficulty of living in camps.

 

mosqueThe Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Saved Jews During the Holocaust (2010) by Karen Gray Ruelle (illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix) is a historical picture book talking about compassion and empathy. It shows a story few people know about. During the Nazi occupation of France, a group of Muslims took on themselves to give certificates of Muslim identity to Jews so that they could avoid persecution. The Jewish families hid in the mosque that had gardens, apartments, and a library.

 

moonUnder the Ramadan Moon (2011) by Sylvia Whitman. Soft and warm pastel colors along with a lyrical prose introduce us to the month of Ramadan and its rituals. Unlike regular Ramadan stories that emphasize on the fast, this book reminds Muslims that Ramadan is mostly about giving in charity, being kind, praying, and abandoning bad habits.

 

 

Snow in Jerusalem (200snow1) by Deborah da Costa (illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu) is the poignant story of Hamudi, a Muslim boy and Avi, a Jewish boy, fighting over a street cat they both feed between their houses. They eventually learn to share the cat and its litter.

 

 

eidThe Best Eid Ever (2007) by Mobin-Uddin Asma (illustrated by Laura Jacobsen) is the story of Aneesa who helps refugees. When she receives beautiful clothes for Eid, one of the biggest celebrations of the year for Muslims, she realizes that being Muslim is about sharing what we love the most.

 

 

husseinMy Name Was Hussein (2004) by Hristo Kyuchukov (illustrated by Allan Eitzen) is the story of a Bulgarian Roma boy forced to change his Muslim name to a Christian name when an army invades his village. Based on a true story. This tale shows the tradition of Ramadan and also talks about a boy forced to reconsider and question his identity. 

 

 

Resources:

Leilinh. “Book List: Picture Books about Muslim or Middle Eastern Characters”
http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/05/15/book-list-picture-books-about-muslim-or-middle-eastern-characters/

 “Muslim Booklist – Contemporary Novels & Short Story Collections.”
http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/muslimbooklist/novels-shortstory.html

“Novels from Muslim Countries.”
http://www.unc.edu/~cernst/novels.htm

Peckinpaugh, Timothy. “Islamic Facts for Kids.” http://peopleof.oureverydaylife.com/islamic-kids-5693.html

 

SussuIf you liked this article, visit Sussu Leclerc in her gothic castle, over the dream waterfall, in Fantasy Land, at Book Riders and A Novel Without Further Ado or follow her on Twitter: @bookriders1.