Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Do Muslims need 'representative' reading?


A poster on our Facebook group asked why we need 'representative' stories, why we can't just read any book and identify with it.

I agreed with her to a certain extent: there are many stories and books that 'speak' to all of us, whether we are boys, girls, black, white, or whatever.

But I do feel quite strongly that every cultural group needs to see itself reflected in at least some of the books it reads. We need to read about people like ourselves, who face the same situations we face, who view life similarly to us, to gain confidence and insight into our identity and culture.

This was the basis of 'From Somalia, with love': the idea that Muslim teenagers and Somali Muslim teenagers in particular wanted to read about people like themselves, who faced the same problems, the same issues that they face every day. I also wanted to make the book a celebration of Somali and Muslim culture, a culture that is hardly-known and rarely spoken about.

If you look around you in the children's section of any UK library, you will see very few non-White faces on book covers. There are very few Black characters in modern children's literature, even fewer Muslim ones. I hope 'From Somalia, with love' will do something to change that scene... insha Allah.


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