Diversity is about all of us and about us having to figure out how to walk through this world together.
- Jacqueline Woodson
Diversity and representation are two very important aspects of society that in most recent times have started to be addressed. People have always been aware that the world is more than just black and white, life is multi-facet. Nowadays you can read a book or watch a movie or tv show with a diverse cast of people from all walks of life.
But I still remember growing up as a young Black Muslim girl in the south. It was very rare to see anyone who looked like me in any of the shows or books. That lack of representation made feeling out of place, not even begin to describe how I felt. So, it warms my heart now to come across so many beautifully written Islamic children books. Its great to see these stories that represent and tell the narratives of young Muslims. And I am excited to stock my child's bookshelf with these great stories. Recently I had the chance to chat with the author of Noori and Friends, Naseeha Sabree.
When did you start writing?
I have been writing fiction for as long as I can remember. I started writing short stories when I was around 9 years old. My writing short stories slowly transitioned into writing chapter books, and by the time I was in high school I began writing novels. I have recently found a love for writing and illustrating children's books. Writing , in general has always been a great source of escapism and and exploration for me.
What was your inspiration for writing Noori and Friends?
My inspiration for writing Noori and Friends was actually my 11 month old daughter, Noor. The lessons that I want to teach my own daughter are the lessons that I try to incorporate into Noori and Friends.
What impact do you want your stories to have?
I want the stories in Noori and Friends to teach children life lessons in a fun and exciting manner. I specifically want to teach them about diversity, acceptance, perseverance, and other life tools that will carry them very far in life.
Were the characters inspired by events or a person in your life?
The main character, Noori was inspired by my daughter. In giving the characters these "super traits", I very carefully picked Noori's super gift to be her gift of a smile! Alhamduillah my daughter is a very, very happy and smiley girl. Her smile truly does light up an entire room.
Did you have any goals in mind when deciding to start writing this book?
My main goal with Noori and Friends was to introduce readers to a group of children who, though they come from different backgrounds, learn together and explore together. In doing so, I hope to instill in young readers topics of diversity, acceptance, and more. Being a Muslim woman, it was very important for me to introduce a young Muslim character. Not only do we need more representation for young Muslim children book characters, but it's also nice to let children know that they can relate to a child from a Muslim background just as well as they can relate to a child from their own.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring Islamic authors?
My advice for young Muslim authors is not to shy away from using your own voice. We need more Muslim representation in literature, particularly fiction literature. Whether you choose to write about matters that educate the world on Islam, or whether you choose to write about something that doesn't pertain specifically to Islam, the world needs to hear you. We need more Muslim voices.