Salaam, friends! I’m back with another author interview for #RamadanReadathon 2020.
As you know, the readathon is themed around the anthology Once Upon An Eid, so I wanted to spotlight as many of its contributors as possible during the month. The fifth story in the anthology is written by Candice Montgomery and I’m so pleased to welcome them on the blog today!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Candice “Cam” Montgomery is an LA transplant now living in the woods of Seattle, where they write Young Adult novels. Their debut novel, Home and Away can be found online and in stores now, and their sophomore novel, By Any Means Necessary was released October of 2019. By day, Cam writes about Black teens across all their intersections. By night, they bartend at a tiny place nestled inside one of Washington’s greenest trees. They’re an avid Studio Ghibli fan and will make you watch at least one episode of Sailor Moon and listen to one Beyoncé record before they’ll call you “friend.” You can follow them on Twitter: @candiceamanda.
ABOUT ONCE UPON AN EID
Once Upon An Eid is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid!
Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift-giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy. The anthology will also include a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations.
Salaam, Candice! Thank you so much for joining us! To begin with, could you quickly introduce yourself?
CM: Sure! I’m the author of novels such as Home and Away and By Any Means Necessary. My goal has always been to write about Black teens for Black teens and in doing that, I aim to explore all the intersections they live within. By day, I teach dance to young boys at home here in Seattle, WA, and play with my blue frenchie, Batman.
Your short story, Just Like Chest Armor, in Once Upon An Eid is about a young girl’s experience with wearing hijab for the first time. What do you want readers to take away from it?
CM: I so badly want readers to connect with Leila not because they do or do not wear hijab, but because they understand how proud she is to be who she is. Leila is outspoken at home and at school, but it becomes difficult when she tries to introduce a new part of herself into that scenario.
This is such a common occurrence for kids of any age and I want them to know they should be allowed to be unapologetic about what they wear, what faith they celebrate, who they love, or their personal interests. I just want readers to walk away from this story inspired to be unapologetic about themselves.
I love that! There’s a really beautiful line in the story from Leila’s mother about how there are lots of different ways to show our faith and we have to pick the ones that are right for who we are at a specific time, which I also loved. Do you have any advice for how we can still have faith and make the most of Ramadan and Eid during this difficult time?
CM: Oh, absolutely! That’s actually a thing my Imam said to me during my last Eid before moving to Washington. Right now, about a week into Ramadan, we’ve all had to make adjustments. For me personally, because I live alone, that means I’m breaking fast “alone.” That is, when possible, I Facetime with my family and we have a meal “together.”
And a lot of my friends and family have been receiving photos of Candice’s-At-Home-Iftar, too. The way we’re all staying connected these days is over the phone and via the internet, so I’m celebrating by documenting the smaller pieces of this holy month and sharing it with my people.
Eid means different things to different people. Can you sum up what Eid means to you in one word or sentence? Do you have any favourite traditions?
CM: To me, Eid means light.
My favorite tradition has always been sweet breakfast. We make pancakes or waffles or cinnamon rolls or muffins and try to find scented candles to match. Sometimes we create our own, for example, burning a vanilla scented candle and a blueberry one as we make blueberry muffins. For my family, it’s been a fun way to be creative together. A way to get up and start the day with a smile and a little extra energy.
That sounds amazing! And finally, what books written by Muslim authors do you recommend? Which books are you looking forward to reading soon?
CM: A couple of my faves are Nafiza Azad’s The Candle and The Flame and The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali. Both of these are so important for young Muslimahs. They tell amazing stories of strong women. Each of these stories also feature a main character who strives to live an unapologetic life, being exactly who they are.
As for upcoming reads, I’m soooo excited to get my hands on Adiba Jaigirdar’s The Henna Wars. I’ve certainly got the time for it now.
I couldn’t agree more! Thank you so much for joining us, Candice, and for taking the time to answer these questions!
Once Upon An Eid will be published on May 5th 2020. Pre-order the book now at an indie bookstore near you, and don’t forget to add it on Goodreads.