Author Spotlight: Interview With Ayesha Mattu

Salaam, friends! As Eid ul-Fitr quickly approaches, I’m counting down the remaining days of Ramadan with the last few author interviews 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 penultimate story in the anthology is written by Ayesha Mattu, so I’m excited to welcome her on the blog today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Ayesha Mattu author photoAyesha Mattu’s two groundbreaking anthologies – Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of Muslim Women and Salaam, Love: Muslim Men on Love, Sex, and Intimacy – were featured globally by media from the New York Times to the BBC to the Jakarta Post. She was selected a “Muslim Leader of Tomorrow” by the UN Alliance of Civilizations, and is an alumna of Voices of Our Nations writers’ workshop.

Her work has most recently anthologized in: Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian American Daughters on Obedience and Rebellion and Once Upon An Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices. You can follow her on Twitter: @Ayesha_Mattu.

ABOUT ONCE UPON AN EID


once-upon-an-eid-s-k-ali-aisha-saeed-coverOnce 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.

THE INTERVIEW


Salaam, Ayesha! Thank you so much for joining us! To begin with, could you quickly introduce yourself?

AM: Walaykum salaam, dear Nadia. Thank you so much for having me.

I am a writer based in San Francisco with my partner and our child. I am the editor of two non-fiction anthologies featuring 47 real-life Muslim love stories. My story in the Once Upon An Eid collection is my first foray into fiction and children’s literature.

Family is so central to your short story, Maya Madinah Chooses Joy, in Once Upon An Eid. What do you hope readers will take away from it?

AM: 1) That “family” can look many different ways, and that the Prophet (PBUH) himself experienced many different forms of family while growing up.

2) That “we are the aunties we’ve been waiting for.” In the story, Maya turns to a (non-related) aunt for help when she cannot talk to her parents. The parents and the aunt are essentially part of each other’s village in raising this child together.

We all need a community we can trust. And we each have the opportunity to be that listening, trustworthy and non-judgmental person in someone’s life.

You’re the co-editor of the Love, InshAllah and Salaam, Love anthologies, a contributor to Good Girls Marry Doctors and now, Once Upon An Eid. What makes anthologies so special for you? Are there any anthologies you’d love to see that haven’t been done yet?

AM: When it comes to the American Muslim community, anthologies play a special role in capturing a snapshot of our incredible diversity. Not just in terms of race and ethnicity, but sect, practice, class, traditions, languages, regional differences, and so much more.

For many people—regardless of if they are Muslim or not—places of worship or communities are ethnically/racially siloed from each other. Anthologies give readers a chance to experience that glorious diversity for themselves, no matter where they live.

I haven’t seen it done yet, but have often thought of putting together an anthology of Muslim mothers and daughters writing to each other across continents, eras, generations — perhaps even transcending death itself for some writers.

We have this beautiful Islamic idea of “heaven lies under the feet of a mother.” I would love to see more complexity introduced into that concept and how it plays out in real life.

(If you’re interested in this concept, hit me up @Ayesha_Mattu)

I would love to read that! In particular, what makes this anthology so great is that it highlights how everyone experiences Eid in a different way. How do you celebrate Eid? Do you have any favourite traditions?

AM: Chand Raat is my favorite tradition and plays a role in this story too. I have fond memories of visiting relatives in Pakistan, going to the festive bazaar the night before Eid, selecting colorful glass choorian, and having beautiful henna designs drawn on my palms.

We try to replicate some of that communal joy now by going to the San Francisco Bay Area Eid carnivals and picnics each year, though of course this year that part will look different due to the pandemic.

And finally, what are your favourite books written by Muslim authors? Which books are you looking forward to reading soon?

AM: I have so many — multiple shelves full of Muslim women writers especially. Some of my recent fiction favorites include: The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson; Yes No Maybe So by Aisha Saeed & Becky Albertalli; and The Lover by Laury Silvers.

In non-fiction: Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States by Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer; and The Rumi Prescription by Melody Moezzi.

Laury Silvers and S. A. Chakraborty have sequels out now or in the near future (The Jealous and The Empire Of Gold, respectively) and I can’t wait to get my hands on them!

Great recommendations! Thank you so much for joining us, Ayesha, and for taking the time to answer these questions.

AM: Thank you for having me, Nadia. And, thank you for highlighting this joyful End anthology.

Once Upon An Eid is out now. Order the book at an indie bookstore near you, and don’t forget to add it on Goodreads.

For more books by this author, check out Love, InshAllah and Salaam, Love.

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