Author Spotlight: Interview With Hena Khan

Salaam, everyone! I’m so excited to share the final 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. I’ve had an amazing line-up of authors so far and I’m pleased to announce that the last contributor from the anthology to join me is none other than Hena Khan!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Hena Khan author photoHena Khan is a Pakistani-American writer. She is the author of the middle grade novels Amina’s Voice, Amina’s Song, and More To The Story and picture books Golden Domes And Silver LanternsUnder My Hijab, and It’s Ramadan, Curious George, among others.

Hena lives in her hometown of Rockville, Maryland, with her basketball-loving family. You can follow her on Twitter: @henakhanbooks.

 

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

HK: Walaikum asalaam! I’m a Pakistani-American writer of books for children, including picture books and middle grade fiction. I’m also a mother of two teen boys, an enthusiastic baker, library lover and, until recently, an avid traveller. I was born and raised in Maryland, outside of Washington, DC, and I’ve lived in the same five-mile area for almost my entire life.

Your short story, The Feast of Sacrifice, in Once Upon An Eid is about Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of Hajj. Where did the inspiration for the story come from and what do you want readers to take away from it?

HK: I wanted to write about Eid al-Adha since I’ve written about Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr and think Eid al-Adha gets less attention in children’s books. My friends inspired my story, which centres around a boy whose parents are away performing Hajj.

During their trip, I was checking on their kids and hanging out with them, and I remembered the mix of pride the kids felt, along with the challenge of having parents away for so long—especially on Eid. I wanted kids to ponder the idea of sacrifice, and maybe consider the notion that doing things for others can be more rewarding than we expect.

I love that! Eid ul-Fitr is also a special time for feasting, as we mark the end of Ramadan. What does Eid mean to you specifically? Do you have any favourite traditions or dishes?

HK: Eid to me is defined by community and family, by scrambling to get to Eid prayers on time, and the joy in the atmosphere once we get there. The scene I wrote in my story, where everyone has gathered in their Eid clothes that represents different cultures and traditions on the lawn of the masjid, exchanging hugs and greetings and sharing in food that others brought to share, is so special to me. And Eid wouldn’t be Eid for me without seviyan, the traditional South Asian sweet milky vermicelli noodle dessert, and chai.

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but that’s actually one of my favourite desserts! You’ve written a number of picture books, such as the recently released Like The Moon Loves The Sky, as well as Middle Grade novels such as Amina’s Voice and More To The Story. What do you love most about writing for young audiences? Are you working on anything at the moment you can share with us?

HK: I love hearing from families and kids that they connect with and relate to my work and that my books are filling a need to be seen and included in the literature, in a way I wasn’t when I was growing up. I’m always thrilled to get lovely notes and letters and to see amazing and beautiful posts and reviews. My favorite thing of all though is engaging with young readers and hearing their thoughts, suggestions and feedback—and to be told that they’ve read my books more than once!

I’m currently working on a few different projects and am excited to share that a sequel to Amina’s Voice, titled Amina’s Song, will be coming out in March 2021. We are also releasing a bind-up version of my Zayd Saleem Chasing The Dream series, with an adorable new illustrated cover, that will be out this summer. I’m hoping new readers will be drawn to Zayd’s story, which is one of my very favorites! I’d love for you to connect with me through my website henakhan.com or @henakhanbooks to stay up to date on new releases.

Noted! And finally, what books written by Muslim authors would you recommend? Which books are you looking forward to reading soon?

HK: I’d love for all of you to check out books written by my wonderful and talented co-contributors to Once Upon An Eid, many of whom have recent books or new books coming in the next year.

I also adored Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga and the An Ember In The Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir, and am excited by recent and upcoming work by Aya Khalil, Reem Faruqi, and a host of emerging Muslim voices. It’s amazing for me to see the diversity of Muslim storytellers and range of genres, and to feel less lonely in this industry than I did for many years!

Thank you so much for joining us, Hena, and for taking the time to answer these questions!

HK: Thank you for your support, and Eid Mubarak!

Eid Mubarak! 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 Like The Moon Loves The Sky, Amina’s Voice and More To The Story.

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