• Thursday, May 23, 2024

Arts and Culture

Farshana Islam: ‘Noor is a shining, guiding light’

Asjad NazirBy: Asjad Nazir

The delightful debut from Farhana Islam is a celebration of Muslim women, diversity, and inclusivity, which opens, up new worlds for young readers and parents alike. The book gorgeously illustrated by Nabila Adani, brings bright colour and lovable characters to the young readers.

Eastern Eye caught up with the Birmingham based author to discuss her book, its key message and importance of representation.

What made you want to write a children’s book?

There are so many reasons. As a primary school teacher, I saw first-hand how important books are to children and the value in reading. I saw the value in being read to, and most importantly in seeing yourself on a bookshelf. I always believed and continue to believe that there is a space for stories like Not Now, Noor! It was just having the confidence to believe I could be a part of that space.

Tell us about the book?

Full of curiosity, Not Now, Noor! is all about asking questions. Her most important (and one millionth) question to date being, ‘why do the women in Noor’s life wear hijab?’ In this funny and heart-warming tale, Noor sets out to find her answer, and nothing will stop her.

What inspired the interesting title?

Children are naturally curious, and for better or worse, they have absolutely no filter. Not Now, Noor! is exactly that. An unfiltered conversation inspired by every child I’ve ever taught. ‘Ms, do you have eyes on the back of your head?’, ‘Ms, is it pinned to your scalp?’, or my personal favourite, ‘Ms, are your ears really that big?’ Those children built the foundations of Noor’s world and many of Noor’s weirdly, wonderful conclusions. This story is for them and will always be a reminder of why diverse stories should be a staple on every bookshelf.

Tell us about the eye-catching illustrations?

Nabila Adani did an utterly fantastic job in creating Noor’s world. I honestly don’t believe illustrators get enough credit for what they do. Nabila was able to bring life to characters that were based on family members of mine, and I cannot tell you how accurate she was.

Farshana Islam: ‘Noor is a shining, guiding light’
The cover of her book Not Now, Noor!

How important are books like this?

Very! Noor’s story is a window for many children, she is a shining, guiding light that offers a peek inside a somewhat unfamiliar but equally recognisable world. Noor is also a mirror for children who deserve to see themselves on a bookshelf. Children who, without question, deserve to have their realities represented too.

Who are you hoping connects with this book?

Anybody and everybody. I hope Noor finds a home in many libraries, schools, and homes. Maybe even a bedroom floor, or two, folded in the right places from being read over and over again.

Is there a key message you want to convey?

Hijab is still something quite unknown to many, particularly in the UK. Noor’s honest and direct questioning represents the unapologetic, unfiltered nature of childhood. We tend to lose this as we age, fearful that our questions may offend or upset. Be like Noor, be like your forgotten childhood self and just ask.

How do you feel ahead of your debut book being published?

My excitement to share Not Now, Noor! with the rest of the world overrides my fear of publicly putting myself out there as a brown, hijabi woman. 

What inspires you as a writer?

My students, family and excitement stumbling across books with characters that look like a younger version of me.

Why should parents pick up this book for their children?

Parents should pick up Not Now, Noor! because it is funny, warm, and completely relatable. You don’t have to wear hijab or be a Muslim to see yourself or your child in this story.

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