Farhana swallowed and reached for the hijab. But then she saw with absolute clarity the weird looks from the other girls at school, and the smirks from the guys. Did she dare? And then there was Malik... What should she do about him? Faraz was thinking about Skrooz and the lads. Soon he would finally have the respect of the other kids at school. But at what price? He heard Skrooz's voice, sharp as a switchblade: "This thing is powerful, blud. But you have to earn it, see? Just a few more errands for me..." They're twins, born 6 minutes apart. Both are in turmooil and both have life-changing choices to make, against the peaceful backdrop of Ramadan. Do Farhana and Faraz have enough courage to do the right thing? And can they help each other - or will one of them draw the other towards catastrophe? This powerful novel explores the idea of honour and what it means to different generations of Muslim families.
Hello Na'ima, thank you for sharing with us at YA Fresh. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?
Na'ima: I developed a love of writing in high school where I displayed the peculiar ability to thoroughly shock my teachers with the kinds of stories they did not expect to find in a high school exercise book! I loved shocking them.
But I never considered writing as a career, even though I was a serious 'book fan' throughout my teenage years and after. I first got bitten by the writing bug when my son was about a year old - I wrote some simple children's stories and rhymes with Muslim characters because I couldn't find any in the library. My first title, a picture book called The Swirling Hijaab, was published soon after and is still in print today, in over 14 dual-language editions. Writing for teens was something I never thought I would be able to do - mainly because I didn't believe I had the writing stamina to write a whole novel! But what can I say, when a story tells itself in your head, all you can do is write it!
So true, Na'ima! Please tell us about your novel and what we can expect from your characters.
Na'ima: My two teen novels, From Somalia, With Love and Boy vs. Girl are about ordinary Muslim teens, struggling to come to terms with growing up, finding themselves while balancing their many identities. But many of my characters are different from the stereotypes that are common in the media today - they provide an approachable and realistic insight into the lives of Muslim teens. But my characters also have universal appeal: at the end of the day, they have the same stuff to worry about as any other teen. In terms of what you can expect from the characters, expect them be interesting, refreshing and original too!
Sounds very unique! What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.
Na'ima: My next book is entitled Far From Home (available in the US in Spring 2012) and it is a story about two girls, one black, one white, one from the past, one from the present, who are caught up in political turmoil in Zimbabwe, in Africa. The two girls, Katie and Tariro, are worlds apart but their lives are linked by a terrible secret, gradually revealed in this story of two girls grappling with the complexities of adolescence, family and a painful colonial legacy. It is totally different from anything I have ever written - you'll have to read it for yourselves to see why!
Thank you again, Na'ima! Best of luck with your writing career. Would you like to close with a writing tip?
Na'ima: Write what you love - and don't stop being curious; it's what keeps your imagination alive!
Na’ima B. Robert is descended from Scottish Highlanders on her father's side and the Zulu people on her mother's side. She was born in Leeds, grew up in Zimbabwe and went to university in London. At high school, her loves included performing arts, public speaking and writing stories that shocked her teachers! She has written several multicultural books for children and is the author of From Somalia With Love, a novel for young adults. Boy vs. Girl is her second books for teens. She divides her time between London and Cairo and dreams of living on a farm with her own horses. Until then, she is happy to be a mum to her four children and keep reading and writing books that take her to a different world each time. To find out more about Na'ima B Robert, visit www.naimabrobert.co.uk.