Muslim writers are defined by the urge to share what is good and beneficial. Amani Haydar is among a generation of Muslim writers who have mainly been born and raised in Australia publishing stories based on their lives and experiences.
Since the publication of Hanifa Deen’s acclaimed 1995 book, Caravanserai, Muslims have been visibly present in Australian writing and publishing. However, it wasn’t until 10 years later, when Randa Abdel-Fattah published her iconic young adult book, Does My Head Look Big in This?, that Muslim voices really started appearing in Australian fiction.
While 2005 is not so long ago, Muslim Australian writing has changed since Abdel-Fattah was first published. “There is more freedom to write from a place of self-determination and risk, and there is the joy and comfort of writing in a growing community,” she says.
Michael Mohammed Ahmad, the author of The Other Half of You, characterizes Muslim writing in Australia as a beautiful paradox. “On one hand it is the voice of many people; eclectic, diverse, and cross-cultural. On the other hand, it is the voice of a single people; bound together by faith, love, and language,” he says.
Now is the time for a greater focus on what Muslim writers have to say. Our voices matter. Our stories have universal themes, and our numbers are growing.
Islam has three fundamental values: to reflect, to learn, and to share our knowledge. This is what characterizes Muslim writing: the urge to share what is good and beneficial. And this is why Muslim writers of our generation, who have mainly been born and raised in Australia, are publishing stories based on their lives and experiences.
Amani Haydar’s Mother Wound and Sara El Sayed’s Muddy People are recent examples of Muslim autobiographies. Demet Divaroren and Amra Pajalic co-edited the Children’s Book Council of Australia-shortlisted anthology Growing up Muslim in Australia, which showcased the full diversity of Muslim writers across different ethnicities. In publishing the anthology, Divaroren said that Muslim writers are being empowered to add their own voice to a story that is being largely hijacked by the mainstream media.
But there’s another characteristic of Muslim writing that most Australians aren’t privy to. Many of us, especially the ones who write for children, are self-published after getting countless knockbacks from the mainstream publishing industry. Huda Hayek appears to stand alone in the middle-grade space with her delightful book, Huda and Me. In the picture books, we are aware of only Inda Ahmad Zahri’s Salih and Radiah Chowdhury’s The Khatha Chest. We don’t consider picture books authored by non-Muslims with a smiling-girl-wearing-hijab illustration thrown in for diversity’s sake; we need more diverse children’s books by Australian Muslim authors published.
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