Papatia Feauxzar: Assalamu aleikum Shereen. Welcome to Hayati Magazine. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Shereen Malherbe: Shereen Malherbe is a writer, author & speaker who spends her time in the U.K and the United Arab Emirates. She is an advocate for diverse narratives in literature and a mother of three. She also writes for Muslimah Media Watch about the representation of Muslim women in the media and pop culture. Her work also features in various newspaper opinion columns, magazines and has represented non-profit organisations.
PF: Congratulations on your novel, Jasmine Falling, being published! Masha’Allah. I have to say that at first, your main character came off as a Muslim person to me. So, some of her choices made me ponder for a moment because my subconscious played the haram police a bit. *Laughs.* Was your intention to put a little doubt in the mind of your readers so that they learn not to judge?
SM: Thank you. Alhamdulillah for the opportunity to write it. My intention with my novel was to show a journey with Jasmine. At first, she associates herself with her British heritage and she has never had the opportunity to learn about her faith. My novel is designed to introduce the beauty of Islam into modern literature from an outsider’s view so it was important that Muslims and non-Muslims can relate to the character. I believe that relatable fiction is more important than portraying characters who never do anything wrong because that isn’t real life. And I guess, if it teaches you not to be judgemental then that can only be positive!
PF: Yes, no one is perfect and we should strive to remember that.
PF: You brought up the djinn and human connection in this story. The way it was done was a bit strange to me but that just me. That said, any mention of the djinns in our ummah these days is considered cliché or even taboo. Did you include the unseen in your story to debunk this matter?
SM: The unseen is a part of the Islamic narrative so I wanted to include it in my novel as it reflects that. I am not familiar with the subject being cliché or taboo so I wrote it, as I experienced and learned about it for the purposes of my novel and used those elements to reflect the authentic narrative I discovered in Palestine. I began practicing Islam only after my experience in Palestine so that may account for why my perspective of the unseen differs from that of others!
PF: I agree the djinn is inherent with the Islamic faith. Sacred texts mention their presence we shouldn’t underestimate.
PF: What made you go for Jasmine Falling as title for your book? I have my own theory but I want to pick your brain.
SM: As it is a story about her journey, the title incorporates a number of elements about the character’s journey. Her life is going through a period of upheaval so the imagery of her falling was designed to represent this.
PF: I enjoyed reading your detailed narrative of the settings (UK and Palestine). I read on your blog that it took somewhat years to write this first book and many pictures on your part. Is that so?
SM: Yes, absolutely. I travelled to Palestine on numerous occasions and stayed with locals in the West Bank and travelled with them to hear their stories, to walk in their shoes as much as possible in order to really represent their perspective and history. By doing that, I learned things I could never have learned and I am so appreciative of my own journey there that contributed to the novel, alhamdulillah. It also reinforced my duty to pursue the book to completion to capture their stories which are being eroded by the Occupation. It occurred to be that as I experienced Palestine in those moments, it was from an extremely privileged and ever-changing position and I wanted to capture it. I know Palestinians that are unable to return to their homeland and if they did, their towns are gone. I didn’t want their stories to be erased as well.
PF: I want to see more of Jasmine and the stranger. Please tell us that you have more to write to satisfy our curiosity.
SM: Yes there is more to come! I am currently working on Book Two, so insha’Allah there will be more of Jasmine and the stranger to come. I feel that I have grown up with her and I am looking forward to seeing what future choices and insha’Allah my readers are too.
PF: Awesome! Thank you for being with us Shereen. The team and I wish you all the best with your book Jasmine Falling. Alf mabrook again. Now, please share with us your social media links with us so that our readers can get to know you more insha’Allah.
SM: Thank you for having me! You can find out more about me via my website, www.shereenmalherbe.com & you can follow me on Twitter @malherbegirl. If you would like to preview my novel, it is available on my website or via Amazon.
My book is available as an ebook or paperback worldwide. For buying options please visit www.shereenmalherbe.com/jasmine-falling