Aya A. Khalil is the published author of two vibrant children’s books: “The Arabic Quilt” and “The Night Before Eid.” She is also a freelance journalist who has contributed to various notable media. She found a lack of the use of the Arabic language in the book market as well as an underrepresentation of Arab authors. Aya hopes that her having broken through those barriers will open up more doors especially considering Arabic is the fastest growing languages being taught at US colleges and universities. Here’s how:
R.Salam. You have two beautiful books. Tell us what they are about.
A. My debut picture book, “The Arabic Quilt,” was published in 2020 by Tilbury House, illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan. It’s about an Egyptian immigrant to the U.S. who is trying too hard to fit in and finally comes to appreciate her native language and culture with the help of her wonderful teacher.
My second picture book, “The Night Before Eid,” will comes out in 2023 from Little, Brown/ Christy Ottaviano, illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh. It’s about three generations of Egyptian-Americans bonding over a special Eid treat called, ka’ak/kahk and all the love that comes along with it.
R.Congratulations! Your books include Arabic terms in them. Does that mean your target audience are children who are familiar with the Arabic language?
A. I definitely love that kids who speak Arabic can read it and can relate to it. I’ve had teachers email me, telling me their students helped them pronounce the words for them! There’s also a glossary in the back for people who do not speak Arabic so it’s definitely a book for everyone to enjoy!
R.That’s incredible! What did you find lacking in the publishing market that made your feel like we need books like “The Arabic Quilt” and “The Night Before Eid?”
A. There’s a huge lack of books by Arab American authors and books with Arab characters, especially picture books. There’s really only a few out there (traditionally-published). Of course, there’s still a lack of Muslim-authored books, but it’s been getting better the past few years and there are some amazing ones coming out in the next few years!
R.Who or what inspires you?
A. Some people who inspire me are Khadija (prophet Muhammad’s wife), Ibtihaj Muhammad and my mom!
R.ما شاء الله. What kind of books do you like to read?
A. I am currently into middle grade books. Some recent favorites are “Red, White and Whole” by Rajani LaRocca and “Unsettled” by Reem Faruqi.
R.Where can we get your books? Where can we learn more about you and your books?
A. At your local book stores or wherever books are sold and the libraris of course! My website is www.ayakhalil.com and I tweet at twitter.com/ayawrites and Instagram at www.instagram.com/ayakhalilauthor