By Khadijah Abdul-Azeez
“Show Yourself” by Adeeba Jafri took me back to high school, filled with friendships and the pain that comes with it. I believe everyone has experienced some form of mental health or knows of someone who has so this book is relatable. In fact, I personally can relate, having been diagnosed with bipolar, a mood disorder. I know what it’s like to be in a dark space. I know what it’s like to use unsuccessful coping methods or habits to try to heal. And that’s exactly what Adeeba Jafri expresses in “Show Yourself:” we get to read about the way each of the girls cope with their individual mental health issues.
Young women, especially Muslim women, will benefit from the book because it’s a realistic story of how a group of girls became friends, getting to know each other’s deep struggles while maintaining healthy relationships. Adeeba Jafri expresses the importance of family.
Here is an excerpt that resonated with me:
“By now, Salma had hung up the phone, turned off the hallway light and walked away. The only light visible to Aliya was the nightlight next to where Lena was sleeping. She crawled back into bed, but she couldn’t sleep. She had known for a while that her mother was intentionally hurting herself, but she didn’t like the idea of anyone else knowing about it, especially not the local Muslim community. What Aliya couldn’t understand, though, was why? She wracked her brain, trying to think of a reason. Was it the house deal falling through? The ruined childhood friendship? Was it because Baba was always away on business? No, Aliya thought. It’s because of me. I’m a terrible daughter. She needs help around the house. She needs someone to cook for her. I must stay home with her.”
I’ve been through something similar growing up. I remember blaming myself for other people’s hurt and pain. I guess I didn’t know at the time that it wasn’t my fault people did the things they did. Especially at a very young age; we do not always know how to process everything that is going on around us. Thus, it is difficult to understand that the way other people behave does not define who we are. That we cannot take others’ burdens upon ourselves because all it will do is weigh us down. I only realized this as I grew older, through therapy and self-healing. It’s okay to seek help.
Let’s get to know the author of “Show Yourself,” Adeeba Jafri:
K. “Show Yourself” is about three Muslim teenagers struggling with mental health issues. Tell us about how you were inspired to write “Show Yourself?”
A. “Show Yourself” was inspired by my work with Muslim expat teens and tweens. Nearly all the books’ characters reflect the different relationships I’ve witnessed. The playful tension between Lena and her brother is commonplace in our own home; my daughter would agree wholeheartedly that her younger brothers are fun to be around but sometimes really annoying! The relationship between Hana and her sister was inspired by my own daughter. It would hurt me, as a mother, when I would see her being unintentionally ignored by other girls who were distracted by their cell phones. Therefore, I developed Sara with my daughter in mind, wondering “What would happen if the girl who was ignored had a real problem? How long can it go unchecked?” I’m definitely not an expert on how to help teenagers who may be suffering from a mental health illness. I do, however, know what it’s like to be ignored or overlooked in the face of technology. I saw it on my daughter’s face every time she was around her childhood friends and I see it in the hallway when walking down the corridors of the high school where I currently work.
K. Tell us about yourself, your background…. Do you embrace any additional roles to that of “author?”
A. I’m a writer and high school social studies teacher from New York, currently based in Doha, Qatar. I have four children (ages 14-21) and am a certified IB (International Baccalaureate) coordinator. The IB is designed for inquiry-based learning. Although the curriculum can run from ages 3-18, I work primarily with those 11th-12th graders interested in completing the DP (Diploma Program). In a nutshell, it’s a rigorous and highly-structured curriculum for 11th-12th graders who want to earn college credit both here and abroad. As a coordinator, I have experience in administering and running the program.
During my 12-year sojourn abroad, I’ve taught Islamic studies courses to Muslim expat teens and tweens. Despite living in a Muslim country, they have few opportunities to receive an Islamic studies education. The curriculum administered in most schools is meant to accommodate citizens, not expats. Within a year of moving to Qatar, I took it upon myself to teach children from my home. One weekly class became two-three weekly classes. During the [Covid-19] pandemic, these classes moved Online and included students from all around the world.
K. Tell us about your publishing history and journey.
A. My daughter inspired my first three published books. At the time, I was constantly looking for books with Islamic content and kept coming up short. I was particularly looking for books that could answer preschoolers’ questions from an Islamic perspective. I was expecting my second child at the time and I wanted a book that would simply answer the question, “Where do babies come from?” This inspired me to publish “The Baby Garden,” followed by “Alia and the Story of the Rose,” which answers the question “Why does my mother wear the hijab?” During lockdown, I published two books: “Show Yourself” and “A Zoom with a View,” a picture book that looks at the frustrations and fun of Online schooling.
K. What books/authors do you like to read and recommend?
A. You can usually find me in the fantasy book section of any bookstore or library. Some of my absolute favorites are the “Daevabad” trilogy by Shannon Chakraborty, “The Cursebreaker” series by Brigid Kemerer, anything and everything by Leigh Bardugo and the “Warcross” duology by Marie Lu.
K. Who is your target audience?
A. Girls between 11-14 years old.
K. Where can we get this book?
A. You can find it on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Walmart, Target and Book Depository.
K. How can we follow your journey?
A. The best way to connect with me would be on Instagram @adeebajafri_official or Twitter @adeeba_jafri. I have a website called adeebajafri.com which is where I blog about life as an expat mom of Muslim teens.
Khadijah Abdul-Azeez is the author of a book called, “Makeup For Your Soul.” She is also a speaker and certified peer specialist. She enjoys creating content and motivating women to be a Queen in their lives. She is a mental health advocate and has traveled to schools to speak with the National Alliance Of Mental Illness. She is from Atlanta Georgia and comes from a big family, she is the second oldest out of 12. She was homeschooled her whole life and continues to be self-taught when it comes to knowledge. Her goals are to empower women through content creating and counseling.