Uzma Jalaluddin is a published author of two books: “Ayesha At Last” and “Hanna Khan Carries On,” both a means through which Uzma owns her identity. Look out for “Hanna Khan Carries” on, release date April 13, 2021 (available for preorder). Through her books, Uzma aims to instill pride and motivation in one’s own identity, particularly those who have yearned to see a Muslim as the main character in a book. Having grown up in Canada and within a Muslim, South Asian community, Uzma also writes for the parenting column in The Toronto Star Newspaper and has had her byline in The Atlantic. Here is her story on how she came into writing, what void she felt needed to be filled in the book market , her books and on who she is:
R.I am a huge fan of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” so when “Ayesha at Last” was released, I was really excited! As I understand, you took some inspiration from Austen as well? Describe to us your inspiration behind “Ayesha at Last.”
U. I wrote “Ayesha At Last” as a homage to Jane Austen, but also as a way to use a familiar, much beloved story – the love story of Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet – as a way to introduce audiences to my Muslim, South Asian versions of these characters. I started writing this novel many years ago, and I was worried that readers would not be able to relate to a love story about Muslims, or about South Asian culture, that did not center a White protagonist; rather, it focused on the rituals of Muslim courtship and the realities of being an observant Muslim in North America. And so I used the story of Pride and Prejudice as a sort of framework to write my story. Of course, the funny thing is, I didn’t even realize I was doing this until a few drafts into my writing of the novel! It is funny the way our subconscious, creative minds work.
R.When did you first discover the world needed a book like this? When did you first discover that writing and becoming an author was your dream?
U. I’ve always been a reader, and my love writing comes from that deep loving of reading. I used to write stories as a child, and then I kept a diary for many years as a teenager and young adult. I always found it easier to communicate via text, and I developed a voice quite early on. To be honest, I knew that I wanted to be an author, but I had no idea if the world would be interested in the types of stories I was interested in, or the characters I wanted to explore – mostly, happy, nuanced portraits of Muslims and South Asians. It has been a wonderful encouragement to me that people are reading and are receptive to my books.
R.What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
U. Writing is a marathon. Be prepared to commit to the craft of writing. Educate yourself, be humble, set aside time to pursue your dreams and don’t be afraid to be ambitious. But know that this is a difficult career path, filled with rejections. Good luck. Your voice is needed!
R.Tell us about Uzma. Who is Uzma?
U. I’m still trying to figure this one out! I’m many things, like we all are. I’m a married mother of two sons, I live in a suburb just outside Toronto. I was born and raised in the east end of the city, and I grew up in a close knit Muslim community, much like Ayesha in my novel. I spent much of my teen years volunteering and hanging out at the local mosque, or at the local libraries. I’m a reader, and now I’m a writer. I’m also a high school teacher, a public speaker, and I write a regular parenting column for The Toronto Star newspaper. I’ve also had my byline in The Atlantic, and have appeared on television and radio interviews. On my down time, I’m probably lurking on twitter, or watching something funny on Netflix.
R.How can we purchase your book and follow your story?
U. Please do support Muslim creatives by buying our books, or requesting them/borrowing them from the library. The other way to support writers is to write reviews about their books on goodreads or amazon, or the review platform of your choice. Publishers pay attention to all of this! Ultimately, they will publish the books that the public wants, so please do shout out your support! You can follow me on twitter @UzmaWrites or Instagram @uzmajalaluddin or Facebook @UzmaJalaluddinAuthor.
I’m including two cover photos for “Ayesha At Last,” and my second novel, “Hana Khan Carries On.”