A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi

Publication Date: 12 November 2020

The Blurb

Set against the backdrop of Karachi, Pakistan, Saadia Faruqi’s tender and honest middle grade novel tells the story of two girls navigating a summer of change and family upheaval with kind hearts, big dreams, and all the right questions.

Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.

The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?

Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most. 

The Review

A beautifully told tale of family, friendship and finding your voice. Told in alternating chapters from both Mimi and Sakina’s perspectives, we quickly learn that despite the differences created growing up thousands of miles apart, there is far more common ground for the girls than they expect to find.

I loved watching Mimi explore her grandparent’s city with Sakina and learn about her heritage, while Sakina grew in courage as she chased her dream.

A wonderful window into life in Karachi, of both the wealthy and poor, with rich description that transports you to the sweltering, bustling city, that explores culture, religion, class and food.

Oh my goodness, the food! The smells and flavours from Abba’s kitchen seemed to pop out of the pages leaving my mouth hankering for the flavours of Pakistan.

The only thing missing were Abba’s recipes, and an endless cup of chai!

Great for fans of:

About The Author

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American writer, interfaith activist, and cultural-sensitivity trainer and is the author of the early-reader Yasmin series and A Thousand Questions. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her family.

I am delighted to welcome Saadia to the blog today, to explain why she thinks we should …

Read Books By Own Voices Authors by Saadia Faruqi

I’m a Pakistani American author. My latest book A Thousand Questions, is releasing in the U.K, Australia, and India this year. I’m also an immigrant mom with two first generation American kids. I’m a Muslim. I’m brown. I’m South Asian.

All of us have identities, often overlapping. I never thought of myself as a mosaic of so many different colours and tones and emotions, yet that’s what makes me unique. Most of my identities are marginalized, in relation to the western world. When I write about these identities, I’m an “ownvoices” author, which means I’ve had real experiences related to these marginalizations. I’m writing stories I have intimate knowledge of. My characters are authentic. My books are ownvoices.

What does this mean to a reader? Does it matter whether you read an ownvoices book or not? I believe it really does. I believe that reading a book that’s written by an ownvoices author offers a much more authentic portrayal of the story and characters, because that author knows what they’re talking about. There’s nuance and specificity. There’s a sense of truth in the book that shines through from the author’s heart.

For instance, if you read a book about a Muslim family written by someone who’s not Muslim themselves, but has “lots of friends who are Muslim”, chances are you’ll read something stereotypical or one-dimensional. Further, being a Muslim is not just about praying or fasting, there’s so much nuance that goes into a faith tradition that only those within the group know about. How a character interacts with their elders, or why they don’t celebrate a certain holiday, or whether they wear a hijab or not (hint: many Muslim women don’t).

Even within a religious frame, there are so many differences depending on culture. I am ownvoices as a South Asian Muslim, but not as a Black Muslim or a Hispanic Muslim. If I try to write a story outside of my personal experiences, I know I’ll make mistakes, and my story will suffer. I could get an army of fact checkers, but it won’t matter. I could check my facts again and again, but who will check my emotions and life experiences?

This is not to say that ownvoices is the only thing that matters. At the end of the day, a good story is a good story. Writers tend to write whatever strikes their fancy, and there are so many topics none of us have experience of… witches, aliens, talking animals… there’s so much outside of our personal experience we can easily write about. Non-fiction accounts are a prime example where ownvoices aren’t that essential. Research fills a lot of gaps, because the writer can learn during their journey.

As a writer, I try to go a bit further. I always ask myself: do I have the right to tell this story? Whose place am I taking by writing it? Who really gets to showcase their culture, faith and experience? When marginalized authors are already few and far between, don’t they deserve all the help they can get to tell their own stories? As readers, we can demand this of the writing community. We can ask questions, find out who the author is and whether they’re the right person to be writing a certain book. Inquire and educate and be firm. Seek out ownvoices books, read them, and share them with others.

When we all do that, the literature out there for us to read will become richer, more interesting, and much more authentic.

Huge thanks to Saadia for writing such an insightful and important guest post, and for inviting me to take part in the Blog tour for A Thousand Questions. Do make sure you check out all of the other stops.

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