I am an author, mama to two little boys, lawyer, teacher, and maker and drinker of chai [lots and lots of chai].
Who are you?
I am an author, mama to two little boys, lawyer, teacher, and maker and drinker of chai [lots and lots of chai]. I’m also on the executive committee for We Need Diverse Books™, a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. My debut novel WRITTEN IN THE STARS released March 24th by Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books.
Give us your favorite quote and tell us why it means so much to you:
Don’t try to see through the distances. That’s not for human beings. Move within, But don’t move the way fear makes you move.” ― Rumi
I believe this quote is so much of what life is about: moving past our fears and venturing into unchartered territories in order to push ourselves and actualize our dreams and achieve self-growth. It was really hard to leave a full-time reliable job with a steady income to pursue my writing. I had a novel I had been working on for years but it was getting harder and harder to make time for it. When I found out I was pregnant with my son I realized that time would now get even more scarce soon so I decided it was time to take the leap and on 9/9/09 I decided to leave my job and pursue my dream of writing. It was terrifying to do this and not a decision I entered into lightly as I wondered if I could or should do it. But I remembered Rumi’s quote, that we have to sometimes do what we need to do even if we can’t guarantee what the outcome will be. I realize being able to leave your job when no steady alternative awaits is a choice not everyone can make, I am thankful I was able to do so. This quote is a powerful one and has guided me in many ways throughout the years.
What Ayahs of the Quran do you hold close to your heart? Why?
“And after heavy hardship comes great ease.” [94: 5]
Throughout my life whenever difficult moments arise this ayah is my promise from the Sustainer. His promise isn’t for a happy ending, but ease. In my journey through life I’ve discovered ease comes in different and sometimes unexpected forms but as the Sustainer promises, it always comes.
What Hadith do you wish more non-Muslims knew?
A person used to leave trash outside of the prophet’s home each day to show how much they despised him, one day there was no trash and the prophet went to check on the person to make sure they were okay. I wish non-Muslims knew all of this and all the prophet’s beautiful words of wisdom and stories that underscore his gentleness, his love and compassion for people.
1. What is your favorite book?
There are so many beloved books! Arranged Marriages by Chitra Divakaruni and Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri showed me my stories could matter. Waiting by Ha Jin swept me up in its simple but powerful prose. Most recently Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, letters on writing, living, and life is the one on my bed stand, worn from repeated readings.
2. Who inspires/inspired you?
My parents. They embody Rumi’s quote to move but not the way fear moves you. Leaving ones homeland, and family and friends behind to move to the United States must have been terrifying but they did it because they hoped for a better future for themselves and future generations. There are many people like my parents who immigrated here, they are all brave for the leap of faith it takes to leave all you know behind.
3. What is the best lesson your mother/mother figure taught you?
What other people think of you is none of your business. Backbiting is a clear-cut sin in my faith and if someone is doing so about me, I don’t need to know about it. It was a lesson my mother’s mother taught her, and one she passed down to me. It has served me well and kept me from otherwise needless hurt in my life.
4. What advice would you give your 13 year old self?
Love yourself. Frizzy hair, thick eyebrows, and all. I think it’s sadly a common truth that females are harsh with themselves and this self-criticism starts young. I would tell myself that no matter how I looked beauty radiates from the heart and I should keep my heart free of constant self-critique on the superficial.
5. What are your hopes for your daughter and son?
My hopes for my sons is for them to have love in their lives. The meaning of life is love. I hope they are always surrounded by it.
6. What is the biggest trial you went through in your life and how has that changed you?
My biggest trial in my life is suffering pregnancy losses. A pregnancy represents hope and promise and to lose it is to lose both in one fell swoop. It is a crushing pain many women go through and yet so few openly talk about so it’s a grief you suffer mostly alone. The difficult years of dealing with this helped me grow closer to my husband who was my support and help me appreciate motherhood and my children because I know not to take their beautiful beings for granted.
7. Any regrets? What’s something that you wish you’d thought about more before you did it?
I wish I had not wasted years afraid to write because I didn’t know what would happen. I’m glad I ultimately wrote through my fears, I am so happy Written in the Stars has made its way into the world.
8. How do you stay grounded in your work and/or spiritually grounded?
I think the key to being grounded in my work is to be disciplined. Write when you’re inspired but write when you’re not. The discipline helps words come even when it’s difficult.
9. How do you bring about real change?
By finding something you are passionate about and taking actual concrete steps to make a difference. We can’t change the entire world but we can find one small part to make an impact upon and that may prove to be everything.
10. What do you hope to be remembered for?
I hope I can be remembered for being kind to those around me. You can achieve or fail at any number of things but I think what matters in the end is how you treated people and how kind you were to those in your life.
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