Hena Khan is an award-winning picture book and middle grade author whose work includes an Islam-themed picture book for the Curious George books. Hena was tapped to write the first release of Simon & Schuster’s groundbreaking imprint Salaam Reads, where she wrote the highly acclaimed middle grade novel “Amina’s Voice”.
Hena and I discuss the inspiration behind “Amina’s Voice” and her universal story of self-acceptance and the acceptance of others. Hena walks us through how she introduces Islam to her young readers and we continue to talk about how important it is to have diverse representation in children’s literature.
Further into our conversation, Hena unpacks how she strengthens her character’s voice by knowing exactly what they want, and we touch on ways that writers can instill accountability to inspire a finished story. For those of you who are currently looking for writing groups to be a part of, Hena shares the specific characteristics of writing groups you should look out for when finding your perfect group.
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“Stories have the power to change hearts and minds.”
“We are not a monolith and one story can’t represent all of us.”
“Having people say that these books…matters to them and it made a difference to them in some way is how I define success.”
“I realized I couldn’t understand other people’s loss until I had experienced it myself.”
What You’ll Learn From This Episode:
- The importance of the imprint Salaam Reads in our current political climate
- Hena shares how she introduces Islam to her young audience
- How to strengthen your character’s voice by knowing what they want
- Ways you can instill accountability to inspire you to finish your story
- The characteristics of writing groups you should search for when finding your perfect group
- How Hena got the opportunity to write “It’s Ramadan, Curious George”
- The importance of diverse representation in children’s literature
- Finding empathy after experiencing loss
In Amina’s Voice, a Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this sweet and moving middle grade novel from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.
Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.
Learn More About Hena Khan
Hena Khan is a picture book and middle grade author. Her most recent middle grade novel is AMINA’S VOICE, the first release of Simon & Schuster’s groundbreaking imprint Salaam Reads. Hena’s picture books include IT’S RAMADAN, CURIOUS GEORGE, GOLDEN DOMES AND SILVER LANTERNS, and NIGHT OF THE MOON. She has also written two middle grade choose-your-own-adventure style novels. Hena is a native of Rockville, Maryland, where she still lives with her family.
Books & Resources Mentioned in Hena’s Episode:
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri