(This is first in part of a new series on the blog called ‘Author Interview’ where I speak with authors of children’s books – books that reflect upon Muslim values, fosters family relations, talk against racism, inclusivity of all racial/ethnic groups and overall gives a positive message to our young children)
I was recently given the opportunity to read an exciting new children’s book called ‘Surprise!’ which revolves around a small family and their close relations with each other. I have been honoured to conduct an interview with the author of the book, Zaheera Jina.
Without further delay, here is the exclusive interview conducted solely for the readers of this blog.
1. Can you please give a brief introduction about yourself to our readers?
My name is Zaheera Jina. I hold a PhD in Mathematics Education from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. I am the brainchild behind the anthology titled ‘Riding the Samoosa Express: Personal Narratives of Marriage and Beyond’.
I am also the founder of the Jozi’s Books and Blogs Festivities (Jozisbbf), a non-profit organisation that projects to cultivate a culture of reading and writing in South Africa through various literary events. “Surprise!” is my first children’s book. I am presently compiling the second Samoosa Express book which is a Muslim Woman’s Guide to Marriage. I live in Lenasia, South Africa with my husband, two sons and many in-laws.
2. What inspired you to a writing career?
I enjoy meddling with words and while I’m not where I would like to be in my writing career, I will continue to persevere to get there.
3. Can you tell us more about your latest book – Surprise? What is the muse behind the book?
Surprise! is a story about my own kids. It goes through their evening bedtime rituals to get them ready for bed. For me it’s a gift to them, to capture these important moments and treasure them.
4. What are the lessons you wish to inculcate to your young readers through the book?
The theme in Surprise! is family and the importance of sharing each and every moment together.
5. How long did the book take to finalize – from the initial idea, writing the story, illustrations and finally publishing?
The book took a full year to become a reality. I first wrote the story and then worked with an editor to finalise the text. I illustrated the art next. Working with a designer to set the text took very very long. I then sent the manuscript to Papatia Feauxzar for her opinion on it and she offered to publish the story. The manuscript had to be edited to suit the expectations of the publishing house. Alhamdullilah that the process is finally over and we now have a book that others can enjoy.
6. What is your opinion about the current Muslim children-fiction-scene?
From a South African context, I have noticed that Muslim children fiction solely talks about the religious aspect. The books are of a poor print quality too at times. Internationally the books involve Muslim families and teach children values that all children require. We need more good quality children books for Muslim children in our South African market.
7. Can you tell us more about your writing career? What are the next books on your plate? Are there more children’s books we can lookout for from you?
I am the compiler, co-editor and contributing author of the anthology ‘Riding the Samoosa Express: Personal Narratives of marriage and beyond’. I decided to compile the book of professional Muslim women narratives to understand their journeys. The book sold over 1000 copies in the first 6 weeks of publication. I am busy compiling the second Samoosa Express book which in the same fashion as the first book, allows women to relate their narratives and of course allows other Muslim women to empathise with these narratives and to do the same. I also have another children’s story in the pipeline which I hope to work on soon.
8. You are also the founder of Jozi’s books and blog festivities (Jozisbbf). Can you please tell us more about the organization and its activities?
Jozi’s Books and Blogs Festival launched in 2016. The festival was based on a dream to get literary personnel down to ground level, to get them to engage with the young, old and not so old from our communities, to break walls, build relationships and to make reading and writing a reachable goal for all.
After the festival in 2016, I decided to make literary events a monthly venture in our smaller communities so as to get more people involved. I also decided to create a platform on social media to showcase literary personnel and their blogs, vlogs and books.
The social media platforms are named “Jozi’s Books and Blogs festivities” with the aim of fostering a culture and enthusiasm for reading and writing in our communities through various literary events.
9. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
This may sound cliched but I live by the motto to “always follow your dream” and of course to “make everyday count!”
Thank you to Zaheera Jina for taking out the time to respond to our interview. Also my gratitude to Djarabi Kitabs Publishing for giving me the opportunity to review and read the book.
To read more about the launch of this new book, hop here
to the publisher’s page.