By Thushanthi Ponweera
Today we’re pleased to welcome Reem Faruqi to the WNDB blog to discuss her latest middle grade novel-in-verse Golden Girl, out February 22, 2022!
Seventh grader Aafiyah loves playing tennis, reading Weird but True facts, and hanging out with her best friend, Zaina. However, Aafiyah has a bad habit that troubles her—she’s drawn to pretty things and can’t help but occasionally “borrow” them.
But when her father is falsely accused of a crime he hasn’t committed and gets taken in by authorities, Aafiyah knows she needs to do something to help. When she brainstorms a way to bring her father back, she turns to her Weird but True facts and devises the perfect plan.
But what if her plan means giving in to her bad habit, the one she’s been trying to stop? Aafiyah wants to reunite her family but finds that maybe her plan isn’t so perfect after all. . .
You tackle a topic not commonly found in middle-grade books: Kleptomania. What made you select this topic to write about?
I chose to write about kleptomania because I hadn’t read about it much in children’s literature and because a friend of mine had it and I remember the shock, sadness, and betrayal of being on the other side and having my stuff go missing. I researched kleptomania and found that it’s more common than I thought. I also wanted to explore the deep emotions that go with this behavior and to explore how it affects relationships with friends and family.
In your author’s note you get candid about the parts of your real life that made its way into the book. Would you say all your books are based on true events?
I was going to say not all my books, but then I realized that, as of now, all my published books are based on elements from my life! The stories are fiction, but I’ve loosely threaded my real experiences in there. I gravitate to contemporary fiction and nonfiction and love when a book I read or a TV show I watch is based on real events.
When you write about a culture as rich and diverse as yours, how do you choose which parts to highlight?
I don’t choose a part to highlight per se. Rather, I write the story and see where the story takes me. So, for Golden Girl, I knew gold had an important part to play in this story. And in my Pakistani culture, gold jewelry is highly valued and passed form one generation to another. So that made its way to the story.
What do you wish you’d see more of in middle-grade and children’s literature in general?
I feel there is a such a big jump from middle grade to young adult and I wish there were two separate genres–one for lower middle grade and one for upper middle grade.
Which writers inspire and influence your own work?
There are too many to list!
I love these authors for their verse novels: Nikki Grimes, Sharon Creech, Rajani La Rocca, Chris Baron, Padma Venkatraman, K.A. Holt, Jacqueline Woodson, Elizabeth Acevedo. These three 2021 debut authors have novels in verse: Joanne Rossmassler Fritz , Megan E. Freeman, Lisa Fipps.
For prose, I admire the novels of Saadia Faruqi, Hena Khan, Aisha Saeed, Maleeha Siddiqui and the picture books of Aya Khalil and Susannah Aziz.
What are some recent reads you enjoyed?
Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Cuba in My Pocket by Adrianna Cuevas
And I’m excited to read the picture book Fly! Girl! Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around the World by Nancy Roe Pimm and Alexandra Bye.
Reem Faruqi is the award-winning children’s book author of Lailah’s Lunchbox, a book based on her own experiences as a young Muslim girl immigrating to the United States. She’s also the author of Amira’s Picture Day, I Can Help, and a middle grade debut novel in verse, Unsettled. After surviving Atlanta traffic and the school drop off, Reem spends her days trying to write, but instead gets distracted easily by her camera, and buttery sunlight. Reem Faruqi lives in Atlanta with her husband and three daughters. You can find her at www.ReemFaruqi.com or on Instagram or Twitter as @ReemFaruqi.
Thushanthi Ponweera is a blog volunteer for We Need Diverse Books and a WNDB 2021 picture book mentee with author David LaRochelle. She was born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka where she lives with her husband and two children. She grew up reading and falling in love with stories about children and places that were foreign to her. She believes that someday children from around the world will read and fall in love with stories about children in Sri Lanka. She hopes to write those stories. You can find her on Twitter @thushponweera and on Instagram @bythush.