Every time there is a terrorist attack, the first thing I think after praying that people haven’t been hurt is that I hope the attacker is not a Muslim. I know what will follow if they are. Young people are affected by global news; it seeps into perceptions, conversations, and then sometimes actions. Growing up, I didn’t encounter animosity the way that my children do now. The conversations that I have with my children—about the political climate, the language being used, the need for them to be exemplary so that no one will put them on a “terror list”—are sadly wholly different to the conversations I had aged eleven about music, reading, arts, and crafts. But I have no choice as I try to help them navigate an increasingly prejudiced world.
Fight Back was inspired by recent terrorist events and the subsequent rise of the far right. Islamophobia and prejudice are a sad reality for people from Muslim backgrounds. Hate crime is on the rise, and anti-Muslim attacks have risen year after year. Fight Back challenges the stereotype constantly depicted in the news and in films that Muslims aren’t peaceful and a Muslim woman can only be empowered if she doesn’t wear a headscarf or if she is not religious. This story seeks to authentically represent the true lives of Muslims, particularly independent women who are free to make their own decisions.
I wrote Fight Back because I wanted to put a spotlight on a community that is always in the news—for the wrong reasons—and explore what that might feel like in a school and family setting. I also wanted to explore what it feels like to struggle to express your identity and then find the courage to be proud of it, to realize that you’re not alone and many others from all sorts of backgrounds experience the same. Most of all I wanted to show that when we come together, our voices are stronger.
My first novel looked at what it’s like to be a refugee. This novel looks at what it’s like to be a Muslim today while panning out and exploring the experiences of others who are also discriminated against. It shows what we have in common and the possibilities when we come together.
A. M. Dassu won the international We Need Diverse Books mentorship award in 2017. She is the deputy editor of SCBWI-British Isles’ Words & Pictures magazine and a director at Inclusive Minds, an organization for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality, and accessibility in children’s literature. Her work has been published by The Huffington Post, the Times Educational Supplement, SCOOP Magazine, Lee & Low Books, and DK Books. She lives in the heart of England. You can find her on Twitter as @a_reflective or at amdassu.com.