Centering Muslim Voices: A Guest Post by Aamna Qureshi

This post by Aamna Qureshi originally appeared on SLJ Teen Librarian Toolbox. When a Brown Girl Flees is available now wherever books are sold!

I’ve always been an avid reader, which naturally grew into a desire to write my own books. At first when I started writing, my stories were like those I saw on the shelves of my library and classrooms, featuring white main characters. Until one day it struck me: I didn’t have to write about white people. This was my book. I could write characters who looked like me and how the idea of When a Brown Girl Flees came about.

It’s a young adult literary novel about a Pakistani-American, Muslim teenager who runs away from home, and I primarily got the idea by seeing other runaway teen stories on television and in books and asking the questions, “What would this look like if the main character was brown? If she was a daughter of immigrants? If she was Muslim?” And as I wrote the novel, I realized just how important Muslim representation in books can be.

Such representation is vital because it makes people feel seen and understood, particularly for those who are perhaps a minority in their community, and who don’t get to see a lot of themselves outside of their home. The Muslim population in America is a little over one percent, so we’re definitely a minority in this country.

Personally speaking, I was one of two Muslims in my graduating class, and there were maybe two or three Muslim families total in my entire high school. I was also the only person in my high school (aside from my sister) who wore the hijab, which automatically made me stand out. Being the only person who does certain things or abstains from other things really isolates you. Representation is really important because it makes you feel less alone. In a way, it also confirms your existence on a larger scale – like yes, we are here. Lost in a crowd with nobody else like you, it’s easy to feel like you might disappear. But to see yourself in a book reaffirms the fact that you do exist. Everybody deserves to see themselves being represented in books.

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Aamna Qureshi is a Muslim Pakistani American who adores words. She is the award-winning author of the YA fantasy novel The Lady or the Lion. She grew up on Long Island, New York, in a very loud household, surrounded by English (for school), Urdu (for conversation), and Punjabi (for emotion). Much of her childhood was spent being grounded for reading past her bedtime and writing stories in the backs of her notebooks. When she’s not writing, she loves to travel to new places where she can explore different cultures, or to Pakistan where she can revitalize her roots. She also loves baking complicated desserts, drinking fancy teas and coffees, watching sappy rom-coms, and going for walks about the estate (her backyard). She currently lives in New York. Look for her at