Today we welcome Aisha Saeed to the blog. Her newest book, Amal Unbound, was released today and she’s here to chat about it and answer a few questions.
Amal Unbound (Nancy Paulsen Books)
Summary: Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.
Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.
Written in the Stars is on the older end of YA while Amal in Amal Unbound is a much younger teen. You also have a picture book coming out next year. What have been some of the interesting things you’ve learned as you’ve written these stories about characters of such varying ages?
Written in the Stars was a young adult novel aimed at teens 14 and up while Amal Unbound is a middle grade aimed at children ages 10 and up. My picture book Bilal Cooks Daal will be for all ages! I love writing about and for children of all ages because it stretches my writing and my abilities to shift perspectives. Our perspectives shift throughout our entire lives but perspective shifts most rapidly, in my opinion, from when we are small children through the teen years as our understanding of our world develops and grows. I enjoy looking at the world through those different lenses and to have the chance to revisit my own emotional experiences from those ages to draw from in creating an emotionally honest story.
What do you love about Amal and what was most difficult part of telling her story?
I loved writing Amal so much and fell completely in love with her personality as I wrote and learned more through the process of writing about who she was. I love her intelligence and her passion for learning. I appreciated that despite the difficulties of her circumstances, she never lost hope. And with all that said, having fallen in love with Amal as I had, it was difficult to write the painful things she goes through and this was doubly so knowing that while Amal is fictional her ordeal is all too real for many children throughout the world.
What are you most passionate about? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
If I boil down all the things that get me out of bed each morning it all comes down to young people. My own children who literally get me out of bed in the morning and then, after a cup of chai, the books I sit down to write and the school visits I prepare for, all my life whether I have been a teacher, and even as a lawyer, I have worked with children in some capacity and it is a privilege and an honor to get write books for them.
Do you have some YA titles to recommend if people would like to participate in #RamadanReads this year?
A few I recommend:
– LOVE HATE AND OTHER FILTERS- Samira Ahmed
– SAINTS AND MISFITS- S.K. Ali
– THAT THING WE CALL A HEART- Sheba Karim
– MS. MARVEL comics — Willow Wilson
Thanks so much for taking time to share your thoughts with us!