Last year I read Alhan Rahimi’s first children’s book ‘Yara, my friend from Syria’ and since then, I am on the front line, waiting for her next book to come. The story follows the adventures of a fictional Syrian girl named Yara, on her first day of school in Canada.
Especially in these days while we hear so much about refugees, this is a book that needs to be read by every child (and adult) where refugees arrive. When the principal presents a new student to the class, he explained that Yara spoke 3 languages. She may not know English/Spanish/Dutch (fill in yourself) yet, but she knows already 3 languages, so she for sure is clever and soon will learn the language of her new home too.
And then there is this other eye-opener, the story of the Apple tree. But that you have to read yourself.
I am so extremely happy that Alhan Rahimi accepted my invitation to interview her for ‘Meet Your Next Favorite Author’.
And if I may give an advice, this book is waiting to be translated into so many different languages, because this book is very needed in the World.
- Can you introduce yourself, what’s your name, where are you from… ?
Hi! My name is Alhan and I consider myself an International Citizen! I’m Canadian now, but I lived in 4 different countries prior to Canada – my current lovely home <3.
My origins are Persian. My grandparents from both sides emigrated to Qatar (Google this country if you haven’t heard of it!) in the 1950s, so I was born and raised in Qatar. That’s how I’m native in both Persian (Farsi) and Arabic, and lucky to be fluent in English and speak some French as well.
- Tell us something unexpected about yourself!
Growing up, my place was 5 minutes walking distance from the sea, but I never learned how to swim.
- Give 2 things about yourself that you think matter the most?
- I love thinking of and analyzing the human behavior; why people act a certain way and what goes in their minds and emotions when they do so.
- Being a mother reshaped who I am in many ways. My children made me realize I didn’t understand MANY things about life and others even though I thought I knew. I’m eternally grateful for them and consider them my greatest teachers.
- Identity Card
5. Do you remember the first book you read?
6. What makes you laugh/cry?
Laugh: A funny joke!
Cry: I rarely cry! But I cried often during my pregnancies.
7. In which genre do you write?
8. What makes your book special, how is it different from other books in your genre?
First of all I love the illustrations and I thank Anahit for that.
Second, my book addresses the refugees topic from another point of view – how they’re feeling in their new home away from home and how anything and everything can remind them of home. Also, it’s applicable to ANY situation in which the child has to move to a new place, specially, if the language is different.
9. How do you feel when you write, do you have a special ritual?
I feel productive and generous!
Nothing special… I just need my laptop and a quiet spot.
10. What inspired you to write your first book?
The fact that I couldn’t find a children’s story about the Syrian refugees that were coming to Canada in 2016.
11. How did you come up with the title?
I always liked the name “Yara” and I liked how it rhymed with Syria, so I guess that’s how it came up.
12. If you could be any famous book character, who would you be and why?
Anne – from “Anne of Green Gables”
13. Is there a message in your book that you hope the readers will grasp?
I think that it’s usually difficult for people to accept change… In times, change can be painful… So having new people, for any reason, in our city or town could be a challenging situation for both the newcomers and the residents.
My message is for the residents of any place… When you see newcomers, put yourselves in their shoes and be welcoming to them – smile at them, have a conversation, ask them about their story and invite them for a cup of tea or coffee. It makes a world of difference and would gradually heal their pain.
I’d also love to see children discussing important issues, specially those that touch the human feelings, from a young age.
14. What are your top 3 books of all time?
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
- Some Answered Questions by Abdu’l-Baha
15. How important is marketing and social media for you?
No matter how great a book is, if it doesn’t get to people then it’ll stay hidden. Marketing is the means to get it to people and it’s very effective through social media these days. But I find traditional media helpful too!
16. Is it important for you to get book reviews? Do you read them?
Definitely! I read them all. At this stage of my career as a writer, I like knowing what people think of my writing.
17. What advice do you have for other writers?
I don’t see myself at a stage of giving advice to other writers yet… But something I can tell them, and myself, KEEP WRITING!
I think there’s nothing more generous than sharing your thoughts with others, so let’s do that through our writing.
18. Can you give your book information: blurb, link, genre (for children’s book, please tell for what age)
Book: Yara, My Friend from Syria
Hook: It was Monday morning and Oliver was in his classroom, concentrating on the new grammar lesson being explained by his teacher, Mrs. Smith. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. It was Mr. Maxwell, the principal of the school, who entered the classroom with a girl walking behind him.
Blurb: This book is about a Syrian girl’s first day of school in Canada. It depicts her mixed emotions, as she is happy to be in school again but sad to be away from home. The way her new classmates treat her is crucial to her experience.
Asin (Amazon): B01N90RZOV
My second book will be about a boy’s experience in that natural disaster In Puerto Rico. Listen to what Alhan has to say about it on YouTube. The rest is to be read!
- QUICK POP-QUIZ. (You can choose one or both, and please feel free to add a very brief comment)
Snow or sun: Sun (I grew up in Qatar and it was mostly sunny and HOT)
Soccer or (ice) hockey: Soccer (I understand the rules to some extent)
Dogs or cats: Dogs
Ice-cream or fruit: Both – The best is when they’re combined!
Fact or fiction: Both
Music or silence: Both (Silence for writing time, but music for cooking and driving)
Sport or reading: Reading
Sea or mountains: Both – to look at only though!
Groundhogs or squirrels: Squirrels
Books or movies: Both
E-book or print: E-book (audio books even more)
- Is there anything more you want to tell your readers?
In addition to reading my book to the children around you (or after they read it themselves if they can read), PLEASE, have a discussion with them about it. One thing you can ask them throughout the story is, “what do you think this person is feeling here?”.
Thank you so much Alhan Rahimi!