When Hena Khan visits classrooms, she says that students oftentimes ask her if she was bullied as one of the only Muslim kids at her school. Her answer is an emphatic, “No.” But there is more to the story (pun intended for Hena’s fans). In this episode, Hena Khan reflects on her experience of feeling accepted yet invisible. She shares a poignant story about writing permission notes to request time off for the Eid holiday, which beautifully encapsulates this complex experience.
I first encountered Hena's work when she visited our kids' school many years ago. Her books were some of the first that we owned that portrayed Muslim kids simply living life. My son loved her "Power Forward" series so much that he dressed up as Zayd Saleem for Bookoween. ❤️ And for those of you who work with younger kids, Hena is the author of "It's Ramadan, Curious George," as well as other beloved picture books about Islam.
Hena is also renowned for works such as "Amina's Voice," its sequel "Amina's Song," the "Zara's Rules" series, and "More to the Story." In this episode, she shares her journey of grappling with invisibility as a young reader and the evolution of her faith in herself and her unique perspective. She also delves into the unexpected connection between her "hunger for representation," and a book about Christian white sisters in the 1800s. She recounts the story of how her childhood friend, along with a memorable experience reading aloud to her son's classroom, played a pivotal role in guiding Hena toward writing for kids.
For her reading challenge, Read Desi, Hena encourages us to read novels by many of the authors who contributed to her forthcoming anthology, “The Door Is Open,” all written by South Asian American authors.
This episode’s Beanstack Featured Librarian is Alli Buffington, elementary media specialist at Santa Rosa County Schools in Florida. Alli shares her tips for setting up a physical library space that engages kids and ensures they want to visit often.
Listen to the full episode, "Visibility Cloak: Hena Khan on Commonality Over Conformity" on Apple, Google, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Like what you hear? Please leave a 5-star review, subscribe, and share with someone who will enjoy it!
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