Welcome

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Welcome and thanks for visiting!

I’ve spent much of my adult life working with youth in some way so I guess becoming a children’s book author wasn’t that much of a stretch. I’ve worked as an English teacher in high school and middle school classrooms, taught little kids in Muslim Sunday schools, and worked as a youth program director.¬†

Truth be told, though, in all the years I worked with and for youth, I never really thought about writing children’s books until a few years ago. The creators of children’s books seemed like mythical creatures–not regular people just like me. And so the fact that I continued to love reading children’s books even as I entered adulthood never struck me as a passion I could pursue as a career. I just thought I never outgrew loving those books. It was just a cute quirk I had.

I’d read a juicy middle grades or YA novel, seemingly, because I was teaching middle schoolers and wanted to be able to recommend books to them but truthfully, I read the book because I was dying to know what happens. I’d see a picture book that looked interesting on a bookstore or library bookshelf and try to convince my own kids that they were the ones who wanted to read it. “You’d like a book like this, right?” I might ask one of my boys. I would tell myself he had said yes, when really he was too busy running off to respond. I’d take the book home and read it to myself (probably a few times) and cherish the lyrical language, the whimsy, and the childish humor. I couldn’t wait to share it during bedtime, hoping my children would see the magic I saw in it. Fortunately, they often did.

I came to finally write children’s books because I needed to write them. I was tired of the lack of stories about children like the ones I had grown up with, the one I had been, and the children I was raising. I couldn’t find enough of our stories on children’s bookshelves. I wanted to see Black children, Muslim children, and most of all Black Muslim children, but the books about us were and continue to be severely limited.

I needed to write children’s books. Not only because of the dearth of diverse books that I saw, but also because writing them healed something in me. When I began my journey into the kidlit world, I was an overwhelmed, burnt out teacher. The confines of Common Core and other limitations often put on teachers of underserved youth began to constrict me in ways I could no longer tolerate. I loved the children I was working with but hated my job and developed deep anxiety around the strains of the classroom. I eventually transitioned out of my teacher job into another more creative educator career. However, in those last years as a teacher, writing during my downtime with the voice and perspective of children¬† was rejuvenating. It was work that made me feel alive again. I needed to write for children and continue to need to because I often find that doing so is therapy.

Welcome to my writing world–a place I need, a place that brings me joy. Welcome. I hope you see the magic in it too.

–Jamilah