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 becoming a children’s book author wasn’t that much of a stretch. As an English teacher in high school and middle school classrooms, an Islamic Sunday school teacher, and youth program director, I’ve been privileged to teach young people from ages two to eighteen. I’ve enjoyed sharing great stories with my students, no matter how young or old.

However, 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.

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 an interesting quirk I had. I’d read a juicy middle grade 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 began writing 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 and teaching. 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 young people I was working with but disliked my job and developed deep anxiety around the strains of the over-regulated classroom. I eventually transitioned out of my teacher job into another more creative educator career. However, in those last years as a classroom 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 I 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. Let’s share some great stories. I hope you see the magic too.

–Jamilah