I have thought about this day for my entire life. I have been writing stories since I was six years old. Words, stories have saved my life more times than you’d ever know and more times than I’d care to admit. I believe that stories, our very narratives are transformative.
I am very rarely ever speechless so it’s hard to begin. I can tell you that I am sitting in my bed as I type this, tired from packing, tired of moving things up and down the steps. I have to wake up early to load up a cargo van from Detroit and head to NYC to live with two people who I don’t know. I have a strew of unanswered emails and unanswered texts from people who wish me well in this new and strange city hundreds of miles away from my friends and family.
So, I guess I’ll get started.
I wrote my first full-length novel at seventeen. It was a YA Sci-Fi novel. About 400 pages. I wrote little scenes in between taking notes in my freshman year of college. I was obsessed. I loved how as an author, I was in control. I could be anything unlike in real life. I lived vicariously through my characters. In the worlds I created, I was what I could never be in reality. I could be thin. I could be the heroine. I could be white. Courageous. Sexy. A villain.
I sent that book out as soon as I was done to agents in NYC. I had dreams of being a big-time author like J.K. Rowling or R.L. Stein. All I needed was that one yes. I must’ve sent that book out to over a hundred agents and publishing houses. I got a ton of rejections but was optimistic. One agent asked for the full manuscript. I was elated. I used my little money to print all 400 pages. You can imagine how much that cost me. I was a poor college student.
I waited a few weeks then got a letter in the mail. He had rejected it. I remember trudging along with a heavy backpack full of used textbooks and ripping the letter apart and crying. At that moment, I swore off writing. I wasn’t good enough. No one who looked like me would ever make it in the publishing world. Fat, Black Muslim girls hadn’t had a place in that world. I hadn’t seen any.
Years later, I picked up a pen again. My soul was itching to write more stories. I wrote my second full length novel. Again, it was YA dystopian. It was much better than the first but was rejected by over two hundred agents and publishers.
Discouraged, I took a little break but began ordering all the books I could about the art of storytelling. I even enrolled in college level courses to learn what I was doing wrong. Why hadn’t the agents wanted my stories?
Finally, I decided to get a master’s in creative writing. When I tell you I was broke and scared that I’d be wasting my money. I was. I was working a full-time job that I hated and married. But, it was my last hope to be a writer. I was hungry for the knowledge. So, against the odds, I was accepted into Wilke’s University. It was hard. All of my time went to creating a third novel.
This was the one! I bellowed. This was the book that was going to get published. Finally. I had checked off every box. Spent two and a half years perfecting and deleting and adding and red-lining this manuscript to gold. I edited it over seventeen times over the span of two years.
Guess what? A few agents bit, but no one wanted it.
I was in despair. I had three books under my belt and nothing to show for it.
Life happened. My mother had become ill and distanced herself. My father was never there. Then my husband took me through the most horrific divorce ever. Treated me like I was a stranger after a decade relationship. I gave and gave and gave and then was dropped by everyone I thought would love me and be there for me forever. I learned that people aren’t always who they say they are.
When I tell you that I was mad. I was fuckin livid. I was left with no money, no insurance, no job. Nothing. I had to start from the bottom.
To get through the depression and separation of my husband, I wrote. I needed to purge myself of the evil that people had done to me. I needed to release the madness that was building. I needed to be raw as fuck on those pages. Trauma and pain didn’t care that I was Muslim. It didn’t care that I was poor. I cried while writing those essays. Having to recall the nastiness that happened in your life was as therapeutic as it was sad.
By the time I was done, I had a whole ass book. But, it wasn’t fiction like the others, it was a memoir of essays.
Because I was embarrassed of some of the stories inside those pages, I sat on it for almost a year. Then I made a pact with myself. If I was to receive any large sum of money, that I would send the book to agents.
I ended up winning the Gilda Award for one of my essays and that was the sign I needed.
So, without further ado. I am proud to announce that I have a whole ass memoir coming out mid-October. It’s about my life: growing up, being Muslim, being Black, being fat. It also has stories of which I’ve never, ever shared with the public and even with my family and friends.
I’m not going to lie, I never thought I’d get a book deal. I never thought that someone would actually represent me and get me a contract. I never thought that a book I wrote would be on actual shelves.
I am shocked still. I am also scared as shit. That people will judge me. Make me to be some bad person. That my stories will be exploited. I am rightfully scared of these things.
On the other hand, I believe that people need to see my face. My body. They need to hear my words. Stories are transformative. They change people. They’ve changed me.
This book is all of me. And, I hope that you support me by pre-ordering a copy or two, by telling your friends how amazing it is. By posting how much you are excited about it on your social media accounts.
I hope that by reading my stories that you become more like your true self each and every day. That you feel a little less scared. A little less alone.
You can pre-order your copies of Unashamed: Musings of A Fat, Black Muslim everywhere books are sold!
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/9780807012628
Indie Bookstore: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780807012628
Beacon Press: http://www.beacon.org/Unashamed-P1515.aspx
I would like to thank my agent Penelope Burns with Gelfman/Schneider, Joanna Green and the entire team at Beacon Press for believing in this project, Madinah Muhammad was head makeup artist for the cover, Daniela Lisi shot the beautiful shot, and the team at Eloquii gifted me the entire outfit.
Are you excited? Are you pre-ordering your copy? Let’s make this the next Best Seller!