Interesting Intersections: An Interview with Razeena Omar Gutta and a Giveaway!
This week, I'm so very excited to welcome Razeena Omar Gutta to the blog!
Her debut picture book, HANA'S HUNDREDS OF HIJABS is releasing in September of this year from Barefoot Books and is illustrated by Manal Mirza!!! Isn't it beautiful?
Razeena is represented by Shari Maurer of The Stringer Literary Agency.
Here are Razeena's socials!
And, behold! Her writing spaces!
Why is your writing space great for your creativity?
For many years my kitchen counter was my writing space. Being a central area in my home I could always keep an eye on my children when they were younger, and juggle cooking, snacks and laundry! Now that they’re a little older, it’s a treat to have a dedicated writing space. I love that I have a big, leafy tree in front of me, and if I imagine really hard, I feel like I’m in a tree house. But I’m also restless when I work, and I love the flexibility of moving to and from the couch with my laptop in hand. My desk and couch look a lot neater in this picture than they normally do - don’t be fooled :)
What a gorgeous blue your couch is! Tell us a bit about yourself and why you became a writer.
As a child I often thought I’d like to write a book someday, but I always struggled with ideas on what to write. When I had my own children, and became more aware of the fact that I had never seen myself in a book before, nor even fathomed a children’s book about major Muslim holidays or themes, I knew I wanted to change this for my children and their peers. And the ideas came flooding. Allowing myself to write my own stories was all I needed for motivation. I write because I love the way words work, and the creativity of it all, but I also write to showcase Muslim joy, because it is only very recently that authors who do this, have been published mainstream.
I adore that you write to showcase Muslim joy. There is so much a demand for celebratory books. Now, we’re dying to know about you and, if you are willing to share, your intersections.
My ancestry is South Asian. My forefathers left India at the beginning of the 20th century, for Zimbabwe. Around 20 years ago, my family and I migrated to Australia where we now call home. I’ve been disconnected with my Indian ancestry, and actually, being in kidlit has allowed me to connect with many people who have similar experiences to me, which is lovely. I’m a visibly Muslim woman, and my faith is central to my work.
Faith is so very important. And your intersections are beautiful! May I ask if the plot of your current book/WIP or your main character mirrors you in any way?
Absolutely! My current WIP is a story close to my heart, about fasting in Ramadan and all the delicious foods you can expect for Iftaar, the meal we eat after sunset to break fast. It has many of my own favourite foods in it, and a new tradition that my son developed!
Ahhh! How neat that your son helped develop a new tradition! Speaking of mirroring, who is one intersectional author you find inspirational and why?
I really admire SK Ali and Huda Fahmy (sorry, I can’t choose just one). Like I mentioned before, it was unheard of to find unapologetic Muslim-ness in books before. Any books about Muslims were almost always negatively biased, and most often not written by Muslims themselves. SK Ali and Huda Fahmy both published their first books in 2018, and it was incredible to read both their books, and be seen as a Muslim woman in all our complicated glory.
Mirrors are very much needed for people of all ages. What is one hope you have for the future of publishing?
I often joke around and say to anyone who might listen that I’d love to see as many Ramadan and Eid books as there are Christmas and Easter books on shelves. And I hope that for other faith holidays too. Holiday times in all faiths and families are so special and sacred, and I’d love to see them feature more prominently in publishing lists and bookshops.
I love this. What else are you working on at the moment?
I’m trying my hand at my first non-fiction picture book biography, another food related book (yum!) and trying very hard, but getting really nowhere on some Middle Grade and Young Adult ideas.
This interview made me hungry! Thank you so much, Razeena, for being on my blog. It was an honor to have you. Good luck with your amazing projects!
Want to win a copy of Razeena's gorgeous book? Like this post, comment on this post, or Retweet my pinned Tweet to win your very own wonderful copy!!! US only, please. Contest ends 9/4/22!!