Mindworks Publishing, a local Islamic books publisher from the Houston area, would like to present the first in a series of author interviews showcasing the works of inspirational and educational writers. The world of Islamic story books, children’s workbooks and Islamic fiction for children and adults is a growing genre that promises to expand the visibility of Islam within the mainstream western media and hopefully to inform non-Muslims about the beauty of Islamic teachings. In the spotlight today is Azzizah Moore, a Muslimah author born in Manhattan, NY but raised in Philadelphia, PA under the guidance of parents who were very involved in the Muslim community. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Education at Penn State University and has written a total of seven Arabic and Islamic coloring books and workbooks.
Ms. Moore has been writing for as long as she can remember and like most authors, is an avid reader. Some of her fondest memories are of riding her bike to the library as a child and spending the day there seated between the shelves with a small pile of books beside her. Her favorite books had strong female lead characters and as a child two turning point books for her were AK and Eva, both written by Peter Dickinson. Later it was the book Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison that inspired her.
She has been creating workbooks for about two years and when asked what inspires her to write the books that she does Sister Azzizah responded, “I really felt moved to begin creating books after my work as a weekend Islamic school teacher, substitute teacher, teacher, afterschool instructor, camp counselor etc. All of my teaching experiences have led me to this point. My experiences have been both inspiring and sobering. When I think about not producing books I remember the children I’ve worked with and I know that I have to.”
Islam is integral to Ms. Moore’s writing. She has had a very religious upbringing and says about Islam, “I’ve always seen myself as Muslim first and Islam as a beautiful inheritance.”
The message that Sister Azzizah would most like readers to take away from her work is that Islam is beautiful and empowering and diversity is part of that beauty and power. The theme that readers will find running through all of her work is an affirmation of the beauty of the Islamic heritage and Islamic identity for children and youth.
Although her instructional and educational books have been her entry into the world of publishing she has been watching with interest the growing number of Muslim writers authoring fiction for Muslim children and youth.
“I’m very excited about the growth of this literary movement. I think we tend to underestimate the harmful impact on Islamic identity that results from the invisibility of Islam and the Muslim experience from mainstream children’s literature. Much of children’s literature features an absence of religion, but we cannot mistake that for neutrality. This really hit home for me one summer when I coached Muslim youth who aspire to become writers. In the beginning all of the young people composed stories with entirely non-Muslim characters. I asked them to take a step back and ask themselves why they didn’t include any characters like themselves in their own writing. It was an eye-opener for them and me. Ultimately it’s about developing ‘consciousness ‘and Muslim identity is a major part of that for our children. The absence of religion in mainstream literature is not neutrality,” Ms. Moore expounds.
When asked for any words of inspiration for parents raising Muslim children Sister Azzizah has affirmed that parents of Muslim children have a wealth of knowledge and there is a lot that she can learn from them and her advice to aspiring authors is, “As a writer you’re an artist and artists have an important role to play in the movement for positive growth and change. As a Muslim writer you’re part of the growth of Muslim media. Keep writing, we need you.”
Some of her upcoming projects are an Islamic children’s computer game slated for 2014 and created in collaboration with other talented Muslims; and she is currently working on writing her first work of Islamic fiction.
To stay informed about future books and projects you can find Sister Azzizah on Facebook. The Facebook page for her books can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/NewMedinaKids. Updates are posted regularly.