Publishers' Preview: Fall 2020: Five Questions for Saadia Faruqi

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2020 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Fall 2020, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Preteens Mimi and Sakina each have A Thousand Questions when Pakistani American Mimi visits her grandmother in her Karachi home — where Sakina is a servant.

1. Which of your narrators is more you?

Sakina, the cook’s daughter. I grew up in Pakistan, so that life and the frustrations and inequalities that come with it are very familiar to me. Sakina is prickly and determined, just as I was at that age. So much to do, and so much to prove!

2. Abba’s cooking sounds delicious. How do you rate your own skills?

People tend to assume I’m a fabulous cook, since my books have delicious food in them. In reality, my cooking skills are pretty dismal. Perhaps my writing is more about wishful thinking than anything else!

3. What gives a mother-daughter ­relationship its unique tensions?

Mimi and her mother have an intense relationship because they’re alone together in the trauma of Mimi’s father leaving. But there’s so much love and protectiveness. I think any ­mother-daughter relationship is like that: strong on one hand, but sometimes slightly resentful or hurtful on the other. That’s what makes for great storytelling.

4. What is the most unmissable sight in Karachi?

Karachi is an ever-changing city, with so much passion, life, and vitality! I’m amazed at the sights and sounds every time I visit. But some of the tourist stops are also iconic, none more so than the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali ­Jinnah, where Sakina takes Mimi. A close second is Clifton Beach, with its hordes of partygoers and beautifully decorated camels. It’s a sight to behold! Thirdly, the British-era buildings showcased on the book’s cover.

5. What can you tell me about your Pakistani readers?

Readers everywhere are the same, in my opinion. They hunger for a good story, told in an authentic voice, with threads of reality running throughout. I think my Pakistani readers will appreciate the way I’ve brought their city and culture to life, without hyperbole or inaccuracies. This book is my homage to my birthplace, and I hope these readers will accept it with the same love with which it was written.

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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