Author Highlight: Sumayyah Hussein

I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember.

As a child, I was painfully shy, so writing was my way of expressing myself and letting my personality roam free. As I grew older, I expressed myself in various ways: funny journal entries in elementary school, dramatic poems in high school, and letters to the editor calling out biased coverage of Islam.

In high school, a workshop on feature writing helped me write an article on hijab that was published in the Toronto Star. People I’d never met read it, and its impact sparked my interest in journalism and cemented in my mind the potentially far reach of the written word.

After completing an English major, I studied journalism, and it was magazine writing that piqued my interest the most. Writing creatively about real people seemed to me a great way of bringing together the best of both worlds.

However, practicality steered me away from journalism and into teaching. Then, marriage, motherhood, and moving to another country pulled me farther away from writing. It would still burst out of me at times, but my writing never really had a place to grow.

Then, in 2015, my sister started her own publishing company, Ruqaya’s Bookshelf, and that inspired me to find a home for my writing in penning stories for children.

These are the books I’ve had published so far and what inspired them:

  • One Hundred Flavours of Ice Cream—This story was inspired by a park I visited in Mississauga, Canada. The stark contrast I saw between the chaos of the playground and the peace of the forest reminded me of the contrast between this world and Jannah.
  • Bilal’s Second Surprise—This funny story was inspired by something nonsensical my husband once said when he’d just woken up from sleep.
  • Littering Stinks!—This story was inspired by the littering problem I witnessed in Egypt. It was my way of exploring how bad habits can become normal in a society, and how that can be changed one person at a time.
  • Blackout!—This story was inspired by the idea of appreciating the simple blessings that we take for granted, like running water and reliable electricity.
  • Stuck in the Middle—This story was inspired by the never-a-dull-moment chaos of growing up in a large family.

I hope I will see many more of my stories make their way into the world! May Allah bless us all with the ability to tell the stories we carry within us.

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