Emaan, Inaaya and Noorah are the main characters in Omer Naqi’s My Eid Mubarak Storybook; they’re also the names of his three daughters – which makes them very happy indeed!
The father of three has written his first book about the festival of Eid with a focus on the aspect of ‘togetherness’ in a multicultural world. He recently hosted an interactive story-time session at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art which aimed to explore art through story-telling.
ILQ met and talked with the Pakistani-Canadian author to learn more about his publishing journey for his collection of nine illustrated stories.
ILQ: Why did you write this book Omer?
ON: I love reading to my daughters, but since they’re being raised outside of Pakistan and as expat children, they’re being exposed to so much. So it was very important for me and my wife, Naima, to make sure that we kept them connected to their culture and heritage. We also discovered that there was a gap in the market for this kind of book. When I started writing I had a collection of many stories about many different topics that featured the characters that represented my children.
But I decided to focus on on the celebration of the festival of Eid and its many elements. All parents want to raise good values in their kids, so the main message here is about inclusivity regardless of what holiday you’re celebrating. My earliest and fondest memories of Eid are the days leading up to Eid Day. On Eid Day I loved getting three tight hugs from my Dad which I still get and love to this day. I have adapted this cherished memory and have used it in the book. Naima and I think it’s important that our daughters grow up creating the same memories of Eid as we did.
ILQ: What is your professional background?
ON: At my various readings I have asked the kids in the audience if they can guess what my real job is and they say ‘No you're an author’ – but I tell them I write books because it’s my passion. It surprises them because they've sat through this reading session with me and that’s probably the last thing that they would imagine a boring banker would like to do. But I feel that I inspire the kids by showing them they can always have time for something that they’re passionate about.
(Children colour in illustrations from My Eid Mubarak Storybook during a reading at Mathaf on June 14, 2017. Photo credit: Omer Naqi)
ILQ: Who is your target audience for the book?
ON: I’ve done readings for children from as little as three years-old, all the way up to 11 years-old. So you may think as an illustrated book that it’s not at the 11 year-olds’ reading level, but what I do is I look at certain themes and elaborate upon them in the readings. We end up discussing a variety of topics linked to Eid, such as bank accounts and charity.
ILQ: What themes do you explore in your book readings?
ON: It’s multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusion. I talk about why it’s so important for all of us to respect different cultures, and at readings I discuss some of the other holidays that exist which helps me to connect with other children in the audience. The complexity of our discussion really depends on the age group of the children. When I reach out to schools and different establishments I ask them how long they want the reading to be, and I also make sure I don’t lose the attention of the children. As such, no two readings are alike and it all depends on how the children respond and interact to the reading.
ILQ: What challenges have you faced in this new journey into publishing?
ON: There’s an audio-book version of the story which I’m trying to spread the message about, because children in today’s technology world do find it useful to have different formats of books. Most importantly in Qatar I’m still looking for a local distributor for the book so that it’s readily available in local bookstores. I’ve learned a lot about the publishing world, but I also learn so much by talking to people and getting their feedback.
To find out more about the author you can follow Omer on his Facebook account: Omer Naqi - Author - Tales from a Dad: www.facebook.com/omernaqi.
What are your favourite Eid traditions? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to give us a like and a share – it keeps us going!
By Shahmim Akram
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