A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi

Hello, Saadia Faruqi! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read. I love following your adventures online. I love seeing how Yasmin is resonating with readers around the world. Thank you for putting your heart into every project. I know everyone is going to be talking about A Thousand Questions after it releases on September 8, 2020. What are three things you would like everyone to know about A Thousand Questions?

Saadia Faruqi: Thank you for having me back, Mr. Schu! I’m really excited about my upcoming middle grade novel A Thousand Questions for the following three reasons: 

1. It’s set in Karachi, my birth place. Although I’ve gone back to visit several times in the last twenty years after I emigrated to the U.S., I never really thought about it as a setting for an American novel. Writing this book allowed me to explore my birth city in a way I had never done before, and hopefully that love will show in the story!

2. The main characters are two very different girls from very different backgrounds. Mimi, an American girl who’s gone to Pakistan to visit her grandparents, and a Sakina, a Pakistani servant girl who works in the grandparents’ house. This is really a friendship story, but it also explores important themes like democracy and corruption in developing nations, and what it means to “go back home” for first-generation American kids who often feel like they don’t belong anywhere.

3. This book is probably the most fun story I’ve written so far. Mimi is obsessed with t-shirts with funny sayings, and coming up with zingers for her many outfits was really the highlight of my evenings as I wrote. Since I tend to write mainly serious characters going through tough times, it was a change (and a challenge) for me to write this lighthearted character with a positive outlook on life. I hope readers will enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

Cover artist: Aaliya Jaleel
Designer: David Curtis
What ran through your head (or your heart) the first time you saw Aaliya Jaleel’s cover illustration and David Curtis’ cover design for A Thousand Questions? 

Saadia Faruqi: Honestly, I cried. I don’t know what Aaliya and David were thinking when they created this masterpiece, but it’s as if they peeked into my heart and knew exactly what was inside. The front and back covers consist of outlines and silhouettes of actual buildings in Karachi. These are buildings that are embedded in my heart and under my eyelids when I close my eyes. Each one of those silhouettes is so achingly familiar to me. On the back cover is the cathedral that stood outside my convent school, a building I gazed at every single school day for my entire childhood. It’s eerie, but incredibly amazing that the design team could have created this cover with no direction from me. A Thousand Questions is my love letter to Karachi. And the cover encapsulates it perfectly. 

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Mimi and Sakina are as different as night and day. One is rich, the other is poor. They can’t even speak the same language. But they soon discover that some things transcend geography and culture: food, family, a desire for safety and education. These things can bring us closer together, if we only ask the right questions.

I hope A Thousand Questions shows a positive, happy picture of life in a poor country. Everything isn’t wonderful, but neither is it all doom and gloom as many books and movies proclaim. I hope readers learn that the struggles human beings face are quite universal, as are their hopes and dreams.

Story is essential to life. Without storytelling we would probably not have survived as humans. We need stories to teach us about the past, and to share traditions with each other, and even sometimes predict the future. It’s such a powerful tool, which is why I’m a writer.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why I wrote A Thousand Questions in the first place. I had taken my two children, aged 12 and 9 at that time, to Karachi to visit my mom, and it was a very challenging visit for a number of reasons. It was summer, and the heat was unbearable. My kids didn’t speak Urdu, and they felt unable to communicate with anyone, especially the servants in my mom’s house. And while we were there, President Trump’s Muslim ban went into effect, making us worry about whether we’d be allowed back into the U.S. Into our home. I couldn’t do much to alleviate my children’s boredom or worry, but I could definitely write. It was eye-opening to me to see my birth place – the venues I’d visited as a child, the streets I’d walked on – through their eyes. It was obvious that they felt out of place, but also welcomed. They were American, but also Pakistani. They were western, but also brown. It was that juxtaposition that fueled my curiosity and I decided to write this story.

Look for A Thousand Questions on September 8, 2020. 

Set against the backdrop of Karachi, Pakistan, Saadia Faruqi’s tender and honest middle grade novel tells the story of two girls navigating a summer of change and family upheaval with kind hearts, big dreams, and all the right questions.

Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she longs to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal

The cook’s daughter, Sakina still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school if only she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?

Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to help get what they want most.


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