Unsettled by Reem Faruqi

Hello, Reem Faruqi! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! I finished reading Unsettled approximately 129 hours ago. I was going to send you these interview questions right away, but I needed to sit with your characters, setting, and exquisite language for a while. I’ve been thinking about how every line is perfectly paced and punctuated. As I shared on Twitter, my heart received a workout. I’m grateful this beautifully written novel in verse will be out in the world next year.

Reem Faruqi: Hello Mr. Schu! I’m so glad you got a heart workout and thank you for having me! I look up to the authors on your blog so I’m excited to be here.

I'm so excited you're here! I looked at Soumbal Qureshi’s cover illustration and Molly Fehr’s cover design multiple times while reading Unsettled. I’m curious, what ran through your heart the first time you saw it?

Reem Faruqi: Joy mixed with pride! 

I found the process of reviewing the cover fascinating. My first view of the cover was a black and white sketch. Seeing the final cover in vibrant color, was heartwarming. I love how Soumbal Qureshi drew Nurah with lovely brown skin and how her aqua hijab has a water element. It feels Pakistani to me and American at the same time. I also have a pair of bright blue tennis shoes like Nurah wears on the cover!

I was also immediately drawn to the resolute expression Soumbal Qureshi captured on Nurah’s face and how it looks like she’s walking toward her new home and future. I gravitated to the Pakistani details like the rickshaw, the flowery mehndi details, the yummy mangoes, and the feathery crow. I’m so grateful to Molly Fehr and Soumbal Qureshi for caring about my input and for making my book come to life!

Scenario: A sixth-grade teacher in Atlanta, Georgia, invites you to booktalk Unsettled on Zoom. What would you tell the students about it?

Reem Faruqi: I would tell them that much of the book is based on my own life and experiences as a new immigrant to America. I would tell them to journal about their experiences because it may come in handy for later when they become authors!

I would encourage them to not be afraid to speak up when they see injustice and find their voice, especially in difficult situations. The scenes where Nurah learns to find her voice were the most powerful for me.

Lastly, I would advise them if they see someone sitting alone at lunch, to ask them to say 8 words, “Do you want to eat lunch with me?” Those words made a world of a difference to my character Nurah and me.

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Nurah Haqq is quiet in a new continent, but not for long! Once she finds her voice and isn’t afraid to use it, she’ll be unstoppable.

Poetry is slicing sentences up and putting them together to make the words sing.

Story is what connects me and you. It’s my grandmother Nana’s voice over dinner where years later you can’t remember the food, but you remember the taste of her stories. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me how I worked out while writing this story. I swam a lot of laps to get inside my character Nurah’s head since she is a swimmer. I can now do a proper flip turn in the water!

Like you, my heart also got a workout while I was writing UNSETTLED since some of Nurah’s experiences are based on my own life.

Look for Unsettled on May 11, 2021. 

When Reem Faruqi taught second grade, her favorite time was “Read Aloud” time. Now, her favorite time at home is reading with her daughters. Of Pakistani origin, she moved to Peachtree City, Georgia, from Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, when she was 13 years old. Reem based her first award-winning children’s book “Lailah’s Lunchbox” on her own experiences as a young Muslim girl immigrating to the United States. She has three new books projected for 2021, her debut middle grade book “Unsettled” (HarperCollins 2021), and two picture books: “Amira’s Picture Day”(Holiday House 2021) and “I Can Help.” (Eerdmans 2021). Reem seasonally works as a photographer at ReemFaruqi Photography and currently works as a Scheduler for the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta. She loves to doodle, write, and take photos at http://www.ReemFaruqi.com. Currently, she lives with her husband and three daughters in Atlanta.


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