The following interview with prose writer Saadia Faruqi is the third installment in a series of short interviews with emerging writers of color. This series explores the intersections between the literary, the cultural, and the activist in the contemporary landscape, in light of Best American Poetry 2015 and other moments of problematic representation, appropriation, or erasure. I hope this series will also encourage readers to check out the work of the writers featured. The first installment featured fiction writer and visual artist, Swati Khurana, back in December. The second installment featured poet Monica Sok, this past February.
Interview with Prose Writer Saadia Faruqi
Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American writer of fiction and nonfiction. She is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose. Her short stories have been published in several American literary magazines. “Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan” is her debut fiction book. Visit her website.
IHLR: What is one issue you want the literary world to pay more or better attention to?
Faruqi: This is a no brainer: allow writers of color to have more voice, more presence. There is so much evidence that the literary world from publishing to film, is either ignoring our stories, or trying to tell our stories for us, and we need to be the ones to do that.
IHLR: In light of all the appropriation and erasure, who is one actual writer of color everyone should be reading right now?
Faruqi: Just one? That’s tough. If I had to choose, I’d say Nayomi Munaweera, whose fiction set in Sri Lanka is such a breath of fresh air. She portrays a region of the world about which we have heard virtually no stories, and that should change.
IHLR: What is one literary and/or activist organization that everyone should be supporting?
Faruqi: One of my favorite organizations working towards more diversity and inclusion in the literary field is UK-based Media Diversified. They publish a host of articles, bring writers, publishers and others together, share resources, and are now getting ready to hold a literary festival for creatives of color.
IHLR: What creative/activist/scholarly project are you working on now?
Faruqi: I am simultaneously working on two manuscripts, which sounds crazy and probably is. One is a novel set around the blasphemy laws of Pakistan, and the other is a children’s chapter book series about a third grade Pakistani American boy who’s got disastrously hilarious ideas popping into his head 24/7.
IHLR: What keeps you writing?
Faruqi: My imagination, I suppose. Ever since I was a child in Pakistan, I kept getting these stories, complete with characters and plot, into my mind. It took me until recently to figure out that maybe I should write them down because other people may enjoy them, or even learn from them. My writing always has a message: it may be fun or exciting or entertaining writing, but it also says something that I want you to hear.