I am not a children’s book author. Well I am now, but I mean, I wasn’t and it’s still not my full time vocation. I set out to find this book to buy for my son to teach him about faith-based head coverings. We regularly encountered people wearing all kinds of different head coverings where we lived in Tooting in South London and I was increasingly aware that I didn’t know what most of them were called or what they represented and I wanted to have good answers when he started asking me about them.
I just wanted to buy a book and do my duty as a parent to educate my son about diversity early on. I did some research and found that the book I wanted didn’t exist. I remember thinking how odd it was that no one had already written this book. It seemed so relevant and so important that we educate your young people about head coverings and who wore them and why, so they could make their own, hopefully better, choices.
I remember mentioning the idea to a friend who went on to tell me a story about her daughter seeing a woman in a full grey burqa at the shops and calling her a ghost. My friend talked about her daughter not knowing any better, having never seen a burqa before and her own embarrassment. And then she said if she’d had a book like the one I was dreaming up, then she’d have had a relevant reference point. That stuck with me.
Not long after speaking to my friend, I was having a conversation with another mother and she told me a similar tale about her little one who had an appointment with a hijab wearing doctor and it not going well.
Around the time of Brexit and just before Trump took office, with a notable increase of hate crimes and intolerance around the world, the idea to create this book really started to gain momentum.
[caption id="attachment_4791" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Medeia and Hajera[/caption]
I began feeling like I had a responsibility to do whatever I could to counter the growing intolerance and fear around me. I believe that many small acts of kindness can add up to a powerful movement and can create much needed positive change and this belief felt more relevant than ever.
My good friend and now publisher, Hajera Memon encouraged me to shut up and get on with it, which at the time didn’t seem that difficult, after all board books don’t have that many words, right? Little did I know how hard writing a few, very accurate words on such a delicate subject could be!
Simultaneously we began hunting for the perfect artist and got to grips with the shear enormity of the research. We wanted to be absolutely positive that we’d done our homework and that we could say without a shadow of a doubt, that we were offering parents and educators accurate information. We consulted with everyone from religious experts, faith leaders, professors of theology, curators at major museums and faith followers themselves. It was a long process.
We also wanted to create a truly mainstream book. Something attractive and fact based rather than religious. Sarah Walsh the illustrator is a true wizard and an incredibly patient person. She worked with us to get the skin tones and expressions just right, and lets be honest; there is not book without them. She was able to capture warmth and beauty on each page.
Sarah was a joy to work with. She became as passionate about this book as Hajera and I were. Working with a team of bright, talented women from different faith backgrounds was not intentional, but it was helpful to inform the book and to keep us all going when the hours were long and imperfect. I’m thrilled with the outcome.
The aim is for Hats of Faith
is that it plays a part in helping young people to learn acceptance and to become fearless and knowledgeable about the people beneath the head coverings. I’d love to see the book in libraries and classrooms around the globe and for children everywhere to be versed in the terminology. It’s a big goal, but we hope to inspire kinder future generations.