An Edmonton mother didn’t see Somali-Muslim experiences in children’s books — so she wrote one
Rahma Mohamed first arrived in Canada from Somalia at eight years old. She learned to read at age 10 and instantly fell in love with it.
But she had a hard time picturing herself in the books she was reading.
Mohamed now has two kids aged three and six, and was hoping to read stories to her kids that they would more closely relate to.
She searched for children’s books featuring Muslim characters of African descent and couldn’t find any — so she decided to write her own.
“I wished to find that diversity, and not finding it is what prompted me to actually go ahead and write the story,” she said.
Inspired by her kids
Mohamed wrote and published her first children’s book called Muhiima’s Quest, which was inspired by her six-year-old daughter.
“It was important for me for my daughter to start to see herself in the books that she loves,” Mohamed said.
She said Muhiima means “important” in Arabic and it follows a young girl who tries to navigate the world where other children are doing things that are different from her.
Mohamed said one example is birthdays, which some Muslims don’t celebrate.
“How do you explain that to a child, when every day they are celebrating birthdays?” Mohamed said. She’s hoping her book can do that.
Mohamed self-published the book under the pen name Rahma Rodaah after about a year’s worth of work. She had to self-finance and had no experience in publishing a book.
“I decided to just start the journey and figure it out along the way,” she said. But Mohamed is already making a second book called Little Brother For Sale, which is also inspired by her kids.
The story follows an older sister who is jealous of all the attention her newborn brother is getting and how he takes up too much space. She tries to sell him, but in the process realizes just how important her little brother is to her life.
Even if she doesn’t sell many books, Mohamed is glad to have produced them. She said there aren’t any children’s books that feature a main character who is both Muslim and of African descent, and these two books will help fill that gap.
“[My daughter] doesn’t have to let go of her faith or her heritage,” she said. “It is very well worth it to me.”
“These characters were fascinating to me, but none of them looked like me,” Mohamed told CBC’s Radio Active. “None of them came from the same country as I did. None of them had my experiences.”