I recently came across Tayyaba Syed after my girls were enthralled with the book series “Jannah Jewels” by Umm Nura.
Four of the books in the series were co-authored by Tayyaba.
It’s not often you can find great books for older kids that are not only written by a Muslim author, but feature Muslim characters.
I reached out to Tayyaba and asked if I could feature her on Hijabtrendz. She was so kind and quick to respond. Here is our exclusive interview…
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live, and how you got started in the publishing business?
Greetings of peace. I’m a mom of 3 from Chicago, who has always loved writing since I was little. I studied Biology in college, where I was a writer and editor for the Honors College journal for students studying a pre-health related field. That’s where I realized I can combine my love for writing and science together.
I continued writing and blogging post-college about various subjects like health, marriage, motherhood and faith. I was featured on NPR for an essay I wrote on being part of the sandwich generation was my Muslim identity in America. They invited me on air, and I got to talk about my life as a daughter and mother and the importance Islam puts on taking care of our parents. I decided then that I want to use my writing as a means to show the beauty of our religion.
That essay was then reprinted in a local Muslim newspaper that then recruited me as a monthly contributor. I began writing for many different online and print publications and officially embarked on my journey as a journalist.
What compelled you to take the road toward creative writing?
Growing up, I never saw myself in the books that I read. They were a window into a world that wasn’t fully mine, and I naively believed that’s just how Western literature must be: not very inclusive of diversity. As a mother, I felt the void even more. I wanted my kids to see books as mirrors, where they could see reflections of their faith and culture embedded in the pages. *The Blessed Bananas* was a simple bedtime story that I came up with one night for my kids, because I was determined to provide that mirror for them. My kids fell in love with the story instantly. I realized then that if I wanted my kids to read and hear these types of stories, I’ll have to create/write them myself.
Were there any obstacles you’ve faced on your journey?
Getting back into social media after a decade-long hiatus has not been easy for me. I am an introvert and a pretty private person, but a huge part of writing is being able to market and promote your work. People want to know who you are. I can’t simply hide behind my words. Writing is an amanah (trust), and instead of hiding behind my words, I am now standing by them.
My daughters absolutely adore the Jannah Jewels series, you’ve co authored some of the books, what was that experience like?
I’ve always been fascinated by Islamic history. When the opportunity arose to join the series, I jumped on it right away. Alhamdullilah it was an amazing experience, and I’m truly grateful for it.
A lot of young women are afraid to pursue writing careers, because they don’t feel like it’s lucrative. What’s your advice to them?
Writing is something that can be done alongside anything else you’re doing. You can be a chef, a teacher, a mom, a wife, an engineer or an athlete who also writes. Whatever you are passionate about, you can share it through your writing. If you’re doing it for the money, you may be setting yourself for disappointment. However, if you’re doing it for the intention of sharing beneficial knowledge, I’m sure you will enjoy lucrative blessings insha Allah.
You have a new book coming out later this year, can you tell us a little bit about it?
*Call Me Mary* is a middle grade novel for mainstream audiences about a quiet Pakistani-American Muslim 7th grade girl. She has a silent love for singing and drama but has always kept herself low on the radar in junior high. She tries not to draw attention to her faith or ethnicity. Her friend encourages her to try out for the school play just for kicks, and she ends up landing the lead role. The story then goes through many twists and turns as Maryam, aka “Mary,” has to put on a great show both literally and
figuratively while holding on to her principles as a young Muslim girl.
Is there anything you learned along the way to pursuing the path you’re on? Did you have to overcome any obstacles?
When you are at peace with your Creator, then you can be at peace with His creation. It’s important to always do what pleases your Lord, rather than what pleases people.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve always considered myself to be a great storyteller. My dad (Allah have mercy on his soul) loved to tell us stories – some fiction, some non-fiction. He was a very captivating individual, and I think it had to do with the fact that he always spoke from the heart. I like to believe I inherited his ability to create great stories, stories that captivate the hearts and make audiences feel what I feel through my words. We all have this ability within us. If we aren’t sharing our own stories, others will be doing it for us and not authentically. We must recognize that our stories matter and are worth amplifying out into the world.
Want to connect with Tayyaba? Here’s where you can find her: