-Zeina Aboushaar (‘21)
Have you ever been held hostage by a book? You’re sitting in your bedroom, either crying or laughing. At some point, you’ve probably been struck with a force of revelation: some human must have written this. Or maybe you’ve never stopped to realize who’s the voice behind the characters. Their creators are invisible to you. They have no identity. No voice.
Authors are what keep the world working. They tell stories to unite us and help us find out who we are. Their stories are what let us live meaningfully in a world full of chaos. When we come into this world we are a blank piece of paper, and we are filled, built and shaped with stories. They make us subjects in the world with feeling and strength.
We could all remember a book that changed us, a book that made us appreciative, inspired and inventive. For me, that book is Sofia’s Journal by Najiyah Diana Maxfield. Fortunately, I was blessed to get the chance to speak to this amazing author.
Currently, Mrs. Maxfield lives in Canton, Michigan, though she grew up in Central Kansas. She is a mother of six children, yet she still manages to write best-selling books. Talk about being busy!
This is a very well-written novel about a teenage muslim who travels back in time and struggles to find herself a suitable life. Personally, I find this book very inspiring because, although it didn’t directly change my life, it gave me strategies and advice that guided me to self-identity.
Every author wants to reach out to their readers in some way and show them what’s possible. Their job is to write human possibilities. I asked Mrs. Maxfield what she wanted to get across to the readers:
“So I wanted to help kids to kind of identify with history, and help non-Muslim kids identify with Muslims,” she responded. “And, of course, I wanted to have Muslim kids see themselves in representative literature. [That] was also my goal.”
Nowadays, Muslim culture isn’t expressed in literature, especially novels. Mrs. Maxfield broke that that status by showing the world the fundamentals of being a teenage Muslim.
Many young teenagers are too afraid to get their work on paper, too scared that what they have to offer is not enough. It may seem like that to you, but to others your stories are intriguing. I asked Mrs. Maxfield what she would advise to young, aspiring authors.
“Don’t think what you have to offer is boring,” she replied. “Especially as young people, a lot of times they think, ‘Well what could I write about? I’m just a kid.’ People are interested in what you have to say. And for every person that they have what they would consider a boring life, there’s somebody else who’s life is very different who finds that interesting.”
So, don’t feel like you’re boring or you don’t have anything to contribute.
Lastly, when I asked where she gets her inspiration from.
“Sit your butt down in the chair everyday,” she said. “You can’t just wait for inspiration. When inspiration comes, it’s like this magical feeling that’s going to explode out of you like this story needs to be told.”
Sometimes, people struggle to come up with ideas and they just want to give up. But, despite the struggles, you can’t just hide what you have to offer the world. You just have to notice and observe things around you. Inspiration doesn’t come from anywhere except ourselves.
To wrap things up, having the chance to speak to an author that inspired me was an eye-opening experience. A writer’s vanity runs wild, which takes you away from now to discover new worlds filled with hope. Authors have a great responsibility: keeping our humanity alive.