Khanversations

Rukhsana’s thoughts on her journey of life, writing and sometimes—when she dares—a bit of politics.
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Creating writing–how I do it–vlog post

A new vlog series

I’ve decided to go a bit more high tech and there’s going to be a learning curve involved.

This is a vlog post I did about tips on speaking to audiences, creating content that really appeals emotionally to your audience.

 

This is going to be a resource series.

If you find it useful please like and share!

All the best,

Rukhsana

Did anyone else notice…

That terrorist attacks have become less shocking recently?

When I heard about the Berlin Christmas market attack on Monday, the first thing I thought was ‘Oh no!’, the second think I thought was ironically, it had been a while.

Like it was almost expected one would come. And the third thing I wondered was how many dead.

Like our outrage will depend on that factor. And then I thought, Subhan Allah.

And I hated myself for thinking that.

So I read about  the eye witness accounts and I deliberately imagined the horror of the blood and the broken bones and the carnage, because I don’t want to ‘normalize’ this in any way.

Every time it happens, no matter how many times it happens, it is horrible.

For the twelve people who were killed I mourn them and I pray for them.

And I prayed that we would have peace.

I’m afraid for the world but I still hope we have peace.

I’m in the midst of a fascinating project right now, and I was looking for the verse in the Quran where God says, “Do not kill yourselves for verily I have been merciful!”

I can see the verse so clearly from last time I read it. It was on the right side of the page in the Yusuf Ali translation I read during Ramadan, and I thought I’d marked it but I couldn’t find it yet. I’ll ask my hubby to, he’s good at that kind of thing.

But in the looking I found other verses that seems appropriate where God says that “No misfortune can happen on earth or in your souls but is recorded in a decree before We bring it into existence: That is truly easy for God: In order that you may not despair over matters that pass you by, nor exult over favours bestowed upon you for God loves not any vainglorious boaster…” (Quran 57:22-23)

This verse is beautiful: Chapter 29 vs. 10: “Then there are among men such as say, “We believe in God” but when they suffer affliction in the cause of God, they treat men’s oppression as if it were the Wrath of God! And if help comes to thee from thy Lord, they are sure to say, “We have always been with you!” Does not God know best all that is in the hearts of all Creation?”

They treat men’s oppression as if it were the wrath of God.

Exactly. When people do things to them, they blame God for it instead.

The older I get the more I realize that in and of themselves, one person can’t do anything. They need a following to really carry out dark designs.

Hitler was only one person. The other Germans could have stopped him, but he spoke smooth words that appealed to them so they supported him. Just like Trump.

People know he’s horrible, but what he says appeals to something inside them so they support him.

I really hope it doesn’t take a massacre for people to wake up.

And if there is a massacre on the scale of the holocaust or even smaller, is it God’s fault or is it ours for going along with him?

I’d say it was ours.

Because despite the power of peer pressure, we all have a brain to weigh right and wrong, and we don’t have to acquiesce to the group think.

I uploaded another video to my youtube channel that seems to be appropriate under the circumstances. Here it is:

Not Guilty

 

My very first book!

Hi Everyone!

I’m developing my youtube channel and I just put up a new video book talk of my very first book Bedtime Ba-a-a-lk.

I want to make it an excellent resource for teachers and educators to use.

I hope you enjoy it!

Please like and share.

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for perspective!

I think I mentioned how I feel like I’m going through a real learning phase!

Visited a school recently where I spoke to grade sixes about growing up in Dundas and afterward a lady came up to me. She asked which school I went to and I told her Dundana and she she said, “But it wasn’t a middle grade school.” I said that the school I’d attended only went up to grade six so I went to Dundana for grade seven and eight. And then she nodded and asked me the last names of the bullies I’d referred to.

I never mention their last names in the presentation, it’s really not necessary, but since this was a private conversation I told her.

Turns out she was at Dundana one year ahead of me!

And the strangest thing happened.

I got worried. I wondered if she’d contest my version of events and call me over sensitive or something, but no, quite the opposite! When I told her the bullies’ last names her eyes went wide and she said, “Oh yes. They really were awful!”

And then she told me about an incident she’d witnessed and I could breathe easier.

And I wondered why I’d suddenly panicked like that. I’ve been thinking of it since and the conclusion I’ve come to is that when a person has been victimized, they live in fear that people will tell them it’s all in their head. That things weren’t the way they remembered them. And it made me see interviews I’d seen on television where people had confronted the people who’d abused them and their perception had been completely dismissed.

It was a real moment of enlightenment for me. I saw things very clearly.

And then just yesterday I had a fascinating conversation with another artist about the literacy of today’s kids and he said something that suddenly clicked in my head.

Quite frankly I’ve been feeling like an old fogey recently. Like maybe I’m not in sinc with the times. It appalls me that kids don’t have very good vocabulary or grammar any more.

But this artist spoke of a professor he’d had a long time ago who’d said quite the opposite. He said that no, today’s generation has evolved language to include all kinds of short cuts and emojis, that they’re still expressing deep thoughts they just do it differently.

That seems to be the nature of English. That it’s always evolving! And it was literally like a light bulb went on for me.

It gave me a lot of hope.

It was a small adjustment on my part in terms of attitude, but a huge leap in terms of perspective.

And it makes sense now to me, why I can interact so easily with today’s youth verbally, but my writing needs a bit of a personal touch to engage them.

Once they’ve heard me, they want to read it, but my books might not be picked up on their own.

That’s something I still need to work on.

And so I’m taking some courses right now, honing my skills, and part of that means clarifying my vision of what exactly I want to accomplish with my work.

One of the assignments asked me, if I could sum up my vision in one sentence, what would it be?

This isn’t about each individual story or project. This is about what I would say to humanity through the sum of my endeavors.

At first I came up with something very lame. I even knew it was lame, so I discarded it and went deeper. And I think I know what that one statement would be.

It’s: “With eloquence and the right angle of approach, you can get people to believe almost anything.”

And then we were asked what single action we would want people to take after reading my book. This is what I wrote:

“Open your mind to different ways of thinking and always question  your assumptions.”

Just putting that into words like that has clarified a lot for me!

I highly recommend you do the same.

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Dealing with Friction…

With any human interaction there is bound to be friction.

Meeting new people and dealing with them, not knowing exactly what their motivations are or where they’re coming from can be difficult.

And when they treat you with disdain, it’s very easy to over react.

And it’s so easy to attribute the harshest motivations to people.

The longer I’m in this business, the more people I have to deal with. For the most part it’s been a joy but once in a while you come across someone who rubs you the wrong way.

There is the inevitable clash.

And it’s so easy to over react.

You might think you’re justified.

You might point to the trespasses of the other person as proof they’re in the wrong forgetting that every time you point a finger, three others are pointing back at you.

And then you might try to fix things by asserting yourself a little too strongly.

I think it’s a blessing that when these kinds of things happen to me, I have people around me who help me to question my role in things.

And there’s a part of me, that niggles away, till I take a better look at whether or not I went too far.

It only happens when I’ve gone too far. If I’ve reacted to other people’s malice with proportion and justice, then I’m fine. But when I feel like I’ve gone too far, that’s when I get that niggling feeling.

I live in perpetual fear of going too far.

I’ve told my loved ones that I don’t mind if other people have wronged me. I can live with that. But I don’t want to die having owed anyone anything. Having done wrong to others. (Even though I suppose in some ways that’s inevitable because sometimes we wrong others without realizing it.)

But at least in so far as I can tell, I don’t want to have overstepped my bounds.

Growing up, it always felt like a curse.

I’d be going along, trying to improve myself, trying to be ‘good’ in every way possible, and then I’d do something I felt was right at the time, but in hindsight, felt like I’d overstepped my bounds. In hindsight it appeared rather petty.

And my self-esteem would crash!

I was petty!

Oh how it would crash! And I’d be humbled and it would feel absolutely horrible. But then I’d tell myself that it was an opportunity to correct myself.

And I reminded myself of how God had corrected the Prophet (peace be upon him) on the few times when he did something wrong, and I’d think to myself that maybe the crash was a good thing. It was a blessing. It was a way for God to check me, so that perhaps I don’t become arrogant.

There are so many ways that people can go astray and one of the worst and most insidious ways is through becoming ‘proud’ of your ‘goodness’. Blah! Self-righteousness.

I think that’s the worse!

The self-righteous person goes around doing what they believe is good, not examining themselves too closely, not checking their ego and pettiness, and expects to meet their Lord with a hefty account of good deeds only to realize they squandered them with their self-righteous attitude.

Intention is everything!

God preserve us from pride!

And so, I will swallow my pride. I will beg God’s forgiveness. I will admit that I should have acted in a better way, and I will chalk it up to experience.

There’s not much I can do to fix it, it’s not like it’s something that can be fixed. What’s done is done. It’s just a matter of self-adjustment. Reacting better next time.

Checks and balances! Checks and balances!

As long as in the end there is an upward motion to developing your character, there is always hope.

There is always hope.

 

 

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NCTE 2016…

I just got back from Atlanta, Georgia having presented two sessions at the National Council of Teachers of English convention.

My goodness what an exciting trip it was!

But it took its toll, because I am sick, sick, sick!

I’d been through Atlanta’s airport on the way to other places, but this was the first time into the city proper.

The convention was held at the Georgia World Congress Center, right across from the headquarters of CNN. What a huge venue!

But at the same time, it’s like so many other convention centers, kind of interchangeable, like airports too.

After Trump got elected, I’ll confess that I was a bit nervous going down to Atlanta, but I had no problems whatsoever. In fact Trump’s election had such an effect on my fellow panelists, one of them was planning to cancel her participation just days before the convention!

The area is closely monitored with CC cameras. I ended up walking from my hotel to the congress center on the first day. Big mistake! It was supposed to be a fifteen minute walk, but it was up a lot of hills and it was exhausting. And hot! The weather was about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, about 28 degrees Celsius! When I got to the congress I was already sweaty and tired and then you know how it is at convention centers, you end up walking all over the place!

Met for coffee with one of my publisher’s people. It was so nice to see her!!! The last time I’d seen her was in Washington D.C. at the NCTE 2014.

It was a HUGE convention! About ten thousand teachers from all over came!

My first session was scheduled for Saturday morning from 8:00 – 9:15 am, and I seriously wondered how many people would turn out.

I’d called the session Muslim Authors on the Hot Seat–How can I advocate for my Muslim students when I have questions myself?

There were fifty other sessions happening at the very same time! Who would come to ours???

And indeed there were many presenters who didn’t get any audience at all!

But alhamdu lillah, we had about forty people come to our session! One of the most interesting bits of conversation that arose in the session was from a lady from Idaho who’d had an influx of Saudi students. She told us that they’d come to study in her area and had become a sort of clique unto themselves.

I could completely understand why they’d do that. In a foreign land, overwhelmed with culture shock, of course you’d gravitate towards others from your own culture.

Apparently there had been numerous incidents. And they’d gotten so comfortable among themselves that they’d started leaving their doors unlocked in their residences and locals had figured that out and gone in and burglarized some of them.

Her particular question was how to encourage them to integrate with the other students. And I suggested some of the dramatic exercises, ‘ice breakers’ they call them in the drama scene, that help people get outside their comfort zones and meet new people.

The next day I did my session on Inclusive Muslim Literature for the Classroom. I had prepared a powerpoint presentation of some of my favorite titles from my Muslim booklist. And this time I got fifty participants! (That’s a good crowd! Especially considering so many people had gone home after Saturday!)

We had a grand time in the session!

I went through the powerpoint and I added my frank comments about how they could use each book in their classroom, and at times people in the audience interjected with their comments and advice and it was fantastic!

They were as passionate about the subject as I was!

One of the things I did was work the exhibit hall. I spoke to all the publishers there, told them about my Muslim Booklist and asked them to send me titles that I should consider adding. Right there and then a lady handed me a copy of The Arab of the Future a graphic novel by Riad Sattouf, a French artist who worked for Charlie Hebdo!!! When I read that, I couldn’t believe it! Such a racist magazine! And I really didn’t want to like it, but I couldn’t help it. When something is honest, it evokes admiration, and The Arab of the Future is definitely an honest look at Arab culture. In fact God help us but I think it’s an accurate representation of Muslim culture in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well. (Ugh! No wonder the Muslim world is so messed up!!!)

It’s not my culture! I found a lot of the stuff the boy encounters appalling! But I have come across that mindset, and I learned a lot from reading the book.

I read The Arab of the Future very quickly, on the journey home. It’s a graphic novel and yes, it’s very funny, and even enlightening. It has swearing in places and there are parts that make me cringe, but it’s so good I’m going to have to recommend it on my booklist.

To see the booklist go here: http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/muslimbooklist/Muslimbooklist.pdf

It’s up to date for now!

I’m wondering if I didn’t get sick because I worked so hard on updating it!

I also received a copy of Jacqueline Woodson’s new book Another Brooklyn. It deals with a character whose father and brother join the Nation of Islam, and I really think we need more books about black Muslims in America, but the tangential nature of the story meant it didn’t belong on my booklist.

NCTE was an amazing experience.

Came home exhausted, and yeah, sick. But I made a LOT of connections!

And I even had a few very encouraging moments.

I was talking to one educator who raved about an often overlooked book of mine: Many Windows. This book got virtually no publicity!!!

No awards, no shortlists, nada, zip.

But it’s still one of my favorite books! It’s about community. And it’s so interesting because before I left for Atlanta, I visited a school where the educators there also raved about the same book!

They basically got what I was doing with the book!

It’s so nice when that happens!

But it was also quite an overwhelming experience. So many wonderful authors, so many wonderful books!

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Mentor??? Moi???

I just received a very special book in the mail!

A year and a half ago, when I was conducting workshops at Fairview Public Library, a young girl came in my writing workshop and submitted her work in progress a novel called My Demon’s Name is ED. ED stands for ‘eating disorder’.

She had been an anorexic and the work in progress was a diary she’d written while working her way through the experience.

One night I sat down and read it, and I couldn’t put it down. I think I finished it at around 2 a.m. and thought to myself, this has got to get published!

I ended up contacting the first editor I ever worked with, who’s now situated at Second Story Press, and I told her she should take a look at it.

Long story short, the book came out this year!

It’s Danah Khalil’s first book!!! And it got some pretty good reviews. Kirkus called it “A young anorexic’s heart laid bare.”

Danah sent me a personal copy and wow! Guess who she dedicated the book to???

The Dedication reads:

To my inspiration and mentor, Rukhsana Khan; thank you for believing in me.

And then she wrote a personal bit: “Without you, this would have never been possible. I am forever grateful.”

I highly recommend it!

 

I was invited to be a panelist on TVO’s flagship current affairs program called The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

I was on a panel with Sadaf Ahsan a web editor with The National Post, Shaine Jackson, a native artist from B.C. and Andrew Cohen a professor of journalism at Carleton University and a fellow author named Diana Fitzgerald Brydon.

We were discussing Cultural Appropriation. It’s been in the news a lot lately, and it was a very interesting discussion.

Last night my husband and I watched and at the end he said something interesting. He said there was no consensus.

And I thought, of course not. It’s a discussion. And he said well what’s the point in that?

So what is the point in discussing something openly like this?

I told Steve at the end of the piece, that it was really great how balanced the show had been. I was referring to timing. He was fastidious about making sure each of us had a chance to express ourselves.

I’m often conscious of how discussions can become ‘free for all’s and the points go to the loudest and they’ll hog the time, but this was quite civil.

I think he misunderstood me though because he said that it was because they had such good producers who’d vetted the guests for balance. I left it at that.

But it got me thinking, and especially after my husband said that thing about consensus.

I’ve gotten used to open discussions. If you go to a lot of conferences with their keynote sessions they don’t even attempt to come to any sort of consensus. It’s enough to raise the issues and let people draw their own conclusions.

People come to these types of topics with their own entrenched positions and it’s very seldom that you’re going to actually change anyone’s mind.

And yet the more I thought about the topic afterwards, the more I realized that I was falling into more agreement with Andrew Cohen, the journalist professor from Carleton. He was talking about how you can’t stop artists from expressing themselves. And he’s quite right. I even said at one point that nobody’s telling artists what they can and can’t write or do.

This morning I woke up realizing that really cultural appropriation is inevitable.

It’s been going on for a long time.

And what ethnic artists have to do is rise above it and just be better.

Not easy.

And yet it does speak well of our society that the consciousness of offending minorities has risen to the point where it’s not politically correct to appropriate other cultures. We’re sensitive to such things these days, and that is commendable.

You can watch the piece and decide for yourself.

http://tvo.org/video/programs/the-agenda-with-steve-paikin/the-trouble-with-cultural-appropriation

TVO The Agenda with Steve Paikin

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