It’s been a little frustrating that now that I’m coming to the end of the week, and I only have about four more days in the U.K., only one of which is a school day (Monday the 28th), that some schools are suddenly scrambling to have me visit.

I have some friends to thank for it. Ayesha Gamiet, that lovely young thing that took me out to tea, spread the word for me, alhamdu lillah. I also suspect the wonderful people from the Islamic school I visited on Monday also put in a good word. I think I might have asked them to, too,  but I can’t remember. Monday feels like a year ago!

It’s all wonderful, but unfortunate.

No way will I be able to fit in all the schools who are interested in one day.

I just tentatively booked a school whose teacher emailed me from my website for Monday morning, alhamdu lillah.

At this point it really is a first come, first served basis.

But it didn’t have to be that way.

I prepared well for this trip! I did some research for goodness sakes!

I googled all the Islamic schools in London and figured out the head teacher’s email or I sent it to the info or the administrator, what have you. I gave them my best pitch, and with all that effort on my part, going through dozens of entries, I only got one reply. And as soon as I said I charged, I never heard back from him!

I’m supposed to be sleeping right now. I’m writing this from my hotel room in Coventry and it’s almost midnight.

I have to be up and at ’em in less than seven hours. But I can’t sleep because I keep thinking what a shame it is, and how it reflects on the Muslim mindset.

As a community, we don’t think outside the box.

Non Muslims will often see the value in something before we, ourselves will. And yes, I’m including myself in that, because if I were one of those teachers who’d received my email and my attempts at outreach, I doubt I would have behaved any differently.

Yesterday I got into Bradford. Someone had told me it would be depressing because it’s so full of unemployment etc.

It was anything but.

I did three whirl wind presentations for the reception kids at a school called Thornbury where many of the kids were Muslim. By the way ‘reception’ is what we’d call kindergarten.

They were so cute!

In their blue uniforms, little four and five year olds with somber looks on their faces, much too young and naive to take school in any way but seriously!

I was telling them RULER OF THE COURTYARD and at one point I asked the kids what would happen if a poisonous snake bites you.

One little kid flung up his hand and announced, “You’d BLEEED.” That’s the way he said it. He stressed the ‘e’s in the middle just like that. Well wouldn’t you know that set them all off! The next kid said, “BLOOD!” But he said it with a Bradford accent, which sounds very different from a London accent. Kind of like blud, (where the u sounds like ‘oo’ in book). And soon we were up to our ears in ‘blud’.

It was all I could do not to crack up laughing!

Then the real kicker was later on someone commented on how THICK my Canadian accent was!!!


Oh they were such dears!

Then later on that night I did a presentation for the parents. I’m always worried about evening turnouts. It took YEARS for Toronto parents to know I was worth coming out to hear on a cold November night.

Many times in Toronto and the vicinity, when I’m doing literacy nights, I’ll actually get a decent audience, at least forty to fifty parents. But I knew that would be a stretch in Bradford where word of mouth hadn’t had a chance to trickle through the community at all!

And that made me nervous for the organizers. I was wondering if they’d be disappointed, and if they wouldn’t be thinking they shouldn’t have bothered with the evening program.

I live in perpetual fear that the people who’ve invited me, who’ve devoted such precious funds and resources towards hosting me, will secretly regret bothering.

I needn’t have worried. We got an audience of about twenty people and the librarian who’d invited me reassured me that it wasn’t bad at all.

And when that happens all I can say is alhamdu lillah! These were the people who were MEANT to be here, who were MEANT to hear me, and I gave them the same quality presentation I would give an auditorium full of 200.

It was interesting.

I started at 6 pm and went for about an hour, as I was supposed to. But then with their eager questions, I went for another forty minutes that inluded so many of them coming up to me to purchase my books!

And this was after I was told that my books are really expensive by UK standards!

And this was also after I was told by the same librarian that it was unlikely anyone would purchase my books because it is an economically depressed area.

I expressed my chagrin about the small (but eager audience) to the librarian who’d invited me and he reassured me that it was fine.

You see he explained that you have to try with these kinds of programs. He doesn’t often get people coming out, but you have to try.

And I just thought, wow. He really gets it! And he really cares.

I told him that the Muslim community is often insular. They’re not used to thinking that a program like this could really apply to them, could be *relevant* to their existence, basically they’re not used to being *included* in terms of consideration from the rest of mainstream society.

From what I understand both of the communities: Bradford and here in Coventry, invited me because they saw this as an opportunity to have their large Muslim student populations meet an author who ‘represented’ them.

It’s a kind of ‘tokenism’ if you think about it, and yet that sounds like such a negative.

I don’t see it as a negative at all.

It has been the natural progression of my career.

When I first started out in 1998, the only schools who ever invited me to present were schools in the ghettos of Toronto with large Muslim populations.

Muslims always seem to gravitate to the ghettos, or at least they start there as immigrants and then move out as they gain traction.

And the people who serve these communities are conscientious enough to realize that booking me is a good thing.

I’ve often done my best work in ghettos. And it’s all good.

It’s obviously MEANT for them to hear what I have to say.

Unfortunately Muslim schools have a woeful track record when it comes to Arts education, which is precisely why I’ve always told them ‘pay what you can’.

But maybe the word’s gone out and they’re starting to realize that they might miss out on an opportunity.

Alhamdu lillah.

First come, first served.

Ya’ snooze, ya’ lose.