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!