It’s been really amazing to me how people across the world have come to know about my work.

I once was interviewed by a lovely Italian lady  named Monica who was kind enough to even send me a postcard of the place where she lives in Portofino in Ligutia. She said how she wanted to show me around it one day.

More recently I was contacted by a lady who’s been fascinated with my book A New Life.

She interviewed me about it and I thought her interview would make an interesting blog post.

Reproduced with her permission, this is my interview with Vanessa Trevisani


(By Vanessa Trevisani)      

 1)      About Coming to Canada.

V.T.  Why the Government commission you for this text?

me: They wanted a book that they could give to families who immigrate to Canada that would give the families an idea of what kind of challenges they would be facing.

V.T.  Has it been a useful tool in Canadian schools?

me: Absolutely!!! I can’t count how many times I’ve been invited to speak at conferences and seminars for teachers who teach newcomer students and deal with newcomer families!

V.T.  Is it still employed?

me: Absolutely! In fact the Settlement Workers in the Schools program made an extensive teacher guide for it that is over a hundred pages long!

2)      About A  New Life:

V.T.  Why did you publish a trade version of the book?

me: That was the publisher’s idea. They thought the book could do well both ways, as also a simply good story for children from all backgrounds to read. Also, in the process of writing Coming to Canada there were certain aspects of the story that were deemed too controversial so we were forced to take them out at the educators’ request. The publisher decided to put all that stuff back in the trade version because it made it a more interesting story.

V.T.  In what ways do Coming to Canada and A New Life differ?

me: See the above answer. For example, one of the incidents in a New Life is how Khadija initially doesn’t care to take more than two baths a week while Hamza takes one every day. In Pakistan, water only ran from the faucet twice a day for a little while. It was normal to take a bath only twice a week, whereas in Canada people tend to take showers everyday. I wanted to show the reality that so many kids from around the world are coming from.  A bully at school calls Khadija stinky and Hamza beats him up for it, but then says to Khadija that she does kind of smell. She feels hurt but decides to go ahead and take a bath every day. I think hygiene is a huge problem for many immigrant children and people are too shy to tell them if they smell. It’s such a personal issue, so I wanted to tackle it in the book, but the educators were uncomfortable with the scenario so they removed it.

V.T.  Do you think a translation of this book could represent a good tool to teach intercultural values in Italian schools too?

me: Yes, I think it could. It would have to be modified somewhat to correspond with the reality that Italian immigrants would face.

 3)      About your collaboration with Nasrin Khosravi:

V.T.  How was it born?

me: I had very little input into that. The publisher chose her for the artwork. I was thrilled with her depiction of Khadija and Hamza’s story.

V.T.  You have a lot in common with her; is this the reason of your collaboration?

me: Well, we’re both immigrants, though she had a very tragic experience. Her husband died in an accident in Canada, and she went back home to Iran and then unfortunately she contracted lung cancer and has since died as well.

V.T.  Is A New Life a puzzle of your lives?

me: A New Life has pieces of my life in it, but I also just wanted to write a good story. When I came to Canada is was way before there were any English teachers who specialized in teaching immigrant children! In fact my teacher told my parents to speak English at home so that we children would pick it up faster. As a result I lost a lot of my original language, Urdu. The thinking is very different today and many immigrants are encouraged to keep their native tongue. In writing A New Life, I actually had to research what it was like for immigrants these days.

V.T.  What function do the illustrations have in your book?

me: I think Nasrin’s beautiful illustrations give A New Life a beauty and vitality all its own.

V.T.  Khosravi’s paintings could be defined  somewhat surrealistic: Does this particular characteristic have a precise function in the text? I mean, is it right asserting that these illustrations translate Khadija’s family’s feelings of confusion, linguistic and cultural isolation, disorientation..?

me: Yes, I think Nasrin’s pictures evoke the upheaval that Khadija and Hamza are feeling! She really did such a fantastic job!


This book was a really interesting project for me. I wrote it to a very strict deadline. BasicallyI had to construct the entire story in about four months! It was very difficult! And at the same time I wanted the story to be engaging.

It’s basically about an optimist (Khadija) and her brother, a pessimist (Hamza). The play between the two really gives this story its flow, in my opinion.