Jan 31, 2017

Promoting a Message of Peace: Meet Kar-Ben Author Fawzia Gilani-Williams

Kar-Ben author Fawzia Gilani-Williams was born and raised in England. She was a teacher and is the author of many children's books, including A Treasury of Eid Tales, and is currently working on an Islamic fairy tale series. She serves as an international educational consultant and has a PhD in children's literature. A Global Representative for the International Positive Education Network, she works for the Abu Dhabi Education Council, dividing her time among the United Arab Emirates, Ohio, and England. She looks forward to the day when world conflict is no more.

We interviewed Fawzia about her newest picture book, Yaffa and Fatima, Shalom, Salaam, a story that celebrates the friendship between and Jewish and a Muslim girl.

KB: What was your favorite book when you were a child? 
FGW: I didn’t have a favorite. I particularly enjoyed the Favorite Fairy Tales Told in series by Virginia Haviland. I also loved reading stories about the prophets of God.

KB: What’s your favorite line from a book?  
FGW: "My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise."

KB: Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
FGW: It wasn’t a conscious goal.  As a teacher I was confronted with the realization that my students from minority groups were invisible in children’s books. So I tried to address that gap. When I first arrived in the USA, I was impressed with the number of books that were available in public libraries about Hanukkah, and I thought this was very encouraging. I grew up with books that were entirely Anglo-centric. It’s quite widely known that when children feel a sense of belonging and a sense of honor for their families and communities, they are emotionally resilient, confident and can negotiate difficulties and challenges.  These are all wellness elements in allowing positive self-development and learning. Children's books commonly discuss themes that are used to encourage children to undertake a grand role in society. When children don’t see themselves in books it sends a subliminal message of worth. As a teacher I understood the importance of children seeing themselves, their families and community in the literature. ‘Mirror books’ are commonly referred to as books that promote a child’s positive self-development and these are the types of books that I aspire to.

KB: Where did you get the inspiration for your latest Kar-Ben book?
FGW: My book was inspired by a tale which can be found in both the Jewish and Arab traditions. It’s a tale about two brothers who secretly help each other. The story revolves around love, sharing, kindness and compassion - the essential ingredients that make people and the world beautiful.

KB: What are you most excited about promoting in your new book?
The message of peace and being a good neighbor. The message that we actually can all work together to make the world a better place. I’m delighted to be promoting the message of peace.

KB: How do you hope your book will impact a child’s life? 

FGW: I hope that my book impacts the life of a Jewish child and a Muslim child and other children by showing them that caring for another person is entirely necessary on the sole premise that every person belongs to God. As a result the inalienable right of every human being on the planet is to be safe and free and kindness is endemic to both of these rights. I hope the story underscores the importance of being a good neighbor on a micro level and a macro level.

Get your copy of Yaffa and Fatima, Shalom, Salaam today.

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