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Representation a guiding principle for Edmonton children's book author

Saturday November 21, 2020

'It was very hard for me to find books that featured Black, Muslim families': Rahma Mohamed

Mohamed has self-published two books, with more on the way. (Rahma Mohamed/IG:@rahmarodaah)
Rahma Mohamed was eight when she came to Canada from Somalia. She says that when she learned to read at age 10, she fell in love with it. 

But Mohamed never saw herself in the books she was reading. 

"I intuitively understood that I was not important enough to be written about," a line from Mohamed's bio on her website reads. 

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When Mohamed — who uses the pen name Rahma Rodaah — had her own children, she started self-publishing children's books. She said she knew she wanted to write books her children could see themselves in so they wouldn't have to experience that sting she felt as a child

"Representation is so important to me," she said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "When I came to Canada, it was very hard for me to find books that featured Black, Muslim families."

"I think that [representation] makes a huge, huge difference in their self-confidence and just standing up for their identity and how they present themselves in the world."

Mohamed said in an interview that she recently acquired a literary agent and will be traditionally publishing two new children's books in the coming months. Mohamed has three children and according to her bio, writes in between managing motherhood and a part-time job. 

Kids can be encouraged to pick up and read when they see themselves in what they're reading, Mohamed said.

"Seeing yourself is absolutely believing in that story, being more invested in that story, and I see a big difference in the way that my children are captivated by the story if they see little children that look like them."

It may seem simple, but writing a children's book is hard, Mohamed said. You have to balance a captivating story with not making it sound like an adult is talking. 

"It's a craft of its own, and it takes a lot of practice and a lot of research as well," she said.

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