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Edmonton author lands publishing giant for picture book celebrating Black children

Monday October 17, 2022
By Kashmala Fida Mohatarem

Rahma Mohamed had self-published her first two children's books

Rahma Mohamed holds her latest children's book, Dear Black Child, published by major publishing house HarperCollins. (Kashmala Fida Mohatarem/ CBC Edmonton)

After successfully self-publishing two children's books, Edmonton author Rahma Mohamed, 40, was looking for a publisher to release her third book and reach a much larger audience. 

"With self-publishing, there are places that you can't get into," Mohamed, who writes under the pen name Rahma Rodaah, told CBC's Edmonton AM on Tuesday. 

While she was searching for agents and publishers online, an editor from HarperCollins, a major English-language publishing house, found her at an event for Black authors during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement in June 2020. 

Within a month, they offered her a two-book deal.

The first from that agreement is Dear Black Child, released on Sept. 27 and available online and in stores across Canada and the United States. 

"It feels really surreal," Mohamed said.

"My book is available at Chapters. It's available at Target in the U.S. People have sent me pictures from Walmart. Those are places that I just couldn't get to as a self-published author."

She said reaching that big of an audience means a lot to her. 

Black, Muslim representation

As a young immigrant in Canada from Somalia, Mohamed had a hard time finding books with Black, Muslim characters. 

"I never saw myself in the picture books or in the books that I read and I really struggled not seeing representation," she said. 

That lack of representation hadn't changed even by the time she had her own children. It motivated her to publish Muhiima's Quest in 2017, inspired and written for her daughter. 

A year later she published Little Brother For Sale, inspired by the sibling rivalry between her kids. 

Because they were both self-published, they were only available online. 

Mohamed said she originally went the self-publishing route to get her books out right away.

"I felt that there was a gap in the market for Black, Muslim children representation in the picture book industry," she said.

Mohamed said her third book was influenced by watching her children grow.

"Just letting them be them and kind of reflecting on when I came to Canada and the kind of message that I wish I would have heard and just a love letter to Black children."

She felt that the book's message — that Black, Muslim children are loved and matter — needed a wider audience.

"I felt that this message was something that needed to be read by a lot more people."

Mohamed is now working on Dear Muslim Child, which is set to release in Ramadan 2024, also under Harper Collins.  


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