By Madiha Malik
An interview with Faiza Furqan Nguyen: Author of One Black Cat Aik Kala Billa ( bilingual book)
Please tell us a little bit about yourself:
My name is Faiza Furqan Nguyen. I was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan. My family immigrated to United States of America when I was 15 years old. I have a master’s degree in Psychology and taught the subject at Universities briefly. I am a US military spouse, which means we move quite a bit. This nomadic life comes with its own set of challenges, keeping a career as a professor is nearly impossible with frequent moves. We have been fortunate enough to have had some amazing overseas and stateside assignments: Las Vegas, Italy, Japan, San Antonio (Texas), and now Germany. Due to limited teaching positions at Universities during our time in Japan, I started teaching English as a second language (ESL) to Japanese children. This is where I fell in love with teaching young minds. After moving back to the United States from Japan, I continued teaching ESL online to the kids in China. This work gave me the flexibility to be home with my family and I learned a lot about bilingualism and it’s benefits. This led me to write a bilingual, English and Urdu, children’s book. The more I researched, the more I saw the need for books like mine. Here I am, the first Pakistani-American children’s bilingual board book Author and Publisher.
What inspired you to write for young children?
The inspiration for the main character and the content of the book was always around the house, which is our cat Simba. Additionally, my husband is a first-generation Vietnamese-American immigrant and together we are raising half Pakistani half Vietnamese- American children. There is just a lot going on with languages and cultures in our home. I wanted to write a book for all children and their caregivers. This book is written and illustrated to diversify bookshelves around the world as it’s written in English, Roman English phonetic transcriptions for Urdu, and in Urdu script. It is not limited to Urdu speakers/ readers, but it can be read and loved by anyone who can read English as well. My husband is able to read to my baby in Urdu, and that makes my Pakistani-mom heart smile. Also, when shopping for books at typical places like Amazon, Barnes, and Nobles, or Target, there was almost no representation of brown families or script in baby books. I have closed that gap with my book; at least on Amazon for now.
What are some of the benefits of reading to children during the early years of their life?
Caregivers in Pakistan, for the most part, don’t read to their babies and I am on a mission to change that. I am writing children’s books, particularly baby books, because I feel that, in our culture, we are not giving our babies what they need to thrive as young adults and become responsible citizens of their society. We are not bonding with our babies as we truly should. We tend to hand them a cell phone instead of reading to them because it’s more convenient for us as adults living a busy life. The reality is that we are robbing our future of its full potential by doing so. Therefore, I am writing baby books to foster early childhood reading and to get the caregivers to start bonding with their babies with books (by holding them close and letting them hear your voices in excitement, showing them that they are loved and cared for.) With this small change in our parenting, we will bring about a much-needed cultural shift that will benefit our children in more ways than imaginable. Moreover, caregivers can re-learn some of the valuable life lessons we tend to forget as adults by reading children’s books as well. This is because children’s books are almost always filled with great life lessons in simple and easy-to-understand language and pictures.
What is your book called and how can we order it in Canada?
One Black Cat Aik Kala Billa ایک کالا بلا is available on Amazon in US and Canada. It is also available in Pakistan at all Liberty Books outlets and online. Additionally, the E-book is also available on Kindle.
What is your vision for children around the world and how can we support you with that?
My vision for children around the world is to have access to diverse books so they can grow up to be responsible citizens of their respective societies. I have recently started hosting weekly bilingual (English and Urdu) storytime in collaboration with @ajaoletslearnurdu. All proceeds from the sales of the book and these meetings will go directly towards building free children’s libraries in Pakistan.
I have also partnered up with @readforunity and @girlsofthecrescent whose goals are to diversify bookshelves in the United States. You can support their noble causes by shopping for my book from their amazon wishlists.
Links for my book and the wishlists are in my bio @littlestliterates