It’s no secret that there is a lack of diversity in the literary world. In fact, a look at some of the movie posters of adaptations of popular books, such as “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” quickly highlights this disparity.
This is why Aisha Saeed’s campaign, #RamadanReads, is revolutionary. A Pakistani-American novelist and mother of two, Saeed says that the first time she saw a copy of a book with a South Asian on the cover was when she was in college and read “Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind,” by Suzanne Fisher Staples. So when she walked into her local Barnes and Noble and saw a Ramadan display featuring four books, she immediately picked them up to purchase them – until she realized that those four books were not only the display, but the store’s entire inventory. To compromise, she had her sons pick out one book each so the display would stay up and pleasantly surprise other similar shoppers.
After talking to the clerk cashing her out, Saeed learned that the reason behind the store’s low inventory was perceived lack of demand for such books. She was told that the publishing industry is entirely demand-driven – the more people buy such books, the more stores will order them.
In order to raise awareness of this, Saeed took to her blog, urging people to “be the change they wish to see.” She posted about how seeing her boys see that display made her feel: “to sit in a bookstore and read about Mecca and prayer rugs— that silent message was more than anything I could ever tell them. It was a powerful message. Their faith is not just behind closed doors to be kept secret because it is disliked by many. Their identities were not relegated to the four walls of their house. This display told their tender young selves that they are seen. They are recognized. They matter.”
Her message resonated with many, and it has become the foundation for the #RamadanReads campaign which kicked off today on both Twitter and the Muslim blogs Love, Inshallah, Story and Chai and Muslimah Montage. The campaign encourages readers to visit their local bookstores and ask if there are any books for both children and adults with Muslim characters or themes. They are then told to share the titles they purchased using the #RamadanReads hashtag on Twitter. Participants are also encouraged to give books to family members on Eid-al-Fitr.
“The goal is to get people to think about their buying habits,” said Saeed. “When it comes to selling books, every single person makes a difference.”
Story and Chai and Love, Inshallah have a list of suggested books on their respective websites. And, since the campaign, the Ramadan display at Saeed’s local Barnes and Noble has increased from four books to 25+ different ones.
So what are you waiting for? Head over to your local bookstore – make a difference!