COLOR THE SHELVES: Interview with Saadia Faruqi, author of A Thousand Questions

Hello friends and welcome to Color the Shelves!

Today I’m bringing you another Middle Grade book. Well, I’m not literally bringing you the book, rather I’m bringing you a pretty awesome interview with Saadia Faruqi, author of A THOUSAND QUESTIONS, a heartfelt story about friendship, family, identity, and how even people who could not be the farthest away from each other can come together and create tight knit bonds. If you like middle grade, I HIGHLY recommend this one! If you live in the US, you can already snag it at the bookstore, if you’re in the UK you have to wait a little bit longer, for November 12th! I’ll leave you with the interview now:

Hello Saadia, and thank you so much for joining me today on Color the Shelves! A THOUSAND QUESTIONS is a middle grade story that I enjoyed immensely. Can you tell us a bit more about it? Let’s say, five fun facts about it!

Thank you so much for inviting me here to talk about my book! A Thousand Questions is the book of my heart and I’m really excited to introduce it to readers everywhere. Five fun facts about this book are:

  1. It’s set in the City of Lights, Karachi, the city I was born and grew up in, the place I still dream about.
  2. It’s the story of two girls who couldn’t be more different: a Pakistani American girl named Mimi, and a poor Pakistani servant girl named Sakina.
  3. There’s a lot of election drama in the book, complete with villainous candidates, which will resonate with American audiences too.
  4. This story includes many modes of transport: cars, buses, motorcycles, airplanes, rickshaws and yes, a camel.
  5. There is A LOT of food in this book, so it may be a good idea not to read it while hungry.

You say in your author’s note that the story was largely inspired by your children’s experiences visiting Pakistan for the first time. But what I am curious about is what inspired you to write the specific story of two girls from wildly different backgrounds forming an unlikely bond?

When I saw my kids interacting with their “homeland” on their recent trip to Pakistan, I wanted to explore those complicated feelings. I myself had a very different reaction to Pakistan in general than my kids did, from the foods to the sights and sounds, and the language. I started thinking how these reactions are different depending on whether you grew up there, or were visiting as first generation kids who were born in a western culture. I wanted to highlight the push-and-pull reality for so many first generation American kids who stand out when they visit their parents’ birthplace, but also stand out as brown kids in a white culture in the U.S. This is such a fascinating subject to me, and I felt that I could help some of young readers explore these issues too.

Were there any themes or elements in particular that were important 
for you to incorporate into the story?

The main theme of this book is friendship across cultures. It’s an important theme for me in all my middle grade novels in general, such as my book A Place at the Table (co-written with Laura Shovan). I wanted to assure kids (and adults) that you could be friends with someone who was wildly different from you, not only in terms of personality but also culture and language. Another theme I wanted to explore was classism and poverty, and how they differ in the U.S. versus South Asia. We have a very skewed perspective of poverty and what it means here in the U.S. and I wanted to show a reality that was so much more complicated. For example, in the book Sakina is a servant but she has a more fulfilled and happy life than Mimi who is from America, and it is mostly because of family.

What are some of both Sakina and Mimi’s favorite things about Pakistan?

Sakina’s favorite things are cooking with her Abba, visiting the many interesting places in Karachi like Clifton Beach or Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum, and (hopefully) going to school one day. For Mimi, her grandparents are probably the most special part of Pakistan, because in them she finds the family she’s been missing all her life.

If Sakina were to ever visit Mimi in the US, what places would she take her and what are some fun things they would do together?

That would be awesome! Mimi would take Sakina round to all her favorite Houston haunts, such as museums, parks and restaurants. Maybe they’d even make a road trip to San Antonio to see the Alamo, or Austin to see the Capitol, if Mimi’s mom agreed to take them.

Last but not least, what’s something you’d like readers to take away from A THOUSAND QUESTIONS or something you’d like to tell them?

I’d love readers to see Pakistan in a whole new light. Too often, western readers have a very narrow or skewed perspective of third world countries, and I hope my book will shatter all those stereotypes. I want my readers to see the beauty of my culture and feel transported to a place that may be foreign but the story and characters are familiar. I want them to understand that human beings are the same regardless of the color of their skin or how far they live from each other. Sakina and Mimi are worlds apart, but they have very similar dreams and passions. I hope my readers can find common ground with someone else after reading A Thousand Questions, just like Mimi and Sakina did.

About the author


Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” published by Capstone and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” (HMH/Clarion 2020) co-written with Laura Shovan, and “A Thousand Questions” (Harper Collins 2020). She has also written “Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan” a short story collection for adults and teens. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children. 

About the book

Publication date : October 6th, 2020Saadia Faruqi - A Thousand Questions

Publisher : Quill Tree Books| Harpercollins

Genre : Middle Grade | Contemporary

Synopsis : Set against the backdrop of Karachi, Pakistan, Saadia Faruqi’s tender and honest middle grade novel tells the story of two girls navigating a summer of change and family upheaval with kind hearts, big dreams, and all the right questions.

Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal. The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score —but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen? Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most.

Goodreads – Amazon – Indiebound Barnes & Noble 

The gorgeous banner template was created by Skye @shuurens on Twitter. Here’s her website and portfolio.

That’s it until next time.

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.


5 thoughts on “COLOR THE SHELVES: Interview with Saadia Faruqi, author of A Thousand Questions

  1. Love this!!! As a Pakistani-American, I completely understand the feeling of *coming home* when seeing my Pakistani family IN Pakistan. It’s a feeling you can’t replace.


  2. Pingback: Reading Matters – news from the world of children’s books | Library Lady
  3. Pingback: To sum-up : September & October 2020 | Word Wonders

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s