Drunk on Ink Q & A with Yousra Imran and ‘Hijab and Red Lipstick’, a novel
Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series by Soniah Kamal author of the novel Unmarriageable, a parallel retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan
Yousra Imran is a British Egyptian writer and author of YA novel Hijab and Red Lipstick (Hashtag Press). She works full time in marketing and events in the higher education sector, and lives in West Yorkshire. When she isn’t writing and reading, she enjoys long walks, listening to vintage Arabic music and watching movies.
About Hijab and Red Lipstick
Being a teenager isn’t easy. All Sara wants to do is experiment with make-up and hang out with friends. It doesn’t help when you have a super-strict Egyptian dad who tells you that everything is “haram” a.k.a. forbidden. But when her family move to the Arabian Gulf, it feels like every door is being closed on Sara’s future. Can Sara find her voice again? Will she ever be free?
SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with? Why?
YOUSRA SAMIR: The first author I fell in love with was Jacqueline Wilson, which would come as no surprise as she was every girls’ favorite author during the 1990’s. I used to enjoy seeking out her earlier titles from the 1980’s, which unfortunately are no longer printed. My favorite book of hers from the 1980’s is Waiting for the Sky Fall, firstly, because there is a mixed race girl on the front cover, and secondly it was the first time I had ever read a young adult novel that spoke about doing your O-Levels (GCSEs), relationships, sex and pregnancy so openly.
To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?
Karak chai for sure!
A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading? Why?
I’d like everyone to read It’s Not About the Burqa edited by Mariam Khan. It’s an anthology of essays written by British Muslim women and they are just such a diverse group of women, from different walks of life, different sexual orientations and all doing such different things with their lives. It’s a must-read because not only is this the first time that I’ve seen Muslim women write so openly about sex, queerness, sexual orientation, relationships and issues within society that are traditionally considered “taboo” by Asian and Arab cultures, it’s an anthology that shows readers that Muslim women aren’t a monolith – each one of us is different, and we have such vibrant stories to tell.
Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?
I think it was probably Charles Dickens in general – growing up I felt like I should read at least one Dickens book from start to finish, and tried Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities and just never got through them!
Favorite quote from your book
From Mona El Tahawy, Hymens and Headscarves (2015):
“The most subversive thing a woman can do is talk about her life as if it really matters.”
Favorite book to film? And why?
I love both The Color Purple watch trailer and Beloved watch trailer and strangely, Oprah Winfrey acted in and produced both of them! I think it was the first time I watched movies that had such strong, black, female leads. I think the other reason I love them is that the stories involve women finding their voice and standing up for themselves.
Favorite Indie Book Store/s?
The Book Case in Hebden Bridge and Bert’s Books (online).
The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?
I read some really good advice recently which said “don’t call yourself an aspiring writer. If you write, you are a writer” and I wish I’d owned that sooner.
Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?
Hijab and Red Lipstick is my debut novel so I will have to let you know when book number 2 gets eventually published! But in terms of getting this debut published, I won’t lie – it was hard! Literary agencies kept saying on their websites that they were looking for authors from ethnic and under-represented minorities and I’d make a submission and rejections always came back with “your writing is very good” or “there’s nothing wrong with your writing” “but we don’t see a market for your book.” I disagree – there is definitely a market for books with Muslim characters.
Dog, Cat, Or?
Exploring a historic city – I have wanted to go to Cordoba and Istanbul for ages!
Favorite book cover?
I absolutely adore the book cover of The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona El Tahawy.
Lady (Hear Me Tonight) by Mojo
Favorite painting/ work of art?
Probably Osman Hamdi Bey’s 1880 painting Girl Reciting Qur’an.
Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share? A great meeting with a fan? An epiphany?
Haven’t been to a literary festival since my book got published
Do you have a favorite film, or two, or three?
I love so many films. I love 80’s fantasy movies. The Dark Crystal watch trailer, Labyrinth watch trailer, Beetlejuice watch trailer, Legend watch trailer, Willow watch trailer and Edward Scissorhands watch trailer!
What is your favorite Austen novel, and film adaptation? Why?
Not an Austen fan – I know, shocking! I prefer the Bronte sisters and George Eliot. The women in Bronte and Eliots’ novels are far stronger and have more complex personalities.
(SK NOTE HERE- we can debate the stronger and more complex- 🙂
Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?
I can recommend lots of small publishers – Hashtag Press, Bluemoose Books, Red Dog Press and Knights Of.Media
Last impulse book buy and why?
Diary of a Muslim Nobody by Reaz Rahman – I came across it through my publishers, and when I knew Rahman had self-published, I wanted to support a fellow Muslim author
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Chika Unigwe, Better Late Than Never, short story collection
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Zetta Elliott: A Place Inside of Me, middle grade fiction
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Tara Coyt: Real Talk About LGBTQIAP, non fiction
Maureen Joyce Connelly: Little Lovely Things, a novel
Molly Greeley: The Heiress, historical fiction novel
Donna Miscolta: Living Color, short stories
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Emily Midorikawa: A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, biography
Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir
Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel
Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction
Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction
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