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Writers Against Racism: Rukhsana Khan

Rukhsana Khan is an award-winning author and storyteller. She was born in Lahore, Pakistan and immigrated to Rukshana Writers Against Racism: Rukhsana Khan

Canada in 1965 at the age of three. She grew up in a small town in Southern Ontario where her family was the only Pakistani Muslim family, and she used her love of reading to survive. She has ten books published and others under contract. She lives in Toronto with her husband and family. Learn more about Rukhsana at www.rukhsanakhan.com

 

  

Briefly describe the impact racism had on you as a young person.

 

When I was very young the kids in my class would tell me that they were white because they were clean and I was brown because I was dirty. I think their racism left me feeling ‘dirty’ for the longest time.

 

Basically I found myself under a microscope as a young person. Every mistake I made was magnified, caught, never forgotten, and thrown back in my face by the kids I grew up with. And when I told them I couldn’t eat something because it had ingredients that were forbidden by my beliefs, they would laugh at me and say I was weird. I had to decide whether they were right about that or not. I had to examine my religion and my culture and decide whether all their insults were accurate or whether they were wrong about it. In the end I decided they were wrong and even if I was a lone voice, and the whole world was set against me, I had examined my position and it had merit.

 

Has your personal experience of racism impacted your professional work as a writer? 

 wantingmor Writers Against Racism: Rukhsana Khan

Yes! Absolutely! It’s made me question the status quo a lot! I often play the devil’s advocate and especially question things that are entrenched absolutes. It’s forced me to remain the perennial outsider, which is actually not such a bad vantage point if you want to be a writer.

 

In what way can literature be used to combat the effects of racism and promote tolerance?

 

When you read a compelling story about someone from a different culture you actually take on the identity of that culture, at least for the time you’re immersed in the story. And consequently you can never look at people from that culture in the same way again. That is the power of literature to reach past racial, religious, and cultural differences and touch the humanity within each of us.

Comments

  1. Zetta says:

    I’m so glad Doret introduced me to Rukhsana’s work! I hope her writing has changed things up in Canada…

  2. George Edward Stanley says:

    And thank you, Amy, Zetta, and Doret for introducing me to Rukhsana’s work. Amy, WRITERS AGAINST RACISM is an incredibly powerful series! Just when I think I’ve heard it all, I’m hit in the face with some event in a person’s life that absolutely stuns me. Rukhsana was dirty, because she was brown, but the white children were clean because they were white? Who are these aliens, anyway? Obviously, these young white children got this “information” from their parents. Amy, not only should this series continue until every voice has been heard, it would be criminal and an international disgrace for it not to reach an even wider audience. Thank you, Rukhsana, for having faith in yourself and your talents to look beyond this RACISM and to tell you stories! Your life is a lesson to the world.

  3. Doret says:

    I found out about Wanting Mor thanks to a review at Papertigers. Which led me to a wonderful interview with the author at Writing With a Broken Tusk

    It won’t let me include an HTML link but do check out the interview.

    I would never go up to a Muslim woman I didn’t know and ask why she covers herself. Thats just rude. But I can read books to gain perspective about her culture and religion.

    I really enjoyed Wanting Mor and look foward to reading more of Rukhsana’s work.

    Ten books published and more on the way, which each book comes understanding and change.

  4. Rukhsana Khan says:

    Hi everyone!

    Thanks for all the kind words! This blog is wonderful! I’m really enjoying reading all the other entries!

    I love the Papertigers review! I think it’s one of the best! Thanks for the kind comments Doret!

    And amen about bringing understanding and change with each book!

    Rukhsana

  5. Laura Atkins says:

    Thanks, Rukshana, for your precise and vivid honesty. You are another person who speaks openly, even when it might make others uncomfortable. You’ve added your story to the essay I posted on white privilege in children’s publishing, showing how much you’ve had to go through, and climb over, to get your books out there! Thank goodness for authors like you and Zetta for your fearlessness, and to Amy and Zetta for running this series.

  6. tanita says:

    Wow — an author entirely new to me. What a stunning book cover, and what a brave woman. I applaud any writer who continues to question what are seen as absolutes. I look forward to seeking out and reading Rukhsana’s work.