Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Q&A with Aminah Mae Safi


Photo by Kirsten Gilliam Photography

Aminah Mae Safi is the author of the new young adult novel This Is All Your Fault. Her other books include Tell Me How You Really Feel and Not the Girls You're Looking For. She lives in Los Angeles.


Q: How did you come up with the idea for This Is All Your Fault, and for your three main characters?


A: I was watching Empire Records and I realized that the three girls, who I had always thought of as the main characters for the book, were actually not the POV characters or the protagonists of the story.


So I set out to fix that. And I set out to do my part to shout from the rooftops everything that I love about independent bookstores.


Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book calls it "an energizing, character-driven celebration of belonging, acceptance, and sisterhood with a clear nod to the importance of community spaces." What do you think of that description, and what do you think the book says about independent bookstores?


A: Oh, thank you! That's a wonderful description. I think independent bookstores are, at their heart, community centers. They're places where you can go and find stories. Or sit a while. Or ask people for recommendations. They're these beautiful little community hubs and I think of them as essential to a thriving community.


I hope the book says that about independent bookstores. That all are welcome and that it's totally fine to be a weirdo. That you'll find your tribe but that you don't have to resort down lines of tribalism, if that makes sense.


Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Titles are always a back and forth with my editor. At this point I give most of my work code name titles so that I know what I'm talking about without officially titling the work. But it's nice that I have someone to collaborate and make the titles with, because they're not my strong suit.


The title is a pulled line from the book, because I always loved title that are pulled lines when I read, and so I love giving that Easter egg to readers. I think as people we're often trying to play the blame game. And I wanted to make a story that went beyond that. Beyond whose fault it was and instead how we were going to clean up the problem.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: I hope that they take away that they're not alone. That people are not always what they seem and if you leave room for people to surprise you, sometimes they can surprise you in a delightful way.


I hope they know it's okay to get into the ring, knowing they're likely to lose, but to fight the good fight regardless. I hope they see that it's okay to not be okay, but that doesn't mean that not being okay is a permanent state of being.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm working on a Robin Hood retelling for the Classics Remixed series from Feiwel and Friends. I'm so excited to tell the story from a Muslim teen girl's perspective and have a new take on the Crusades, in a fun and adventure-filled form!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: The poem in the book was written by actual 15-year-old me. I say this because I'm normally very— you can say what you want about my books. But please be kind about that poem. Fifteen-year-old me had no idea that her grown-up self would go and put it into a published book.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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