The children’s author Rukhsana Khan was in Sitka last week. She visited schools across the state as part of the Alaska Spirit of Reading program, where students read an assigned book and then get to meet the author as he or she tours the state. The program is run by Sitka school librarians.
Khan was born in Pakistan and grew up in Canada. Her books include “The Big Red Lollipop,” which was named by the New York Times as one of the top 10 illustrated books of 2010. Her new book, and the one assigned as part of the program, is called “Wanting Mor.” It tells the story of a girl in Afghanistan whose mother dies in the war, and whose father abandons her.
During presentations at Blatchley Middle School last Tuesday, Khan talked about the themes of the book, but also her own upbringing in Canada. She’s Muslim, and says her visits to schools give people a chance to learn about more than her books.
“The biggest reason I love doing this so much is because I think it’s a bit of outreach,” she said. “Especially after Sept. 11, people think Muslims are crazy. And if I can change their mind a little bit, if I can open the door and show them, hey, we’ve got some pretty good stories, and we’re really not like that. The vast majority of Muslims, we’re not crazy like bin Laden. We would never do something like that. We’re just peaceful, law abiding people, and we have funny stories, we have sad stories. I try to use stories to build bridges of understanding.”
After her presentation to a sixth grade class, she sat down in the Blatchley Library for an interview with students Kaia Gleason and Joei Bidad.