Internationally acclaimed author, and an award winning writer, Rukhsana Khan is a rare gem in our community that has just recently been discovered. For the past 25 years she has been dedicated to her work, weaving together ideas and imagination to create characters that bring struggle, success and reality to life. What was once just in her dreams is now a part of her reality. As her work becomes recognized and appreciated worldwide and the audience spectrum broadens, Rukhsana Khan continues to be humbled by her stories and characters, and feels like she still has a lot to learn from them.
In an interview with Lanterns, Rukhsana opened up about her difficult past as a young Muslim girl attending public school in Canada. Her story is heartfelt and saddening yet captivating. I felt drawn to her as she shared incidents that left her questioning her identity and her sense of belonging. Despite the struggles, Rukhsana won’t let you take pity on her, not even for a moment. Although she struggled to ‘fit in’ at school, and has numerous stories of sadness and isolation, it’s her past which forged her career in writing. The experiences that laced her life with difficulty also gave her the ability to look insightfully towards other people and their lives.
Amidst her stories of struggle, Rukhsana fondly speaks about her father and his influence on her life. While she was being pulled between Western modernization and her Islamic roots, it was her father who brought her closer to Islam and deepened her love for her deen. He connected her to the Quran, and as she learned more and more from it, she felt it had a profound effect by influencing the rhythm of her writing.
Although she was passionate about writing from a young age, Rukhsana’s work didn’t really connect until she was much older. Eight years into it, she realized that she had needed time to mature, and her thoughts needed to age in order to become effective. She candidly admits that “it takes an adult to write a children’s book” and in order to be great at what she does, she had to wait and mature into a woman herself.
Her writing started to come together once she had the opportunity to revisit her past with a fresh perspective. Once Rukhsana had the ability to reach a deeper understanding of her audience, there was no turning back! She successfully wrote and published a dozen books, most of which were noticed internationally. Some even translated in different languages!
Her work ranges from a children’s audience to young adults, and even older! There’s no age limit to her talent. She has the ability to connect to people through her characters, bringing to life the troubles Muslims face, no matter how slight or how significant. Her portrayal of the people in her books is incredible: funny and relevant for kids, and real and relatable for young adults. Her purpose is to create books that people can connect with immediately using a voice that speaks directly to her audience.
Rukhsana is one of those rare talented women who hasn’t let fame and glory get to her. She still maintains a love for her work, and a passion for the lives of her characters. As she works on an upcoming sequel, she’s excited because she feels the characters reveal themselves as she writes. It’s this kind of enthusiasm as a writer that can’t be ignored by mainstream readers. That’s probably the reason her books are noticed across the United States and why she’s won acclaims and awards, including the prestigious New York Public Library Award for the 100 greatest children’s books in the past 100 years! She’s also the proud winner of the Middle East Book Award, and a host of other accolades for the fantastic work she is doing as a Muslim writer.
Although Rukhsana is a proud Canadian, she feels that the Muslim audience here in Canada hasn’t really gotten to know her work the way it’s meant to be loved and enjoyed by all. It’s her hope and dream that one day, the Muslims in the community will get a chance to experience her talent, by bringing her books to life in their own homes and truly enjoy her writing as it’s loved all over the world!
Rukhsana Khan has the gift to spin stories to life and yet she manages to maintain a great vision for herself. Despite her success, she wants others to know that she has never written for fame and glory. For her, writing has always been about doing something beneficial and allowing healthy discourse between people. She works hard to encourage Muslims to build an identity for themselves, find characters whose struggles they can relate to, and derive strength from. Her hope is always to be that silent voice of comfort to numerous children growing up, trying to find themselves amidst the chaos of childhood and adolescence. Through her dedication, she only hopes to reap the benefits in her aakhira, as a Muslim who looked out for others.
Love what you learned? You can get to know Rukhsana Khan and the amazing work she does by visiting her website: http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/