Book shops are much needed safe spaces for communities #BookShopDay

Today is #BookShopDay day. It’s simple really. The lovely people at Books Are My Bag just want you to support your local bookshops. Though I wasn’t asked to write anything about what bookshops and books mean to me, I couldn’t help myself. Whilst discussing this on Twitter lots of people shared with me, what bookshops/books meant to them and I want to share that here too.

For me bookish places have always been safe spaces. From my school library where I used to be a “student librarian” for 7 year throughout secondary school and college to my local Waterstones store. Words and books bring an endless sort of comfort. That warm fuzzy, protected feeling you have in a bookshop can’t really be mimicked elsewhere. I have spent a lot of my life flicking through pages of books in book stores. Old stores and new ones. Old books and new ones.

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19 Years Later & My Very First Harry Potter Book

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Sometime last week it was 19 Years Later. It was the beginning of the final chapter in Deathly Hallows and just to say those words, upsets me.

I’m late to every trend and usually just forget it but I really wanted to post something I wrote.

Everyone has their own Harry Potter story. I don’t know why this book series captured the hearts of readers across the world the way it did. I read Harry Potter as a kid. I re-read the books almost every year and dissolve into a world that is filled with such welcome, loyalty and magic (not just the wizardy-kind) that I am filled with #happiness. I leave the pages of these books behind me every time, again and again filled with a #strength, a hope inside me the world around me drains everyday. And every time I need an escape, I return to Hogwarts, because it’s always there to welcome me home.

On each page, in each fold and tear there are memories, thoughts and feelings that I have left in the magical world J K Rowling built. Things that were too heavy to carry or too complicated to process during my childhood and teenage years, I left in Hogwarts, at the Shrieking Shack, at Hogsmeade. I let the characters in each book, my favourite people in the entire world carry me through, page by page, as real life continued to happen and the loyalty of those characters never wavered.

I remember in a random conversation I mentioned to our social worker that I wanted to read Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix but I couldn’t because Mom couldn’t afford to buy me the book and the library had a long wait list. I really didn’t expect the conversation to be remembered, I was a kid who wanted a dumb book, who cared? Apparently my social worker did. I came home from school and my Mom told me that I’d been left a present – it was a book. Yes, it was my very first Harry Potter book. It wasn’t borrowed from the library or a friend. It was my very own copy. It was my goodbye present as our social worker has finished working with us. I’m not sentimental over many things in my life, but I appreciate that book, a lot.

Even now, as a reluctant-adult when I read Harry Potter there is a sense of comfort and familiarity.

I don’t understand people who don’t read because look what reading gave me and continues to give me. I couldn’t imagine my life without all these witches and wizards and this world.

5-year-olds wear hijab as school uniform: The Pro-Choice Argument

ChoiceLast week’s Sunday Times paper published a story about 5 year olds wearing hijab as school uniform. The paper also suggested that schools and headteachers “had come under pressure to parents or religious leaders to change uniform regulations.”

Since then there has been much debate and discussion online. Though there are many agendas at play here, I’m going to attempt to put forward the pro-choice side of this debate. I am not saying that young girls should wear the hijab or that they shouldn’t, I am saying they should be given the opportunity to make the decision themselves and that decision should be respected.

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Quiet places and reading

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I’m currently reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

I’ve been talking about quiet places and finding peace recently and I keep forgetting to mention that I also find reading books comforting. Especially the Harry Potter series. I think it’s because I know what’s going to happen but it never seems unamazing or boring. It’s reassuring and each time I read the books it adds to the story, the clarity of the world J K Rowling created. A wonderful place to escape because every battle ends in a victory despite the losses.

What are your favourite books to read? What do you do to relax?

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

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“When the world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” – Malala Yousafzai

So, I’m currently reading Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. The book is a collection of tales from extraordinary women from all over the world.

Each page is filled with a story from an amazing woman, the page above tells the story of Malala Yousafzai a Muslim woman, a young girl who fought for her right to an education and has since fought for many girls like her and not to have the right to an education. Each story is wonderfully accompanied with an illustrated image. Each image is done by a different illustrator and each story and woman and journey is as breath taking and inspiring as the last.

Malala’s quote means so much to me, because I believe that as a Muslim woman my voice, and other Muslim women’s voices are oppressed, overlooked or ignored and shouting out and saying, “hey hang on” and believing that one voice can be the difference between something happening and change taking place matters to me. So much. Malala is an inspiration to us all. She made change happen because she wanted an education, she demanded an education.

When success looks different to what we imagine

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Success and achievement looks different to what we imagine. Sometimes the things we want to achieve seem so far away and in our minds eye they are murky and not quite hashed out and the path towards what we want isn’t always or even most of the time straight or simple. We have to wind down side roads and meet dead ends and have to re-evaluate our intentions and aims many times over before we reach where we want to be.

But what looks pretty and fulfilling from far away, what looks beautiful in our minds eye, what we are working towards and want to achieve may not always “be” what we wanted when we set out on our journey. You see if you get too stuck on achieving something something in a very particular manner, at a very particular point and place then you can’t grow or learn. You need to appreciate the not-quite achievements and the things you learnt along the way, not just the successful achievements that give you heartwarming feeling.

Sometimes it’s great to take a step back to stop seeing what you didn’t get and work out what you did get because we can learn from our not-quite achieved goals too.

Safe spaces, imposter syndrome and wearing salwaar kameez

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I love BAMEinPublishing! Some of the most talented people I know are apart of this group. I’m so grateful for groups like this, safe spaces for those of us who are outnumbered in society and in industries that still have a lot to do in terms of inclusivity.

Let me tell you the story behind this picture though, well my story. The morning of this day I wasn’t even in London, I had a meeting so I commuted in from Birmingham, I was wearing salwaar kameez and I remember this because I messaged a couple of friends to ask if wearing salwaar kameez would make look odd in my meeting because, well there wasn’t going to be any other Asian wearing salwaar kameez in the entire building so I’d be the odd one out. After some convincing and then because I didn’t have time to go and change in my place in London I went to my meeting in my traditional cultural dress and that was that.

After the meeting I rushed home and changed my clothes because I was desperate to fit into this safe space too. And I did fit in and it was fantastic and I know I did a disservice to every single person there because nobody would have cared if I wore salwaar kameez, but I guess I would have. Because somewhere in my mind I have allowed myself to believe that I should be ashamed of this part of my culture. When I wear salwaar kameez outside of my community I get weird looks and people scrunching up their noses and speaking to me like an idiot because they think I can’t speak English. I stick out like a soar thumb and I guess I just really wanted to fit in here. For me this has turned into a battle with myself where I am one person in one place in one sort of dress and another in another place. My own perversion of my imposter syndrome for myself means I will only accept certain dressed versions of myself in certain environments. I find this odd and interesting especially because I believe this space is one of the the few spaces where nobody would have cared what I was dressed like.

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