It was March of 2017. I was inspired to begin illustrating out of frustration over recent political developments and a sheer desire for representation. I had many frustrations as a young Arab-Muslim-American woman (a mouthful, I know) who didn’t quite fit in anywhere. I wondered whether people knew that I flinched every time a car passed me in the parking lot because I was afraid of being attacked. Did they know how annoyed I got when they asked if I was hot in my hijab? Were people aware that asking “but where are you really from?” made me feel so very other? No, probably not.
My book, Yes, I’m Hot in This, follows my eponymous main character and her misadventures. She wants to “fit in” but she also wants to stay true to who she is as a covered Muslim woman. She doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but she loves the movies, the lights, and especially the ugly sweaters. She doesn’t shake hands with men, but she’s a trailblazer for strong independent women. Her name may be difficult to pronounce, but you won’t ever find her using a nickname. It’s a tough balance to achieve, both in art and in real life.
Luckily, comics are an effective way to entertain and educate an audience. My audience includes both Muslims (who want to feel less excluded from the narrative of this world stage) and non-Muslims (who want to hear this narrative told from a point of view that is not often shared). Ultimately, I hope my book encourages other Muslims to tell their stories, no matter the medium. Because if we don’t pick up that mic and tell our stories, someone else will. And you can bet we’ll be stuck on flying carpets with our pet monkeys, making genies grant wishes forever.