Five Questions with Hena Khan
Happy book birthday to Hena Khan’s new book Amina’s Song, published today (March 9, 2021)! This past January, as a part of our activities for National Day of Service, Khan did a live reading of Amina’s Song – a companion book to Amina’s Voice – and through Khan’s participation and support from educators across the United States, First Book successfully donated thousands of books to children in need.
Kahn also continues to be an important part of First Book’s Stories for All Project™, helping children see themselves and their voices represented in books. In anticipation of the release of Amina’s Song, we sat down with Hena Khan to ask her a few of our burning questions.
Our Interview with Hena Khan
What’s your super-secret fun hidden talent?
I have the ability to watch a movie, completely forget that I’ve seen it before, and watch it again like it’s brand new! It comes in handy for me, but totally annoys my friends and family, especially when after insisting that I’ve never seen something, I have an “oh yeah,” moment and remember a scene at the very end.
If you had the ability to make any book – yours or someone else’s – into a movie, which book would you choose and who would star in it?
Hopefully, I would NOT forget watching a movie version of my own book, Amina’s Voice! I’d love to see both it and Amina’s Song made into movies because I’ve still never seen a character like young me on the big screen. I’d pick Shah Rukh Khan to age up a little and play Amina’s uncle, because he’s a Bollywood legend and people sometimes ask if we’re related (we’re not). Plus, I could get my mom and her auntie friends to meet him and score major points.
What is the craziest way a book idea has come to you?
I was teasing my finicky eater son that I was going to write a book about his troublesome stomach and give it a personality and a silly name. That made me think about a character like him, a scrawny kid who gets frequent stomach aches and is always being pushed to eat by everyone. And that planted the seed of a character who eventually grew into Zayd Saleem.
If you only had 1 minute to deliver a message to your younger self, what would you want to say?
I’d tell myself: You matter, and your story matters as much as anyone else’s, so don’t be afraid to speak up and put yourself out there. Try not to worry about things you can’t control, and act confident, even if you’re faking it at first. That, and make sure to buy lots of Apple stock!
What impact do you hope to have on children who read your books?
I want my readers to feel seen, and to develop a strong enough connection to my characters and stories that they both remember them and want to read them more than once — the ultimate compliment! I’d also love for them to gain empathy, and to think a little more critically about the world we live in.
More Stories Like Amina’s Song
Amina’s Song is one of many great books that we have available on First Book’s Marketplace, to help educators bring diverse voices into the classroom. You can explore all available books by Hena Khan, or browse our Muslim Characters and Culture section.
Join the Network
Educators can join First Book’s network — the largest and fastest growing network of educators, schools, and programs serving children in need across the United States and Canada — to bring these titles and many more to your classroom.