I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I remember being about six or seven and starting my very first chapter book, one of the Baby-sitter’s Club Little Sister series. I was so proud of myself for finishing a book that didn’t have any pictures in it, and was so inspired that I wrote my own chapter book. It was about a girl named Lisa who, basically, was a fictional version of me, and did things like go to the dentist. It was about seven pages long, and I cut each page down so that it would be the size of my Little Sister book, so it was not exactly a masterpiece of children’s lit. Nevertheless, it remains to this day the only “novel” that I’ve ever actually finished.
As a grew older, the stories I started (and never completed; sometimes I would literally write one page before scrapping the idea in its entirety) were all inspired by what I was reading at the time – I wrote fantasy novels during my Discworld/Harry Potter phase, angsty I-hate-life pieces during my angsty I-hate-life YA phase, dystopian heroine stories during my dystopian angsty YA phase – you get the idea. (I went through a futuristic space travel sci-fi phase, but did not write anything reflecting that due to my abysmal grasp of physics. To this day, I don’t understand how an apple falling on your head proves the existence of gravity. I also went through a communist revolutionary phase, but that’s an article for another time.)
Generally though, I was still figuring out my writing style, so a lot of what I wrote was, plot-wise, a mirror of the books I was inspired by. It wasn’t until I started college – majoring in journalism – that I began to get a firmer grasp on why I wanted to write. I wanted to be able to reexamine old narratives, to challenge problematic ideas, to say, hey, what I think is important too, and here’s why. I became active on my campus and in my department, starting an online newspaper with my friends with the goal of challenging the official narrative of the university administration. Looking back on that experience, it was maybe not entirely successful from that angle. But it was empowering for me, because for the first time I felt like I was in control of my narrative, I had a voice, and people were engaging with me and taking me seriously.
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In the last couple of years, I’ve realized that that was what I had been looking for my whole life. Every time I tried to recreate a story I loved, what I was really doing was trying to insert myself in the story and engage with it, trying to give myself a voice in the narrative that I’d loved. It sounds really narcissistic written down like this, and maybe it is. But as a brown Muslim girl growing up in the United States in the 1990s and the early 2000s, I had really no one in pop culture that I could relate to, something I’ve written about here. I was desperate to see myself in the stories I so enjoyed, to see a version of myself that I recognized, a version of my family and my culture that was familiar and honest. I wanted to be a part of the narrative. I wanted to belong.
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That, today, is why I write. I believe more than anything that you have to write your own stories, and that you have to create a space for yourself to belong and to be heard. That’s why I write for The Tempest. This is a platform dedicated to raising the voices of those who have often been ignored or overlooked in mainstream media, who, even when they’re give the chance to express themselves, their stories are often drowned or delegitimized by those who would presume to speak for them. This is a place where you can be yourself with all that entails. You can be crazy wild or you can be, like me, super vanilla, and feel right at home here. So come read with us, talk to us, engage with us – heck, even write for us! That’s what The Tempest is all about.