reader Q&A with layla saad
1. Do you prefer writing for adults or teenagers?
This was my first time writing for teenagers, and I truly enjoyed it! Even though I’m a mum to a teenager, my comfort zone is writing for adults. However, getting this opportunity to stretch myself as a writer was really great. I discovered that writing for teenagers and young adults is more fun and more inspiring.
2. Who/ What inspired you to write this book originally?
I would say there are many people and reasons that inspired me to write this book. It is the book that I wished I’d had while growing up as a Black Muslim girl in predominantly white and Christian spaces. It would have helped me to better understand my own experiences and feelings of being ‘other’. It’s also the book I’m glad my own kids will have to help them better understand the world, their own experiences, and how to show up for other people. I was also inspired by my parents. As immigrants to the UK raising first generation kids, I think this would have been really helpful for them when my brothers and I were growing up. And so really this book is inspired by young people and the people who raise them who want to have more empathy, more understanding, and a better world for all people.
3. We couldn't see the connection with the blue hand on the cover - does it symbolise something?
The cover was designed by the wonderful illustrator Andrea Pippins, who has illustrated other books including Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present, and Step Into Your: 23 Lessons on how to Live Your Best Life (both by Jamia Wilson). To me, the hand symbolizes connection (reaching out our hands to each other as fellow human beings to do this important work). And the courage to be seen (raising our hands to speak out, take action, and build a better world).
4. We would describe this book as being, thought-provoking, informative & compulsory. How would you describe it in 3 words?
I love that! In addition to those great words I would also add eye-opening, challenging, and (I hope!) inspiring.
5. How long did it take you to write 'Me and White Supremacy'.
Me and White Supremacy was actually written in a number of stages because it went through various forms before it became a bestselling book. At first it started with a 28-day Instagram challenge in June-July 2018. I then updated it and wrote it as a digital workbook, which I started around July-August 2018 and completed in November of the same year. I wrote the adult edition of the published book in the space of about eight weeks, in April and May 2019. Writing the Young Adult Edition probably took the longest as I had to re-write the book in an entirely new way for a brand new audience. Unfortunately when I started writing it in 2020, the pandemic had just started. So this book took me more than a year to complete. However, it was definitely worth it as this version of the book ended up being my favourite!
6. Do you think that White Supremacy will soon be non-existent (we do)?
I believe that the work we are all doing today to fight white supremacy, practice antiracism, treat each other with dignity, and work towards the liberation of all people has the power to create a world where white supremacy is no longer existent. However, it’s on us and future generations to do the work to make it so.
7. Are you currently writing another book?
Right now I’m taking a break from book writing to focus on some others areas of my work including podcasting, running a book club, and teaching courses on changemaking through my new digital platform, BecomeAGoodAncestor.com. I plan to start work on my next book in 2023, where I hope to write about claiming our work and using our voices as changemakers.
8. We think that this book should be a compulsory read as we found it not only informative, but also made us look back, think, and really question the world we live in. Do you think/ would you like the Government to arrange to issue a copy of 'Me and white Supremacy' to all schools across the UK?
I think this would be incredible. We’ve seen a wonderful grassroots example of this in Scotland, where Lighthouse Bookshop, an independent radical bookshop in Edinburgh, successfully ran a campaign to place a copy of Me and White Supremacy in every secondary school in Scotland. The incredible folks at Lighthouse Bookshop also agree that the book is a compulsory read.
9. We read that you enjoy reading detective fiction. Who is your favourite literary detective?
I loved reading detective fiction when I was growing up! Although I don’t really read it so much anymore, I still love watching it in movies and shows. The one detective I always return to is Sherlock Holmes! His powers of deduction are always mind-blowing.
10. Would you be coming back to Britain to talk at events such as the Hay Festival?
I would love to! When possible my family and I like to visit the UK once a year to visit family and friends. I’ve yet to speak at the Hay Festival but would love to explore it.