Hey book nerds! Welcome back to another round of #BeyondTheBio. James here, and I’m joined by the wonderful Samira Ahmed, whose new book Love, Hate, & Other Filters was listed as one of our Most Anticipated Books Of 2018. The good news is that the wait is almost over! Samira’s book comes out this Tuesday, so be sure to stop by your local bookstore and pick up a copy. In the meantime, check out our interview below, and then be sure to enter our giveaway at the bottom of this page.
James: Hi Samira! Thanks so much for joining us today on #BeyondTheBio. Your new book Love, Hate, & Other Filters is one of our most anticipated books of 2018! Can you tell our readers a little bit about they can expect?
Samira: Hi! Thanks so much for having me on #BeyondTheBio! Love, Hate & Other Filters is a story about a girl who is Indian and Muslim, but also a girl like all the other girls—she has hopes and dreams and crushes and faces a world trying to tell her who she should be and what she should do. Maya Aziz is an American girl who is simply trying to figure things out and forge her own path. She’s torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.
There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.
James: How much of yourself do you see in Maya?
Samira: I think writers put bits of themselves, or at least their experiences, in all their characters, perhaps, even, unknowingly. On the surface, Maya and I are both Indian-American, Muslims, daughters of immigrants who maybe didn’t take the expected path. And Maya is also growing up in a fictionalized version of my hometown: Batavia, Illinois!
James: Maya’s such a huge film buff, which got me wondering... What are some of your all-time favorite movies?
Samira: How much time do we have? It’s so hard to decide on just a few favorites and I find that my favorites change all the time and I love movies so much, that I have favorites in every category. So…I’m going to share some of Maya’s favorite films. She’s a big documentary buff, so the list is pretty doc heavy, but give them a chance! Spoiler: I love these, too.
Senna, Hoop Dreams, the Apu Trilogy (OMG. Satyajit Ray is a true master), Visions of Light, Paris Je T’aime, Bend it Like Beckham, Man on Wire, Cinema Paradiso, Persepolis, Waltz with Bashir
James: One line that stood out to me was when Phil mentioned the disgusting comments that Brian has excused as “locker room talk.” That phrase seemed quite familiar. Was it perhaps inspired by a particular politician?
Samira: Ha! I love your close reading! There was definitely an “inspiration” for this phrase. And I’ll leave that up to the reader’s imagination!
James: Speaking of “locker room talk,” what’s one book you’d like to add to our current President’s TBR?
Samira: Well, harkening back to your last question, I definitely think he could benefit from a close reading of Love, Hate & Other Filters! But since he has indicated that he never had time to read, even before being President, I’m going to suggest a picture book: Obama: An Intimate Portrait by Pete Souza, the official White House photographer during the Obama years. Remember that adage? A picture is worth a thousand words? Yeah…I think you get me.
James: I know you’ve taught high school English. I’m a teacher too, and so are many of our readers! What are some books you’d recommend to teens who are haven’t yet fallen in love with reading?
Samira: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, Monster by Walter Dean Myers, Long Way Down and Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds, Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo, and Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger—it’s older (1990) and non-fiction, but many of my former students found it riveting!
Also, I think graphic novels are a fabulous way to get into reading—so many
great ones out there right now. Persepolis, one of Maya’s favorite movies, is also a graphic novel. Also, check out Nimona or Pashima. Also, all your favorite superheroes have graphic novels. Star Wars, too, and then there’s one of my faves: the Avatar: The Last Airbender series.
James: Alright, I want to ask a few fun questions: What are five random things that you love?
Samira: In no particular order: chicken pot pie (but the crust has to be all the way around not just on top!), hot chocolate, the way light filters through trees at different times of day (this stops me mid-walk all the time), Secret Beach on Kauai, and rose macarons from Laduree
James: And what are some things that you hate?
Samira: Arrogance, intolerance, hypocrisy, myopia, and candy corn
James: Do you have a go-to Snapchat or Instagram filter?
Samira: Juno and Clarendon are my favorite photo filters on Instagram. I don’t Snapchat, but if I’m in one, I want a flower crown.
James: And final question... Kareem or Phil?
Samira: I’m getting the Team Kareem or Team Phil question often these days, so, let me just say this...I’m Team Maya all the way!
That wraps up today’s interview, but be sure to come back next week when I’ll be chatting with N. H. Senzai about her heart-rending new book, Escape From Aleppo. And don’t forget to enter today's giveaway before you leave! We'll be announcing the winner later this week!