It’s Super Book Sunday! And we’re ready to party! We’re kicking off the festivities with an awesome #BeyondTheBio interview! Our weekly interview series features YA authors chatting with teen readers, and we’re so excited to have two very special guests with us today.
Our guest author this week is Aminah Mae Safi, author of Not The Girls You’re Looking For. She loves puns and Oxford commas, and she’s got a new book coming out later this year. (More about that later!) She’s currently being managed by a cat, which could explain why she’s been watching so many YouTube videos.
Today’s teen interviewer is Sasha. Sasha’s one of our teen interns here at PickMyYA, and she’s currently stressing over which college she should attend after she graduates this summer. (Too many fat envelopes to choose from. What's a girl to do?) She’s previously interviewed Nic Stone, Candace Ganger, and many other amazing authors.
Alright, enough pregame. It’s time for kick off!
Sasha: Hey Aminah! One of the many reasons why I loved Not The Girls You’re Looking For was because, as a teen girl, Lulu goes through so many events where she doesn’t know exactly how to feel. I think this is something a lot of teen readers can relate to. What about you? Which of Lulu's confusing and messy experiences could you relate to?
Aminah: Oh man, I think I relate to all of them in one way or another. But mostly I think I relate to Lulu when she doesn’t quite know what the right thing to do is, but she’s trying anyway. She gets very in her head in those moments, and that is something I still have to work on. But I also loved getting to watch her muddle through and actually find the way to do the right thing, even if she didn’t get there at first. It made me feel like there’s hope for all of us, no matter how messy we get.
Sasha: Your writing truly shows the ups and downs of having an all-girl group. They could be mean and frustrating, but together, the right group of girls can conquer anything. Who's part of your girl squad?
Aminah: I have two friends that I’ve known since we were all about eleven and we’ve seen each other through so much. Different cities, different schools, bad haircuts, and bad relationships. They’re the kind of people that you get thrown together through circumstance when you’re younger, but despite all of our differences, we’ve learned to grow up into people who still value our relationship with one another. We’re all so different form one another, but rather than letting that get in the way, we’ve all through the years managed to decide that those differences were part of what made our friendship so important to us. I think finding that moment where you really accept a friend and love them as they are, rather than who you want them to be, is amazing and powerful and that was what I wanted to put into Not The Girls You’re Looking For.
Sasha: This book discusses the ways that having a mixed family can make it difficult to know exactly where you fit. What advice could you give to your biracial readers who are trying to find their place?
Aminah: To just find a way to be comfortable with that discomfort. I don’t mean to be a downer when I say— that feeling never goes away. But that feeling is also an immense privilege— you will always seen so many sides to an equation. You have been gifted the ability to look at any problem from the perspective of more than one culture. There is an amazing power and sense of peace that comes from accepting and understanding your whole self in this way, even if it’s not necessarily the way the entire world works.
Oh, and find at least one or two other friends who are mixed race or biracial like you, to commiserate with about that in-between feeling. Sometimes it helps to just know you’re not alone in that sensation (and that you never have been alone, because we’ve always lived in a global world).
Sasha: I love Emma. When she came out as bisexual, she was really lucky to have supportive friends. What encouraging words could you give to your readers who are trying to find a way to come out themselves?
Aminah: Oh my goodness, thank you. I loved writing Emma. I would say that coming out should always belong to you. It’s yours to do when you’re ready and when you feel safe. There’s no right time or right way. And coming out is a process that will happen over and over again in your life. There’s no timeline you have to be on for any of this. There’s not too early or too late, just what you need for you. Trust yourself and listen to yourself.
Sasha: Although there’s a lot of deeper messages, there’s also a lot of lighthearted moments as well. Without spoiling anything, which scene made you laugh the most while writing?
Aminah: Honestly, I love family drama so much. I love when Lulu was bantering with Dina and Tamra when they're mad at her. There’s just something about the bantering of cousins that makes me laugh out loud to myself. I think because family— and this definitely includes found family or adopted family— are the people you can’t quite get away from in one way or another. And I love the comedy of two people in a situation they would never put themselves in willingly, being forced to interact.
This is probably also why in rom-coms I love enemies-to-lovers tropes where they are stuck in a closet or have to pretend to be married. There’s a layer of double-speak and meta comedy that I find irresistible in these scenarios.
Sasha: Not The Girls You’re looking For is already in bookstores, and I have a feeling a lot of our readers are going to be grabbing a copy for themselves after this interview. What other YA novels would you recommend they grab while they're there?
Aminah: Nisha Sharma’s My So-Called Bollywood Life, Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka’s Always Never Yours, Maurene Goo’s The Way You Make Me Feel, and Amy Spalding’s The Summer of Jordi Perez. The YA shelves are currently teeming with amazing heroines, friendships, and love stories like never before and it’s been a great year to read diverse, contemporary, YA fiction.
Sasha: In just a couple months, your second book will be released! What can you tell us about it?
Aminah: Tell Me How You Really Feel is an enemies to lovers rom-com featuring two girls from the opposite sides of the social scale as they work together to make a movie and try very hard not to fall in love. It’s an LA story and my Paris/Rory ship from Gilmore Girls come to life and I can't wait until it’s out in the world this June!
That’s it for today’s interview with Aminah. If you're a book-loving teen like Sasha, click here to learn how to become a guest host for an upcoming #BeyondTheBio interview. It's an easy and fun chance to interview YA authors you love, and it’s only open to teens!
See you next week!