Author Spotlight Series: 2022 Banned Books Week & "Fatima the Activist"
Since 1982, Banned Books Week has been an annual celebration of literary (writing and reading) freedom. It was launched in response to a surge of challenged books in schools, libraries, and bookstores. “A number of organizations came together to start Banned Books Week, both to highlight the fact that literature was being banned, and to celebrate the freedom to read.” Typically held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week draws attention to current and historical attempts at book censorship.
While books can’t be banned in libraries simply because of their content (Island Trees School District v. Pico), this hasn’t stopped books from being challenged. It's important to note that most challenged books are ones covering racial or gender-related topics. But, that doesn’t lessen the need for stories that bring attention to specific experiences. And this is why we wanted to highlight the following book and young author in our final Author Spotlight Series: Fatima the Activist (2020) by Olivia James.
Released in 2020, Fatima the Activist candidly illustrates youth activism as the female students at Palm Valley Elementary School fight against gender discrimination. Through protagonist Fatima, readers are shown that age is no barrier when creating the world one wants to see! Author Olivia James recently spoke with Young Authors Publishing Assistant Editor, Brooke Shannon, to discuss James’ connection to activism, her favorite book, and advice to other young authors.
Brooke Shannon: What inspired you to write your book?
Olivia James: I was mainly inspired by activist Malala Yousafzai and her autobiography. Her story was really interesting and inspired me to create my own activist narrative.
BS: What was one takeaway about writing you discovered while writing your book?
OJ: I learned that I can do anything I set my mind to as long as I work hard and focus. I also learned that it was ok to ask questions and to get help.
"I hope my book and character, Fatima, inspire people to speak up for what they believe in. No matter who you are, you deserve to be treated equally."
BS: Who is your favorite author and why?
OJ: Alice Walker because she wrote my favorite book, The Color Purple.
BS: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
OJ: I hope my book and character, Fatima, inspire people to speak up for what they believe in. No matter who you are, you deserve to be treated equally.
BS: What advice would you give to young authors or creatives?
OJ: My advice would be to treat people with kindness. You never know what someone is going through. You wouldn’t want to add negative energy to someone who could already be going through a tough time.