My name is Rahma Mohamed, and I was born and raised in Hargeisa, Somaliland. At the age of eight, my family immigrated to Canada. We arrived in Quebec, where I attended my first formal school in French. The first few years were challenging, I experienced bullying due to me being the only Black Muslim girl in my class and my inability to speak the language. But eventually, I would be first to graduate from University in my family, having mastered both French and English.
What led me to become an author?
The world is made of stories. There are the stories we hear, the ones we read and the ones we tell each other. Each situation is shifted by the story that surrounds it. Each outcome is perhaps influenced by the story it began with.
Growing up, the stories I read about my identity as a Muslim was always negative. A Muslim was someone who was always radical and violent. My hijab was a symbol of an oppressive ideology that needed to be irradiated. As Somali, I was known to be part of a nation of perpetual conflict and rootless pirates.
These narratives weren't always overt but subtle and infused in the movies we watched and the secondary characters in our books. The most effective way to indoctrinate a population is to co-opt their stories in an attempt to turn everyone against them. It took me a long time to shed those false stories about myself, my religion and my culture.
My work in writing positive and affirming stories featuring Black Muslims is to help future generations overcome years of hurt and trauma, believing the negative stereotypes that are being told by others.
Reclaiming the art of storytelling with a purpose to make a difference isn't always easy, but each seed we plant in the mind of a young reader is worth the sacrifice.
Once I became a mother, I set out to self-publish children's books to encourage youth to be proud of their uniqueness by celebrating diversity. Reflecting on my struggles of growing up in a foreign country, I became determined to offer books centered on characters that are Muslim and with African roots.
I firmly believe that children need to be able to identify themselves in the book they read to enhance their self-confidence as well as bolster their sense of pride. I write under the pen name RahmaRodaah which my first name and my middle name combined. I now juggle the joys of motherhood as I chase my four kids, homeschooling, and finally, my writing, which happens during nap times, after bedtime or any other moment I can find.
If you believe each child deserves to see themselves in the books, they read, then spread the message and share my books with your family.