The Black Muslim Times UK spoke with newly published author Sheeda Queen. She discussed her motivations for writing her book and her desire to be the UK’s answer to Sister Souljah!
Asalamu Alaikum sister thanks so much for speaking with us! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Walaykum salaam sister, it’s my pleasure and I am humbled by the interview request.
My name is Priska Kibala; my Islamic name when I reverted became Rasheeda. I was born in Congo, Kinshasa to be precise; I came to the UK at the age of 5. I lived and grew up in Thornton Heath, South London all my life. I am a writer and my passion is to change the status quo.
What were your motivations for writing Chestnut?
There are several reasons why I felt compelled to write Chestnut, as the list is too long (lol) I will share the most important ones.
1) I wanted to change the narrative of what they call “urban literature, street literature and minority stories”
2) I wanted to be the UK version of Sister Souljah.
3) My struggling financial background was definitely a big driving force, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t, and as I aspire to go into other ventures, I aim for the financial opportunities of this book to open various doors Insha’Allah.
4) I have lived an unusual life and for the 28 years I have been on this earth, my own experiences and experiences of others around me, made for a juicy book.
5) As a spiritual being and someone who has always found solace in the higher power (later I knew to be Allah) I knew writing this book was my calling and mission.
6) As a student and lover of history (especially black history) a keen business woman, fused with my out of this world creative mind I was able to birth the book Chestnut.
Did you have support from others during the writing process and publication?
A lot of people have been surprised with the support because within the black community and Congolese community we have this stigma of not supporting each other. Alhamdulillah, with everything we do in life, we have to walk with a clean heart and have good intentions, I knew and practiced this way before I became Muslim but the Deen assisted me further with enhancing this practice, so bearing that in mind, the support has been out of this world and overwhelming as people tend to feel my energy before they even get to know me.
I was and still am, able to meet people from all walks of life for the first time and have them on board. Whether it’s them buying the book, spreading the word, promoting me via social media/real life and also recommending me for events. Recently, “Words that travel” an event at SOAS uni, was recommended to me by a Congolese sister (non-Muslim) that I hardly knew via social media. But my family and friends have been and always will be my foundation; they always have my best interest at heart spiritually, emotionally and physically.
What obstacles did you face whilst creating your book?
As a wife, mother of then three kids (now 4, got a new born of 2months Masha’Allah), a family person and a bit of a social activist within my community, I’ve had to carefully find time for all and try to balance things for my own sanity. But this did not always work out, which mostly left me working on the book late, from 10pm all the way to the early hours of 2am, and still having to get up for Fajr prayer and take the children to school.
I had to firmly believe in the qadr (divine pre-ordainment) of Allah as I was being tested from different angles and being placed in situations that could have broken me, one of them being my younger sister passing away from sudden death. This rocked the community at large and my world after only spending the weekend with her and speaking to her the night before. You couldn’t get to me without her and visa versa, so from her passing, two things were in my path, either turn my pain into strength and change lives or become a crazy woman. By Allah’s will the first was chosen for me.
What is the impact you would like your book to have on your audience?
I have aimed for this book to touch the audience beyond their hearts and move their spirit, which is currently working as a number of people have been confessing to this, followed by great reviews.
Insha’Allah I would like to be in a position where I have a platform to provide an open dialogue for us as a people to bring forth most of the issues I have brought up in the book. These issues will not only educate us and help us heal, but it will also inspire us to be better, do better and conclude on finding the much needed solutions to move forward.
I aim for the book to get the younger generation reading again, which is part of the campaign I have launched, so Insha’Allah the book will be the much needed catalyst for the progression of this movement.
The most important impact I would love for the book to have on people is for them to look at life in a totally different way than how they have previously looked at it prior to reading the book and take a different approach after.
Do you have advice for people looking to write their own book?
Everyone has a book in them but not everyone is a writer. If you are serious about writing, ask yourself why. If you can’t find your why,then go and seek it, make sure it’s something meaningful, because if your sole purpose is to become rich, you won’t make it even half way through this journey. When you have found your big WHY, then this will be your driving force and it will see you through the toughest times of this journey as it will be the reason for you not to give up.
Take your time and really invest in yourself properly, get to know the writing industry inside out, especially if you are self publishing like myself. Read other books, go to events and connect with likeminded people.
Don’t rush yourself because you see other people writing and releasing their books before you. It took me 3 years before I finished and released my book; I was patient because I didn’t want to give people rubbish and had to learn the legal side of safe guarding my work.
Do not wait to get validation from other people – you are unique and so is your story. Pray and slay Insha’Allah.
Where can we connect with you on social media for your upcoming events and other news?
Through my website www.sheedaqueen.com there are direct links to my,
Many thanks to sister Sheeda for an amazing, inspiring interview!
Look out for a book review of her YA novel Chestnut in the next issue of The Black Muslim Times UK, our final issue of 2016!