Bilal Saleem plays the guitar. He listens to rap music. He’s a Muslim. When he wrote I am the Night Sky he was a high school senior, and has since graduated. Bilal is undecided when it comes to what he’s trying to do in college, but he’s cool with that. Before applying to be part of this project, Bilal didn’t really write much. Like, he could write, but he didn’t. It was his mother, Hena Khan, also an author, that got the gears rolling, and got him to make an effort.
Bilal is really blessed, getting to grow up in Rockville, MD. It’s an extremely diverse and accepting community that’s never really made him feel out of place of unheard. Bilal guesses that’s why he felt obligated to write, because he knows not everyone has that experience.
“For me, the NWMI x Shout Mouse collaboration was a celebration of nuanced identities. I’ve always been the only hijabi in her school and, as a result, I’ve always been the de facto representative or all things Muslim for my non-Muslim peers. I’ve felt pressure – often self-imposed – to be more ‘American’ or more ‘Muslim’. Recently, I’ve realized that it’s OK to be both without compromise. My hope is that this book can be an homage, not just to the American Muslim teen experience, but to the experience of all minority American kids as we navigate the world at the intersection of our identities.”
BOOKS BY BILAL