The first-time published author’s book was released on November 5, 2020, and is a fictional novel based on real-life experiences.
Yousra, 32, lived in London for the first 15 years of her life, before moving to Qatar with her family after her father was offered a job and only returned to the UK three years ago.
Hijab and Red Lipstick tells the story of an English- Egyptian girl trying to navigate her way in a patriarchal society, where all the doors are being closed around her.
“I’ve always been a creative person from a young age, writing stories and poems and I have been freelancing as a journalist for several years, but this is my first piece of fiction.”
The author is currently working full time teaching marketing in college and hasn’t had the time to soak up the joy of publication day as it has fallen on the most hectic part of the year.
Whilst living in Qatar, Yousra knew that she had to write the book as soon as she got back to the UK, to share all the ‘crazy experiences’ she had lived through.
“When it came to writing, I was in two minds, it could either be autobiographical or fiction and at that point, fiction was a safer route.”
“Some people are destined to find agents but for me, it wasn’t that easy, after a year of querying publishers I hadn’t heard anything; it was then I started looking at independent publishers.
“When I came across Hashtag Press, I knew that this was the kind of place I wanted my book published because it was run by two women and they were passionate about supporting diverse authors from different backgrounds.
“I entered a competition and somehow managed to win a book deal.”
Helen Lewis and Abiola Bello, Co-Founders of Hashtag Press said: “We instantly were drawn to Sara’s story in Hijab & Red Lipstick when we were considering the entries to the Hashtag Press 2020 Competition.
“The prize ran in 2019 and the winner would get their book published in 2020. As a female-led, indie publishing house passionate about diversity and inclusion, Yousra’s story really stood out to us.
“We are very proud of this book.”
Hijab and Red lipstick is an own voices story, which covers a lot of taboo subjects within Arab culture; Yousra tries to highlight how many people confuse culture with religion and how often the two are merged.
“This book is relevant and appropriate for this generation but I’m ready for the possible backlash from older people who may not necessarily agree with my views.”
Though the book starts with the typical narrative of an abusive, conservative, Muslim father, the ending of the story proves that Muslim women are completely capable of understanding their own religion and falling in love with it, without the need of male assistance or guidance.
“I’m a feminist, not in the sense that I’m anti-men, but I do find that for a very long time, women were dependant on learning about Islam through their husbands, fathers and the local Imam (preacher).”
Previously, the young adult genre lacked diversity but over the past couple of years, there has been an increase in the number of under-represented authors.
“Writing what I know has always been much easier than coming up with a story out of thin air.
“It’s important for under-represented authors to tell their stories because otherwise, we’ll never get characters who truly and accurately represent us in other books.
“It would be an impossible task for, non-Muslim writers to write about Islam because there so many different aspects of the religion regarding so many different areas such as Salah (prayers), Wudhu (ablution) and Hijab(covering).”
This is my first book, but I hope that if I write a second, I will try to write from the perspective of British, Muslim girl, growing up in London to highlight how different the experience is.
“I’m seeing more and more Muslim authors in the YA genre and I think we are taking a step in the right direction to combat the struggles the Muslim community is facing.”