Mother writes Book for Daughter to Connect to Pakistani Roots

A new mother has written a children’s book in a bid to inspire her daughter to connect to her Pakistani roots.

Mother writes Book for Daughter to Connect to Pakistani Roots f

"this is going to die out unless I do something about it"

A new mother has written a children’s book because she wants her nine-month-old daughter to connect to her Pakistani roots.

Race and diversity editor for MyLondon Unzela Khan Sheikh wrote Pakistan, I’ll Be Back during her maternity leave after she was inspired by her own visit to the country.

The book revolves around an eight-year-old British Pakistani girl named Anam Khan and her visit to Karachi.

She explores the city and meets new family members.

The book is based on Unzela’s own life.

Pakistan, I’ll Be Back is full of family illustrations and has three language translations, English, Roman Urdu and Urdu script, which was translated by the author’s mother.

Speaking about the book, Unzela said she wrote it as a lesson for her daughter.

She said: “I just had a thought that this is going to die out unless I do something about it and try to teach my daughter.”

Although born and raised in North London, Unzela admits that she has always been deeply connected to her Pakistani roots, but often felt the need to “tone it down in the outside world”.

She revealed that she stopped taking home-cooked lunches to school because she began to feel mindful of her surroundings, even though the food was a part of her culture.

Unzela continued: “I feel like I’ve always been really Pakistani, but I’ve had to tone it down in the outside world.

“If I took, for example, Pakistani food to school at lunchtime, people would be like, ‘oh, what’s that smelly food?’ You get really conscious about it.

“And then you’re like, you know what, I don’t want to take this kind of food to school, even though that’s a big part of you.

“Because that’s the food you’ve grown up with, the food you have at home.

“You’re spending your whole day at school, but you can’t let that side out because no one understands.”

Unzela felt a large number of second-generation British Pakistanis struggled to find a balance connecting between cultures because they did not feel wholly connected to both sides.

Speaking on the matter, she said: “We’re British Pakistanis, and at the end of the day, we’re never going to be fully British.

“You don’t feel connected to either side.

“And then there’s some kids who are just in this middle ground, they feel really British or they feel really Pakistani, but they don’t have that connection.”

This realisation came when she gave birth to her daughter Aafiya Sheikh in September 2022.

In a bid to inspire children to delve into their heritage, Unzela began to pen the book in March 2023.

Unzela stated:

“Kids these days, I really want them to be able to take an interest in Pakistan.”

“So this is to encourage that, explore that Pakistani side.

“You might be more in touch with it than you actually feel you are.”

Unzela revealed that since the book was released on July 4, 2023, she has received messages of support.

Fellow parents reached out to Unzela and said that they would buy her book in order to show their children “what Pakistan is about”.

She added: “Loads of people have just contacted me to be like, ‘this is amazing, for a British Pakistani to be promoting the country’.”

Sana is from a law background who's pursuing her love of writing. She likes reading, music, cooking and making her own jam. Her motto is: "Taking the second step is always less scarier than taking the first."

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