At 21, Yassmin Abdel-Magied found herself working on a remote Australian oil and gas rig.
She was the only woman and certainly the only Sudanese-Egyptian-Australian background Muslim woman.
With her hijab quickly christened a 'tea cosy' there could not be a more unlikely place on earth for a young Muslim woman to want to be. In her new book, Yassmin's Story
, Yassmin tells the story of how she got there, where she is going, and how she wants the world to change.
Yassmin is frank, fearless, funny, articulate, and inspirational, and she was kind enough to answer our questions so we could get to know her a little better.
1. What was your favourite book growing up and why?
This is an incredibly difficult question! I don’t know if I can narrow it down to any one particular book. If I had to pick favourites, I would say Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
was my favourite of the Harry Potter series, Red Rachkam’s Treasure
(the favourite of the Tintin series, in which Professor Calculus was introduced!) and Alanna The First Adventure
by Tamora Pierce
. I would also have to mention Hercule Poirot generally, as I devoured almost all the Agatha Christie books before I hit high school!
2. If you could invite three fictional characters to dinner, who would you pick?
Alanna of Trebond from the Tamora Pierce Series, Professor Calculus from the Tintin series for the laughs and Kvothe from the Name of the Wind series by Patrick Rothfuss (such a good series!). Strong fantasy theme, as you can tell!
3. What is your favourite opening sentence of a book?
Technically the prologue, but I remember reading this sentence and thinking ‘oh, I am going to love this book’.
“It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.”
A silence of three parts?! What does that even mean, how does one even describe a silence? This was the opening line of The Name of the Wind
, and the beginning of one of the richest novels I have ever read.
4. Is there another author’s book that you wish you’d written?
Not quite. I’ve never thought of writing in that way – I appreciate each individual voice for what it is. There are books perhaps whose impact
I covet – the Lean In
’s of the world – but I think many an author would like their book to have impact. Part of it is timing, part of it is the power of the message, part of it, I have little doubt, includes an element of luck. That being said, I enjoy reading a well crafted story and in those situations, part of me hopes to one day have that level of skill… and part of me revels in the joy of simply losing myself in the tale.
5. What would you like to tell your 18 year-old self?
“Yassmin. Stop freaking out about having to do it all at once. I know you think you are going to die young and so you have to do everything you want to RIGHT NOW, but slow down. You have at least 6 years ahead of you that I know of, and they are years full of learning and growth that you can’t even imagine yet. Be open to the opportunities that you haven’t planned. Be kinder to your family! Stop speeding so much, you will end up spending way too much money on fines… and don’t buy the Alfa Romeo. It will be cool for about a year, then sap you of your savings for the next four. Enjoy your metabolism while you can! Oh and keep laughing. People will tell you to quieten down, but haters gon’ hate!”
6. Who inspires you? (Doesn’t have to be limited to other writers.)
My mother inspires me and always will (you will learn a lot about my mother in my book!), but by and large I find inspiration in the every day actions of the people around me. The kindness of strangers, friends who will go an extra mile for others, the video about a teenager schooling their teacher on privilege. I also have an amazing group of friends who are chasing their passions and doing amazing things in their own space, whether it is an ironman or working for Richard Branson, and that keeps me going.
7. You’re stranded on an island with all the living essentials at hand, but what one additional item would you need to survive?
A boombox with an unlimited supply of tunes (Spotify perhaps?). I feel like having music would always add the right type of emotion to an experience – and I could dance all day if I wanted to, keeping those endorphins up!
8. What’s the best book you’ve read in the past 12 months?
Like many others I have thoroughly enjoyed Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me
. It is an intense read, but one I think is incredibly important. It is an honest insight into the dynamics of race in America from the perspective of a ‘woke’ black man, a perspective we don’t hear enough. Well worth the read.
9. What is your number one tip for would-be writers?
Write without inhibition.
10. How would you summarise your latest book in 25 words or less?
is about a Muslim brown chick growing up in Australia and having a whole bunch of unexpected adventures along the way.