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Meet the winners: Zanib Mian

IBC Awards 2024

Image: Muslim woman wearing a hijab.

In today’s ‘Meet the winners’ we meet the Maliks, as we chat to Zanib Mian, the author who achieved top spot for Children's Fiction at this year’s Inclusive Books for Children Awards.

We spoke to Zanib about the importance of Muslim representation in children’s stories, her writing inspiration and her passion for driving cars.

On becoming a writer, Zanib remembers being completely absorbed in creative writing from childhood, but not aspiring to a writing career due to a lack of relatable role models: ‘I was fully immersed in writing as a child at primary school, but I didn’t think it was possible for me to write as an author and publish a book, because I hadn’t met any authors and didn’t think of them as real people!

‘When I had kids of my own (2007), and saw that the landscape had not changed — there was still no representation of minorities in books — I knew I wanted to write to contribute to that space.’

I imagined it would be a fun read for Muslim kids, with lots to identify with, and for their peers to learn more about the holy month.

Thinking about her inspiration for Meet the Maliks – Twin Detectives: The Cookie Culprit, Zanib says, ‘Ramadan was approaching, which got me thinking of a story set during Ramadan but with a touch of mayhem! For Muslims, the month is so different to any other month in many ways, but life doesn’t stop. It still brings its twists and turns and distractions. I imagined it would be a fun read for Muslim kids, with lots to identify with, and for their peers to learn more about the holy month.’

And which part of writing The Cookie Culprit does Zanib feel was most enjoyable?

‘Creating the characters in ways that they could play off each other to create humour and drama was most fun. I think that’s my favourite part of writing any story.’

I sometimes write in my car!

Zanib then reveals one of her favourite spots for crafting books without disruptions: ‘I sometimes write in my car! Mostly to be alone with my thoughts. By the way, I’m also a driving enthusiast. I love taking the car out on an open road, which means leaving at 5am in London, or you hit traffic!’

And it seems Zanib’s passion for driving is a fact that some people find astonishing: ‘Perhaps because of the hijab, people are always surprised when they find out I’m a petrolhead.’

I took my extended family out for dinner at a new local Egyptian restaurant.

Reflecting on the inaugural Inclusive Books for Children Awards, we discuss what winning the Children’s Fiction category means to her. ‘I’m absolutely chuffed because when I was longlisted, a little voice in my head told me it wouldn’t get to the shortlist. So, it was such a lovely surprise and affirmation of the work!’

And on hearing the news that she’d won? ‘The first thing I did was blink a few times, and reread the email! Honestly! Then I took my extended family out for dinner at a new local Egyptian restaurant.’

I would love for readers to feel comfortable in their identity if they are from the same culture, seeing their beliefs and practices in a book at their school or library.

I ask Zanib what she hopes young readers will gain from reading The Cookie Culprit: ‘I would love for readers to feel comfortable in their identity if they are from the same culture, seeing their beliefs and practices in a book at their school or library. And for readers from all backgrounds to also relate to Maysa and Musa, with a “they’re just like me” moment because, as well as our differences, there is so much we all have in common which should be celebrated.’

Just before we finish chatting, Zanib reveals some exciting book news: ‘I’m working on a new, stand-alone book for middle grade and also playing around with picture book ideas, so I hope to share news for either or both of those soon.’

And finally, what can Zanib not live without? ‘My kids! They are awesome human beings.’

Meet the Maliks - Twin Detectives: The Cookie Culprit by Zanib Mian, illustrated by Kyan Cheng, is out now and published by Hachette Childrens.

You can read our IBC review of Meet the Maliks - Twin Detectives: The Cookie Culprit here.

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