The past five years have encompassed some of the most politically turbulent times in our nation’s recent history. Between the country’s complete political polarization, the COVID-19 pandemic and countless other pressing issues, the United States has experienced significant turmoil since 2016. At the epicenter of it all, Laila Nashid (23C) watched the conflict brew in her hometown of Washington, D.C. as a sophomore in high school in 2016. As anti-Muslim sentiments continued to grow, Nashid decided to put her pen to paper and fight back with a novel that tackles online activism and the assumptions we make about each other.
Now as a junior at Emory, Nashid is finally seeing her work come to fruition as her novel receives the ultimate seal of approval: publication. Inspired by works such as the Netflix show “Dear White People” and the novel “Love, Hate, and Other Filters” by Samira Ahmed, Nashid’s “You Truly Assumed,” a young adult contemporary novel published Inkyard Press, will be available in stores on Feb. 8, 2022, and is available for pre-order now. “You Truly Assumed” is the story of three Black Muslim teens who start a blog to foster community after a nearby terrorist attack spurs growing Islamaphobia.
“Going to school in D.C. and just living in that area, politics is always in the background of everyday life,” Nashid said. “The Muslim ban and how anti-Muslim sentiment was being used politically really inspired this book, and also I wrote it a little bit after the 2016 election, so I think [I] was also just grappling with [what] that result meant for me as a Black Muslim woman as well. All of that coalesced, and I also used to be a book review blogger, so the blogging aspect of my book comes from that.”
Eager to see more Black Muslim representation in literature, Nashid had no problem coming up with the concept for her novel, but the writing and publishing process was quite long and laborious.
“I was originally a book blogger, so I had connections with authors from that perspective,” Nashid said. “But I didn’t really know about the publishing side until I started taking my writing more seriously.”
After talking to published authors and doing her own research, Nashid set forth on the path to publication.
She began writing during her junior year of high school in 2017 and completed several writing mentorship programs during her senior year to help her with the process. After finishing her initial draft, Nashid queried her novel and signed with her agent in October 2019.
A little less than a year later, “You Truly Assumed” sold to Inkyard Press shortly before Nashid started her sophomore year at Emory. Throughout the process, Nashid made sure to include her friends as much as possible by sharing snippets of her drafts.
“Seeing Laila go through the process was incredibly educational,” said Olivia Bautista (23C). “I got an inside scoop into the publishing world that I never expected. From rounds and rounds of edits, to picking the background color of the book cover, and even how taxes work for an author, Laila was incredibly open to sharing and including her friends in the experience.”
Difficulty navigating the publication process was compounded by problems that arose during the pandemic. However, Nashid’s friends watched her overcome the numerous obstacles in her path with ease.
“It’s been truly inspiring to see Laila persist in this goal for as long as she has,” said Helena Zeleke (23C). “There were times, especially in the thick of the pandemic, where the circumstances seemed least conducive to accomplishing a feat as big as publishing a book, and yet she continued to write, edit, wrestle with all of the other obligations that come with publishing, and do it all with such grace.”
There was also, of course, the challenge of balancing college courses with creating a novel. Yet, Nashid feels that her studies actually helped her improve “character development and world building” in the novel.
“Being a sociology major gives me a greater understanding of social interactions and how people see themselves in relation to others,” she said, “and being an English major helps me learn more about the craft of writing through interacting with various texts and also about what types of stories or themes appeal most to me.”
With the book moving through its final edits, Nashid has realized that it was an unrealistic goal to write about every perspective of Black Muslims in a single novel. Letting that desire go was one of her greatest challenges, she said.
Although Nashid cannot represent everyone, she was determined to include as many unique views in her book as possible and hopes that choice will resonate with people.
“I think the biggest thing that I want people to take away is that there’s no one way to make change,” Nashid said. “Because ‘You Truly Assumed’ follows three different point of view characters, they’re all bringing different perspectives to the blog, and they’re all making change in different ways. There is no right way to really do activism; you can make change the way that makes sense to you.”
Allison Reinhardt (23C) is from Newtown, Pennsylvania, majoring in psychology and minoring in quantitative sciences. Outside of the Wheel, she is involved in AHANA Dance, Emory Hillel and Spoon Emory.