Interview With Inda Ahmad Zahri

Join me today for a chat with Inda Ahmad Zahri! Inda tells a bit about herself and why she wrote her new picture book Salih illustrated by Anne Ryan and published by Ford St Publishing.

Andrew: Hi Inda! Great to have you on the blog for an interview! Can you introduce yourself to us?

Inda: Thanks so much for having me on the blog! I’m a children’s writer and illustrator living in Brisbane, though I hail from sunny Malaysia.

Andrew: Can you tell us something about yourself that not many people know?

Inda: I’m a massive ocean lover. I started scuba-diving in my twenties, and was so into it that I progressed to become a PADI Dive Master. There are dive sites in my home country Malaysia where you are spoiled with dozens of turtles at any time, and that may have subliminally inspired some details in Salih.

Andrew: That’s awesome! Salih is out now. I’d love to know the story behind the story. Why did you write Salih and who is is it for?

Salih Cover Image
Salih – by Inda and Anne Ryan.

Inda: Salih is a story about a refugee boy who carries his home on his back as he looks for a safe place.

I’ve always been affected by the various refugee crises around the world, and at the time of writing Salih, I was keeping abreast with the news of hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East into Europe. Their
journeys were tragic, but so were their treatment at detention camps in their destination countries.

I wrote Salih to acknowledge these struggles, but also to envision a world where kindness was a no-brainer, where the welcome they sought was available for them. I wrote it for children to read in the safety of their homes and classes and learn that the children the
see in the news have the same thoughts and feelings as they do.

Andrew: Give us your elevator pitch for Salih.

Inda: Like a turtle, Salih carries his home on his back. He must cross a raging sea in search of a safe home. Salih paints his happiest memories and sends them as messages in bottles. Will someone find them and understand? Will Salih find a new home?

Andrew: Nice! You obviously have a heart for refugees. What can everyday folk like us do to help refugees get the care and respect they deserve?

Inda: I think it starts with not ‘othering’ people. That old adage – ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ – can guide a lot of our actions. Becoming a refugee is not just something that happens to someone else without any effect upon our lives. If we can just pause and realise that this is a real person’s life, home and family, it makes a world of difference to the narrative that’s put out there about refugees and migrants. 

It’s quite easy in our era of connectedness to be aware of refugee stories and issues. A quick search can lead you to aid organisations where you can volunteer with language groups, charity events, helping families with mail, etc. Examples in Brisbane include Multicultural Australia, the Romero Centre and St Vinnies.

Online, I’ve found groups like Mums 4 Refugees, and a spin-off group where community members offer free furniture, household items or work opportunity to resettled refugees. 

I was honoured to have Rachael Carter, a representative from You Belong Australia, to speak at my book launch. You Belong Australia is an organisation in Toowoomba who welcome and empower newly-settled refugees – to me, they are the embodiment of the people at the ending of Salih. Rachael shared that studies showed that the first 6 months of resettlement were critical in helping a migrant assimilate in their new environment, and also reminded us that the outflow that comes from acts of kindness and aid benefits not only the refugees, but the existent community in so many ways.

They also run a podcast called ‘Who is My Neighbour’ that I encourage you to check out!

Salih Signing
Salih signing

Andrew: Do you have a “writing place” that you write or do you write whenever and wherever you can?

Inda: I do have a writing desk at home, but often I end up bringing my laptop to the kitchen table. That’s totally normal, right? I always have a notebook with me just in case I need to scribble down some idea or inspiration, and sometimes I email things to myself.

If I had the luxury of time, I would write in the library or at a cafe.

Andrew: Where can people go to find out more about you, follow your author journey and get your books?

Inda: I’m @inda_binda on Instagram and my website is www.indabinda.com

I hope you enjoyed the interview with Inda. It was so great to have her on my blog! Best wishes for Salih as it inspires readers to be the welcomers that refugees long for.

You can get signed copies of Inda’s book Salih on her website!

Buy Salih from Booktopia

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