Papatia Feauxzar is an American author, barista, and publisher of West African descent living in Dallas, Texas with her son and husband. She holds a master’s degree in Accounting with a concentration in Personal Finance. After working as an accountant for a corporate firm for almost five years, Feauxzar decided to pursue Accounting from home while homeschooling her son.
When I first came across her publishing site a few years ago, the first part of the name, ‘Djarabi,’ stood out to me because I knew what it meant. It means ‘love’ in my language (Mandenka/Mandinga/Dioula/Bamana). I was quite surprised because I didn’t often come across people from my ethnic background active in the online Muslim entrepreneur world for whatever reason.
My curiosity of her led me to follow her and find out more about her. I’m glad I did and today, it is my pleasure to interview sister Papatia Feauxzar.
Assalaam ‘alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh Sister. Welcome to Working Muslimahs and thank you very much for being here.
Wa aleikum salam waramatulahi wabarakatuhu my dear sister from the motherland! Masha’Allah. Allah is the best of planners. Alhamdullilah!
I am very excited to interview you today! To begin, tell us a little about yourself.
Aww, thank you! I’m happy to be here, alhamdullilah. A little about me…I’m getting close to being 40 years old, and I’m enjoying starting having grey hair as the sunnah says it’s a sign of wisdom alhamdullilah. I’m a constant work-in-progress who likes to try her hands at anything. I find it more fulfilling when my two hands accomplish things. It makes me proud and glow inside out. Masha’Allah alhamdullilah.
You have an interesting name, which I’m sure is a pen name. What made you choose a pen name and where did you find inspiration for it?
Oh, my pen name is interesting. I chose it because I’m an introvert; privacy and safety reasons. Anyway, there are simply too many layers to the name, and I will try to explain without confusing you, haha. I have always liked daisies. When I married into a Turkish family, they started calling me Papatya. I asked why? They said that my smile was as bright as a daisy flower. I was like, “Wow! Thank you. I actually like daisies.” So, when I decided to write, I tweaked the name a bit to Papatia.
I do respond to both spellings of the name. I also respond to Fofky; a derivative of my real last name which stuck when I was in high school. My former classmates called me this way to this day. Today, it’s the name I use for my second business alhamdullilah. Now, the pen last name is just a combination of my maiden name and my married name. And since I speak French because of political history of my birth country, I decided to give my pen name a French punch. “Fo” Fofkys became “Feaux.” And “Zar” is just a syllable in my married name. I hope this explains it. Smiles
Now that’s what you call being creative! You are an accountant, writer, publisher, wife, mother, blogger, and a homeschooler. Phew! What a mouth full! How do you balance all these roles and remain sane?
It’s hard! But alhamdullilah ala kulli haal. I have a planner and each minute of my day is carefully allocated to a task alhamdullilah. However, they will be days where I’m utterly burn out, and I will do nothing but relax and pray.
You are a former accountant in the corporate world, what made you decide to work from home instead and what steps did you take to make it a reality?
The birth of my son, my in-laws’ cultural lifestyle (women don’t work in this culture), my growing tiredness while multitasking all these roles you mention I do (lol), and the Islamophobic climate (I was the only Black Muslimah in the whole buiding) all played some roles in me quitting corporate America. Before I quit, I had made sure that I saved enough money and that I had a backup plan to remain an independent Muslim woman. That backup plan was my publishing house I started in 2013. I had built the platform until I was ready to quit in 2016.
There’s so much about you to talk about. So let me just ask, what inspired you to become a writer and a publisher?
Writing and authoring books have always been something I had a penchant for since my teenage years. I wrote back then. Most of my works are destroyed but Allah put the right people along the way and I seized the opportunity to make my dreams come true. On a side note, my African family comes from a cast of scholars and learners. So, I’m just following in their footsteps. My paternal grandfather owned a merdrassa and my late father was a Doctor in Psychology and Sociology alhamdullilah. He did his graduate studies in Paris and returned to teach University students in Ivory Coast.
With all your entrepreneurial roles kept in mind, what is the biggest vision/goal you hope to accomplish?
My goal is to help make Muslim works more seen. It pains me every time I read or think of the story of Bayt al Hikma. Knowledge is life. May Allah facilitate, aameen.
Ameen. What challenges did you face when you started your entrepreneur journey?
Too many subhanallah. You can always count on shaytan to throw you curveballs. While Allah tests us along the way, you learn from all of these calamities. The main challenge though was to make sure I’m never at the mercy of people I hire to work for me. I try to do everything myself or know how to do these things so I can be independent.
How do you stay focused despite all the distractions and what motivates you?
I simply make dua that Allah gets shaytan away from me. If you don’t, he will help you waste your time.
How do you maintain a balance between work and personal life?
I set boundaries. My play time is my play time. My work time is strictly my work time.
As a Muslim woman, how does Islam impact your entrepreneurship?
Quite a lot actually. Allah is ar-Razzaq. My success is only by Him. He is an-Nasir. He is the one who sets my rizq, sends help, supporters, followers, buyers, you name it. I don’t discount His tremendous help. I am immensely grateful for all of his help and tests. You can’t become complacent or lose focus of the ultimate test with all your worldly accomplishments; this life test.
When are you most productive and how do you manage your time?
Early in the morning after tahajjud and/or fajr. I go to sleep early so I can wake up early to pray when the apartment is quiet. After that, I start studying or working online. I give myself thirty minutes or so for fajr and dhikr. Then, I start the day officially with more work, studying, homeschooling, etc.
How do you deal with ‘bad days’ and ‘negative thoughts’?
Again dua. I strive not to let negative thoughts, bad moments in a day or malice flourish in my heart or mind. Astagfirullah. What’s the purpose of doing such things? Sinning. A thing I try to stay away for my own sake in the next life.
As a Muslim woman in today’s society, do you find it challenging to achieve personal and work goals?
Not at all. If I write them down and make dua about them, I’m confident that al-Fattah will help me achieve these goals if they are beneficial for me.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far as an entrepreneur?
Be frugal. Don’t waste anything. Don’t make impulse purchases, look for better prices before buying anything. Reward people Allah sent to help you well. Don’t be a pushover. Let people see and know your strength. If you don’t do these, they will deliberately pick fights with you out of spite and jealousy.
What advice would you give to other Muslimah entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs?
Know that the evil eye is real and always be prepared spiritually (know the 99 names of Allah) to fight off shaytan off your affairs. Because sooner or later, it will happen. Also make dua that you don’t fall prey to jealousy. Because we’re humans, make dua that Allah removes such a thing from your heart the moment you recognize it. Do it quickly for your own sake. Aameen.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere and anywhere. Inspiration is all around us alhamdullilah. That said, I usually find it when I unplug and rest.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
It’s an honor to be on your platform. Thank you so much for the invite. Allahumma barik! May Allah make your platform a great success for the benefit of this life and the next, aameen. May He put barakat and increase your rizq in it, too. Allahumma aameen.
Ameen! And same to you my dear sister. Where can you be reached?
@djarabikpub on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
@fofkys on Facebook and Instagram. @fofky_s on Twitter.
Thank you very much for your time. Assalaam ‘alaikum.
Thank you to you as well! Wa aleikum salam waramatulahi wabarakatuhu.
Interviewer: Papatia Feauxzar at Fofky’s
Interviewee: Umm Afraz Muhammed
Here With You– An Interview with the Author
Umm Afraz has authored several short books on self-help but today she is at our bookstore to discuss her debut novel Here With You so she can give us some insights on her unique novel masha’Allah. Assalamu aleikum Umm Afraz, welcome to Fofky’s.
Q1 – Can you please give us some insights on the title of your book? Like why Here With You versus something more mothers-in-law related? It’s a romance story so I have some theories but I would love to hear from the mastermind herself.
A1 – Wa alaykumussalaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh Papatia. Jazakillahu khayran for having me on your blog . It is truly an honor <3. Okay, so I wanted to have a title that had an emotional connection – not only for the characters, but also for the audience. The phrase “here with you” could be understood in a romantic, platonic, parental love, or spiritual sense. It all depends on the context with which it is used.
Q2 – I liked how you portrayed the mother-in-law; she is not a bad person but there was discrepancy between her firm devotion in worship and her application of Islamic or courtesy sunnah manners towards her daughter-in-law. It portrays that many people with whom we don’t agree aren’t necessarily evil but simply imperfect Muslims. I found it relatable and realistic. Did you find emotionally easy or hard to pen her character based on your experience in marriage or scenarios you’ve witnessed in real life from people around you?
A2 – You are bang on! That was exactly how I wanted to portray Fatima. She is just like everyone else – trying to practice Islam whilst struggling with her humanly flaws – an imperfect Muslim. I think that is why she was fairly easy to characterize. She is someone we could all relate to.
Q3 – Aunties everywhere are inappropriate and especially during nikahrelated events where their intimacy innuendos are often raunchy. Have you ever witnessed them to relent? Now, it’s safe to say that sometimes they relay valuable info to the bride to take to the bedroom at times. And poor brides like Salma are usually left to their verbal claws. Do you think such customs should stop or do you think Aunties should carry on because it makes nikahrelated events fun?
A3 – You know, when you think back, it seems funny. But when you are in that spot, undergoing that experience or even when you are in the environment listening to the comments and innuendos, it gets uncomfortable. I believe there should be a balance in joking. It is possible to make a joke while maintaining the dignity of the couple. And if there is any information to be given, it should be done in private. Wa Allahu Alam.
Q4 – Financial security, which is necessary as Islam is about the middle path, pushes many of our parents to steer us towards STEM fields. It has advantages and Disadvantages. Faisal was conflicted with such decisions made for him by his parents. I believe in getting a degree that will support your true passion later. But do you think that one can live off unpredictable art revenues without getting a formal education which can be a safety net?
A5 – We were raised to believe only STEM fields generate income, and arts/humanities field don’t produce as much. I agree a formal education would give the CV a boost, but I also believe that with the way the modern-world is proceeding, as long as you have the passion and you invest your time and efforts in it by continuous learning, and practicing what you are good at, you will earn enough. After all, rizq comes from Allah, and what is meant for you will never leave you unless Allah Wills it. In the end, it is all about practicing yourself and trusting Allah. What are your thoughts?
Papatia Feauxzar : I agree. At the end of the day, it’s about rizq. Masha’Allah.
Q5 – Do you have any questions for me about your book?
A5 – I would love to know what you thought about the story, the writing style, and any critical feedback that you have. Also, what is one scene that you felt closely connected to, and why?
Papatia Feauxzar : The writing style fits the genre of this book; smooth, sensual and emotional. If you had written an adventure book or sci-fi book like this, it wouldn’t have worked because these genres require fast-paced storytelling to keep the reader excited and tuned-in.
Now, I only found very few things (subjective by the way) to be unsatisfied about. For instance, I felt tremendously teased with the sultry romance of Faisal and Salma. I loved them both and the way he stood up for her when it came to his mother meddling. That was very relatable, alhamdullilah. That’s all.
Papatia Feauxzar : Umm Afraz, thank you for being with us.
Umm Afraz : Thank you Fofky’s! Much love, and God Bless <3!
Papatia Feauxzar : Aameen, likewise! Check out a review and a reading of Here With You below, thanks!
Salma, a new bride who is happily married to her husband, moves into her in-laws’ house as part of their South Indian culture. A new life, a new beginning, and a new family in a new country. Staying in a place far away from her loved ones, with no one to rely on but her husband, she undergoes the realities of life living under the same roof as her mother-in-law. How will she cope with the lifestyle changes and the daily challenges? Will her dreams of having a good relationship with her mother-in-law come true? Or will she discover the dreaded monster-in-law?
Fatima wants to be a good mother-in-law to Salma and yearns for a good relationship with her. Life and time throw opportunities her way to prove herself. Would she take the right decisions and keep her best foot forward? Or would she succumb to her ego and cultural stereotypes?
This book is about the emotional tug-of-war between a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law. Sandwiched between the two most important women of his life is Faisal, the son of one and husband of the other.
The story revolves around the lives of these three characters and the relationships they share with each other as they learn to stick together despite the ups and downs they face as a joint family.
Review: Salma is a such a sweetheart and a good mannered Muslimah masha’Allah. You will fall in love with her way to face adversity if your faith is a balm to your spirits or if your faith soothes your fiery nature when it’s appropriate. Her mother-in-law is also a steadfast woman albeit her other flaws. Their relationship was a very relatable one and not the worst when it comes to daughter-in-law and mother-in-law drama but still it’s a very challenging one. I loved the story the minute I read a snippet of it several years ago and I’m happy to see the author’s brilliant complete penned work. Salma’s husband, Faisal, is another relatable character masha’Allah. In his plight, you will realize that Allah is the best of planners and that to make omelets, you have to break eggs.
My favorite passage as usual dealt with finance and affirmed my point of views. “We may have seemed to live a luxurious life, but rarely do people understand that the struggles we experienced were the same as that of any other middle-class family. I found it unfair that just because we lived in a posh area, we were expected to live a posh life. Relatives back home were unwilling to comprehend the fact that foreign-residents like us suffered financial issues too. It was as if money rained upon us and we were expected to distribute it to every Ahmad, Muhammed, and Abdullah they recommended. And if we refused to support them financially, relations are severed, regardless of the ties of kinship that Islam asks us to uphold sincerely. Over the years, I’ve learnt that the world runs on money, and rarely on love.”
I agree, many people think that financially secured individuals also don’t have money issues. And when financially secured individuals can’t lend them money or refuse to be unnecessarily hustled, resentment ensues as if they are entitled to these bounties they sought. As Muslims, we need to stop making plans on other people’s assets or even Allah’s bounties. We need to accept what people give freely and let go of expectations and master the notion of rizq. Nothing belong to us, even ourselves, we don’t belong to ourselves.
The novel also delves into cultural and real Islam. That was refreshing alhamdullilah. In all, Afraz’s writing is very smooth, subtle, lovely and most of all soulful and soul searching. The pace was also to my liking. I finished the book in less than a day.
I definitely recommend this book to halal romance lovers and readers of Muslim women’s contemporary fiction. Bravo!
Here With You‘s Reading by Umm Afraz Muhammed
Direct YouTube link : https://youtu.be/BuNsb2ROx4w
EBook available on Amazon here.
Paperback available on Pothi here.
Original Source: Fofky’s Blog .
The Tower -- An Interview with the Author
Shereen Malherbe’s second contemporary novel The Tower debuts this April 2019, and we’re excited to pick the author’s brain with the following interview. So let’s get to it insha’Allah.
Q1- Shereen, have you ever been to Syria and did you have to interview actual Syrians for this novel?
A1 - I haven’t ever been to Syria, but I did interview a range of people for the book. Especially refugees and migrants with experience of London like their expectations versus the reality. Interviewing helped me with my major plot points and I think that is the beauty of research. Often life is more interesting, and in this case, it was more harrowing, than fiction.
Q2 - I liked the plot of The Tower and the writing masha’Allah. It’s a very smooth novel that fits a night when you want your mind to unwind and lull a bit. So while you write this genre of books, what other types (genres) of books do you like reading?
A2 - Thank you. I think studying English Literature and making sure you read widely contributes to how smoothly you write. Dissecting books is an important part of creating your own! I have heard that what you read always contributes more to how you write, even subconsciously and I would go further to say it isn’t just what you read, it is everything you experience. And that experience can come through books. Personally, I enjoy reading different types of fiction, historical fiction, contemporary fiction and the classics.
Q3- The Tower was a bit of stranger than fiction occurrence; the attacks on Muslims in their places of worship or their residences is a reality. The greed and politics that let this happen was also exposed in your book. Do you think this will be an eye-opening experience for readers?
A3 - I hope that in some way, all reading experiences are eye opening in some ways. My editor and I discussed the way reality happened and was mirrored in a scene in my novel. I had drafted the idea over a year ago and I did debate excluding it. However, I am glad we didn’t. Often, when communities pick up on a certain environment, like in this case rising islamophobia, the consequences are often predictable and that is exactly what happened in The Tower.
Politics have played a part in this and therefore I wanted to reflect that. Although this is fiction, I believe it is important to reflect how communities are feeling and I wanted to bring some empathy, humanity and hope in an increasingly hostile world.
Q4 - Your Palestinian heritage merges with Syrian heritage in this book. Do you have any Syrian roots?
A4 - I don’t myself, but I am aware of refugees from Palestine to Syria, made refugees again after the war. In that way my heritage shares perspectives with this view of movement and shifting homelands which I wanted to explore throughout the book. I think most of us are capable of shared empathy despite where we are from and the global refugee crisis is affecting millions so we are all part of it in some way.
That is the beauty of fiction; it doesn’t matter where you are from, we all have shared experiences.
Q5 - What else do you want your readers to take away from The Tower?
A5 - It’s hard to really expect certain responses from readers so as a writer, I believe the finished novel belongs to the readers now. So, I don’t like to say what I expect readers to take from it because it will mean different things to different people. However, if I had to say something, I would hope that it offers, even in a small way, a different, positive perspective of how we can all contribute something good to the world.
Shereen, thank you for being with us.
Readers, please check out the review below of The Tower.
The Tower published by Beacon Books is the second contemporary women’s fiction novel written by Shereen Malherbe; a British Palestinian writer based in both the UK and the United Arab Emirates. Shereen Malherbe is also a writer for Muslimah Media Watch, a forum for critiquing the images of Muslim women in the media and pop culture.
Reem is a Syrian refugee who has arrived in London, trying to discover the whereabouts of her 10-year old brother, Adar. Obsessed with history and consumed by her fragmented memories of home, Reem is also hiding secrets she hopes will never be revealed. After being placed in a tower block, she befriends Leah; a single mother who has been forced to leave her expensive South Kensington townhouse. Their unlikely friendship supports them as they attempt to find their place in a relentless, heaving city, and come to terms with the homes they left behind. Both bold and timely, The Tower shows how Reem and Leah’s lives change and intersect in the wake of individual and communal tragedy, as well as in their struggle to adapt to a rapidly shifting society.
In The Tower, Malherbe explores fictionalized real events and realities such as the Grenfell tower incident, the remnants of the war in the Middle East and women's mental health like she did in her first novel Jasmine Falling .
Reem finds herself triggered by the apparition of her detractor out of nowhere. Secretly battling a possible gestation, domestic and emotional abuse, she can't help but chase her brother's ghost in London.
Reem also faces both hardship and ease while trying to communicate in English, while looking and finding a job and while carrying herself around because while some strangers might be kind to you, some won't. And a Muslim woman wearing hijab is always targeted for some nonsense.
Thus, meeting Leah and the welcoming ummah in Reem's new UK apartment building— the tower—and neighborhood brings her comfort until tragedies/blessings in disguise rip the little struggling pieces of her life she had left.
In the narrative of Leah, Malherbe lightly touches on the positive privilege this character brings to society and the self-discovery journey Leah treads. Leah finally finds her call and Reem gets a happy ending with a decent chap.
We can definitely say that Malherbe's great narrative skills of the setting bring us to the scene, making The Tower a moving tale. The book shows that when stricken with deep love rejection, tremendous loss of family members, etc. human nature shows its resiliency by making an effort to survive the darkness.
Find it on Amazon here.
Original Source : Fofky’s Blog .
Papatia Feauxzar: Melati, Assalamu aleikum. Welcome to Hayati Magazine. Please tell us something we don't know about you.
Melati Lum: Wa aleikum salam! I’m a mum and former criminal prosecutor of serious crimes. In my past I’ve worked for the United Nations in the prosecution of war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. Outside of work, I love travelling, learning about different cultures, and spending time with my family and friends.
PF: That's good to know. Thank you. So how long have you been writing?
ML: I guess it depends on what type of writing! In my profession as a lawyer I’ve had to do a lot of combining different people’s accounts of an event and presenting it as one story. As a criminal lawyer it can be a challenge to find ways of presenting a story to an audience in a way that they can relate to and understand, but of course a lawyer is limited as to the facts. In terms of fiction, I’ve only been writing for about a year.
PF: Not bad! How long did it take you to write Ayesha Dean: The Istanbul Intrigue?
ML: I had to juggle my challenging day job with writing, so it took me about 6 months to write the first draft of Ayesha Dean, and then a further couple of months to edit it. With balancing work, family life, and writing, I found that I could only write a little bit at a time, but I tried to do it as consistently as I could.
PF: Do you outline your stories or do you just go with the flow?
MF: I had a general outline, and within that very general outline I went with the flow. I had to get rid of quite a lot of material that seemed ok at the time, but later didn’t fit with the rest of the story…
PF: I see and it happens. When will your book, Ayesha Dean: The Istanbul Intrigue, officially launch? Readers, you can read a review here.
ML: The official release date will be on 10 April 2016. On that date, I will be having an eBook giveaway for a very limited time for early subscribers to my website www.melatilum.com.au
PF: Readers, make sure you subscribe to get your free copy! So, you're an indie author. Why did you choose that route?
ML: Self-publishing has come a long way over the past few years. EBook readers and tablets make sourcing books a lot more convenient and readily accessible to readers all over the world, and the variety of books that are available to download has greatly increased. Also, print-on-demand technology has opened up the market to indie publishers in a fresh and contemporary way. Since Muslim and diversity fiction is still relatively new to the western market, all things considered as a first-time author, taking the indie route was attractive to me.
PF: You're already writing the next story which I'm excited about! Can you tell us which country you will set this story in if that's okay to reveal?
ML: Oooh no sorry that’s a surprise!!!!
PF: Okie, I'll be patient to wait insha'Allah hehe. Muslim fiction is on the rise alhamdullilah and please continue to write because we're onto something very valuable here; telling our own stories to the world. Do you think we can change the state of affairs with our voices?
ML: I think it is really important that Muslim and diverse voices are reflected in fiction to a greater extent than what is currently reflected in western culture, particularly the voices of Muslim women. In many cases around the world, the voices of Muslim women have been censored, ridiculed, or simply considered irrelevant. There have been various factors for this state of affairs, whether it be being part of a minority group, or unfortunately oppression from within our own communities. You and I are fortunate enough to be placed in a society where we have the opportunity to make our voices heard. And yes, I definitely think we can all change the state of affairs with our voices, whether that be among the wider community, in our own homes, or within ourselves.
PF: I agree, we are very fortunate indeed. Alhamdullilah. And we will bring about a change insha'Allah. You also have a LaunchGood campaign going on now. I pray you meet your goal and surpass it insha'Allah. Was it hard to set up?
ML: It did take a bit of effort, and I was fortunate to have the help of my partners in the campaign- Arabic Made in China- a fun and easy way to learn Arabic, and Life of My Heart- purveyors of modern Muslim lifestyle. Also the team at LaunchGood were absolutely amazing, really supportive and encouraging, and doing a fabulous service for the Muslim community. I’d highly recommend them for any great crowdfunding project!
PF: Masha'Allah that's awesome. I'll also look into their organization in the future insha'Allah. Jazak'Allahu khair for agreeing to be interviewed and thank you for being with us Melati. The team at Hayati Magazine and I wish you great success with your campaign, the book launch, and the book sales. Please share with us your social media links so our readers can get to know you better.
ML: Jazak’Allahu khair, thank you so much for the kind words and the interview :)
PF: Wa iyyakum! :) Wassalam.