Q&A with Onjali Q. Raúf

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Onjali Q. Raúf is the best-selling author of The Boy at the Back of the Class, a touching but funny book about a young refugee boy, Ahmet, and the friendships he builds at his new school. We are absolutely delighted that Onjali is also a World Book Day author – The Day We Met the Queen, featuring Ahmet on an adventure to Buckingham Palace, is one of the fabulous £1 books that will be available for World Book Day 2020! 

Onjali’s latest book The Star Outside My Window, about 10-year-old Aniyah who finds herself living in foster care after her mother disappears, is out now. We caught up with Onjali to find out more and to ask her a few booky questions…

Describe yourself in three words or phrases.
Always running late. Book-eater. Possessor of itchy feet.

Describe Aniyah from The Star Outside My Window in three words or phrases.
Star Hunter. Believer. Possessor of a heart that is stronger than she knows.

What is your favourite scene in The Star Outside My Window, and why?
When Aniyah finally realises the truth of what has happened and Sophie returns something she should never have taken in the first place. Those two moments make up one scene in my head, and although they were very hard to write and may be just as painful to read, they fill me with awe, admiration and hope for everything Aniyah is and will be.

What was your favourite book as a child?
I have about fifty thousand favourite books (I counted!). But one that stands out as making me believe the impossible was Matilda. I spent hours locked in my room trying to move a pencil with my eyes. Hence the glasses! 

If you could be a famous book character, who would it be?
Willy Wonka. Simply because the man owns a chocolate factory – and there can never be anything wrong with owning a chocolate factory. 

Why do you think sharing stories is so important?
Because I cannot bear to imagine a world where the real world and my very small corner of it is all there is. Stories in whatever form – a book, a song, a piece of art – open up worlds, experiences, histories and imaginings we might never otherwise access. It’s so crucial we have the capacity to travel as far as we can in our minds and then farther still. It’s one of the most beautiful things about the human brain – the ability to imagine. Stories keep that ability alive.

If you could share one story for 10 minutes, which one would you pick?
The story of the many, many, amazing real life versions of Aniyah and Ahmet that I have had the honour of meeting in the course of my life, and the phenomenal people in the world who are trying their best to help. So I think i’d be fitting about ten stories in those ten minutes. (Oops.)