How could people be so cruel to each other?
Ann-Margaret Lim, The Gleaner book reviewer, interviews 13-year old Sofia Ahmed, who wrote The Vow To be Free when she was 11. The book is set in slavery days and follows two children on their freedom run. Sofia lives in the United States but has Jamaican background and a Indian heritage.
Ann-Margaret Lim (AML): What inspired this book?
Sofia Ahmad (SA): I chose to write The Vow To Be Free because I have always felt that if I were to create something, I wanted people to be able to empathise, connect, and take action with, or because of something or someone in my book. So when my class had an assignment to write a book, I took the initiative to create a book based on the courage and bravery of those who were oppressed.
AML: What grade did you get for the assignment?
SA: I got a 100 per cent on the assignment, but I don’t think that was the greatest outcome of this project. The greatest outcome is, rather, the immense accomplishment and happiness my family, teacher, and I felt.
AML: Summarise the book for persons interested in reading it.
SA: The Vow To Be Free, takes place during slavery and is about a young girl named Juniper and her brother, Maurice, as they escape from the plantation and embark on a difficult journey in hopes of being free.
AML: Did you have specific people in mind that you modelled the main characters off?
SA: Honestly speaking, I think I based the main characters, Juniper and Maurice, on my sister and brother. My sister has the biggest heart and is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, much like Juniper, and my brother is always curious and getting into trouble like Maurice.
AML: How old are your sister and brother?
SA: My sister is currently eight years old and my brother is four. I was eleven when I wrote the book and now I’m 13.
AML: Who would you say is the intended audience of this book?
SA: The intended audience of this book would be everyone. I say this because the book expresses a cautionary reminder of what has happened and what we hope will never occur again.
AML: What were your reactions when you learnt about slavery in history classes?
SA: Any subject that has to do with the unfair treatment and lack of basic humanity throughout history peeves me, slavery is one of them. When we first learnt about slavery, I remember asking myself, “how could people do this to each other on purpose?”.
AML: Did you design the book cover?
SA: I actually designed the cover of my book with the help of my mom. I took inspiration from the Internet, and I drew a symbol that I thought represented my book well.
AML: Do you like or love history? Can humans learn anything from history?
SA: I definitely love history! I have always strongly believed that history is important to learn because our past affects and can help or hurt our choices we make in the present and the future.
AML: Do you think that books of poetry and stories can influence people to do more and be better?
SA: Definitely. Books and poetry are ways that encourage people to feel emotion, and I believe that is the first step. Once a person feels happy, sad, angry, etc, they make a mental promise to be better and do better in the future.
AML: Who are your favourite authors?
SA: My favourite authors would have to be J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan, but I also love historical fiction writers.
AML: Do you plan to write more? What do you think you want to write about next?
SA: Yes, I definitely want to write more in the future. I think I want to continue to stay in the genre of historical fiction but explore other time periods and create new adventures. Mostly, I just want to write about brave people doing historical things.
AML: What is your professional ambition?
SA: My professional ambition is ever changing, but there is one thing in common with all of my options. I want to have a job where I can help people and make a difference daily.
Title: The Vow To be Free
Author: Sofia Ahmed
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 30, 2018)