ShelfiGeneration: Thank so much for taking the time to speak with ShelfieGeneration. Before we get started, can you introduce yourself first?
George Green: I am African-American from New York City. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English/Psychology. An author, motivational speaker and humanitarian.
SG: Before we get into your new book, I wanted to ask about your speaking engagements. What types of talks are you giving?
GG: My lectures are always based on my life and personal experiences. I discuss growing up in a challenging environment and over coming obstacles. I encourage stepping out of your comfort zone in efforts to achieve. I discuss my past career in working with public figures, giving it all up to embrace Islam. I normally open up the floor for questions and answers in the end.
SG: How do you tailor things to your different audiences that range from universities to the hip-hop summit and mosques?
GG: It ‘s an easy process because I’m telling my own story. I make sure I understand the dynamics of the audience and age group. I adjust the language and word usage to fit the listener but NO profanity. If in a collegiate or university atmosphere I normally make sure I don’t make the lecture too religious. Most times the audience can identify that I’m Muslim by my appearance and normally ask questions about Islam in the end. This same adjustment stands with a hip-hop audience. I usually keep the religious talk to a minimum and speak more where the audience can identify but make it very clear that Islam was my reason for walking away.
SG: It is always important to have a diversity of voices get exposure. But it seems that now more than ever, it’s even more necessary that marginalized communities, and Muslims in particular, still have voice in USA. Has your mission changed over the last year?
GG: Yes, it’s become very important for Muslims to become more vocal in the USA and globally. My mission has never changed even with the anti Islam movement and ignorance. The goal and mission is to contribute to uplifting humanity, while changing stereo-types and breaking barriers as a African-American practicing Muslim.
SG: With so much hate being spread, particularly by many in power, what do you think is the most important message we can spread to counter it?
GG: Most important message is education. So many allow the media which is crowd and people control to educate them on Muslims and Islam. People can befriend Muslims and learn more about the religion and the Holy Quran. Muslims welcome non-Muslims in our Mosques to ask questions and get involved if interested. Our doors are always open to educate and answer any misunderstood stereo-types and ugly perceptions.
SG: Do you think that children’s books can be an effective vehicle to spread that message?
GG: Yes, children’s books are an amazing tool to spread love and introduce non-Muslim youth to Islam. The Childhood Champions book series represents five Muslim characters in New York City from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The stories are not religious but focus on highlighting life lessons for today’s youth.
SG: How and why did you think of Childhood Champions?
GG: I was looking to create a children’s book series with diversity and strong cultural backgrounds. Childhood Champions represent everyday Muslim youth from a Western society. The characters resemble Muslim youth I would see in my community.
SG: As you raised funds to publish your book, I read that you also partnered with Muslim Aid Australia to donate 33% of the funds raised. Your third descriptor above was: humanitarian. How did that partnership come about?
GG: I approached Muslim Aid Australia with the concept of my book and the intentions for me to donate a % to build water wells if funded. Muslim Aid Australia loved the potential my book had and though it was a great marriage. We partnered and the rest is history.
SG: How important was that for you to combine the book and humanitarian work early on?
GG: This cause was very important because I am a humanitarian always looking to create positive change and help those who are less fortunate.
SG: What was the experience like? Was it easier or harder than expected?
GG: Fundraising is a challenging task. There has to be a strong commitment and time needs to be invested. Campaigning was more challenging than I expected. There is so much coaching and strategy that goes into this effort for people to donate and feel like they have invested in something mutually beneficial. I was forced to change my strategy multiple times before finally launching the campaign.
SG: Is No Ordinary Day your first book?
GG: Yes, [it] is my first book from the children’s series Childhood Champions
SG: What was your process when writing No Ordinary Days?
GG: The process started with creating one character at a time. After creating the characters I was able to build the stories accordingly. I based most of the short stories on real experiences with youth in my community or masjid.
SG: Where did most of the writing occur? Do you have a routine that you do before you write?
GG: No routine. All my writing occurred in a variety of places. I wrote stories in my brother’s home in the lounge room. Stories were created on airplanes and in airports. I would doodle notes when things came to mind and come back to it when feeling creative.
SG: Which character did you create first? Do you have a favorite character? I imagine that might be like choosing a favorite child.
GG: I created Ibrahim first. Ibrahim is my favorite character because he is created with the intentions of being me at the age of 8 years old. Ibrahim is also the birth of Childhood Champions being the first character created. That makes him special.
Ibrahim Jannah Bilal Malak Yasin
SG: How did you choose each of their home countries? Why Gambia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and the USA?
GG: I chose each country based on cultures and ethnicities you don’t see often represented in Islamic children’s books. Today, most characters in Islamic book store often represent children of Arab decent. The USA is heavily represented because it’s my own country and Ibrahim is based on myself. I chose Gambia and Malaysia because I feel they both represent beautiful cultures and not often represented in children’s books. Puerto Rico was chosen with intentions of having a Spanish speaking character with a strong culture to add even more diversity. Saudi was chosen because this is home for many Muslims and I though this was just the appropriate and can represent so many from that area.
SG: No Ordinary Days is the first book in the Childhood Champions Series. How many stories do you already know you want to write? And at what point did your characters and stories get illustrated?
GG: I have a total of 15 stories completed without the illustrations. These 15 stories complete the Childhood Champions book series. I completed all the stories about 2 years ago. Each story was written as I go and strong ideas came to mind. The first story No Ordinary Day is the only story illustrated at the moment.