x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 August 2017

14-year-old Emirati author on her way to New York to talk books

Aysha Al Naqbi will discuss ways to encourage more young people to follow their creative passions, Saeed Saeed reports

Aysha Al Naqbi signs copies of her novel Blue Moon at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair Antonie Robertson / The National
Aysha Al Naqbi signs copies of her novel Blue Moon at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair Antonie Robertson / The National

One of the UAE’s youngest authors will get the opportunity to share her thoughts on publishing when she becomes the subject of an “In Conversation” session in New York next week.

Hosted by The Consulate General of the UAE and held at NYU Abu Dhabi Headquarters, 14-year-old sci-fi author Aysha Al Naqbi is set to discuss her flourishing writing career and provide advice on how to preserve a love of culture and learning among her country’s youth.

The event is another highlight in the talented teen’s writing career. Al Naqbi launched her debut English language book, Blue Moon last year as part of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

In April, she returned to the event to launch the sequel, Emerald Planet.

Both books blend elements of sci-fi with fantasy, as the narrative follows teenager Primrose, whose computer hacking skills get the attention of authorities in the United States. While on the run, the orphan slowly begins to discover hidden aspects of her past.

“Eventually, she needs to come to terms with her hacking and why she is doing it,” Al Naqbi says. “Emerald Planet essentially continues where the first one left off and it really is about following her journey.”

Wise beyond her years, she believes there is benefit in being an author writing for the same demographic.

“You kind of know what your readers are looking for and that makes the process easier. Based on what they told me, young readers are looking for a big cast of characters, particularly stronger female characters, and more fantasy than a real world setting,” she says.

“I find it is easier to create a whole fictional world than creating a fictional situation in the real world. It is more fun and easier, you are the master of that world and no one tells you if you are wrong and right. Also, because it is a fantasy world, more people can relate and they can interpret it how they want.”

While speaking in New York, Al Naqbi is also keen to cover is to encourage young people to follow their creative passions.

The daughter of a diplomat who has lived all over the world – from Kazakhstan to Manhattan – before settling back in the UAE five years ago, Al Naqbi praises her parents for their ongoing support and encouragement.

“They are very proud that an Emirati is writing an English novel in an Arabic speaking country because nowadays the UAE is evolving and getting more diversified,” she says.

“So now you are getting children who are growing up that are bilingual, and can now speak Arabic and English. Now when they find an English book like Blue Moon or Emerald Planet and find that an Emirati wrote it, I think it would encourage them to follow their passion, no matter what it is.”

The Abu Dhabi schoolgirl says she is pleased with UAE government initiatives to spread the importance of reading, citing last year’s Year of Reading initiative and noting how impressed she was that Sharjah was named by Unesco as the World Book Capital for 2019.

“It sends a strong trigger for the kids that reading is important, and that my country is one of the most important in the world when it comes to focusing on culture,” she says.

When asked about her
opinion on how parents can best instill a love of the written word in their children, Al Naqbi advocates a loose approach. “I would tell parents to approach it in a fun and adventurous way, and don’t make it seem like homework,” she says.

“A fun way could perhaps be to create a reading corner with fun pictures of book characters they like, or create an outing which is inspired by a book that they read. Also, reading is a lifestyle, and you have to incorporate that into your everyday life. If you begin to neglect that, then the kids will pick up on it and they won’t like reading anymore.

In Conversation with Al Naqbi will be moderated by Bill Bragin, NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arts Centre executive artistic director, and leading figure in the arts in New York and the UAE.