N.Y. Times Bestselling Author Sabaa Tahir Visits FHC and Inspires with Story of Success

Posted on 09/23/2016

Sabaa Tahir’s story is a compelling example of how growing up in the desert, facing racism, and experiencing insecurities at a young age can lead to a life of success and inspiration for others. Tahir came to Francis Howell Central High School (FHC) to talk about the struggles she faced in life, and how that helped her become a New York Times bestselling author.

Tahir immediately captured the attention of the full library at FHC when she took the stage to promote her latest dystopian novel, “A Torch Against the Night,” the sequel to her 2015 bestseller, “An Ember in the Ashes.”

Dressed in a Harry Potter shirt and combat boots, it was like listening to your best friend when the witty author began to describe her life as a young, introverted and shy teen growing up in California’s Mojave Desert. “My family is Pakistani, and there was no other brown people out there,” Tahir said. “The town was extremely racist, and people used to call us names and harass us a lot.”

tahirTahir discovered the world of books as a way to escape her troubles. “I turned to books because I was used to having this feeling of not having a voice, and not having any power. I used to escape into those worlds, and that was sort of my happy place.”

The love for words stuck with her through the years, and she attended UCLA to pursue a degree in journalism. After successfully completing an internship at the Washington Post, she stayed there to work as copy editor at the foreign desk. Little did she know that this is where inspiration would hit her, and be the start of her journey to becoming a best-selling author.

Tahir told the FHC students that one night, she came across a story about Kashmiri women whose husbands and brothers were taken away to prison. The women left behind wouldn’t know where they were or if they would ever see them again.

“This question of ‘what if” repeatedly came up,” Tahir said. “I asked myself, ‘what if this happened to my brothers?’ So I started writing this story, and it was almost a reaction to being so frustrated with the world and being so angry that I live in a world where this can happen.”

Six years later, this story became her debut novel, “An Ember in the Ashes.” It’s a story about teenagers Laia, who fights to save her brother from imprisonment, and Elias, a soldier who unwillingly attends a military academy and is trying to escape. The book made its debut at number two on the New York Times Young Adult list, and continues to receive national and international praise.

Earlier this month, Tahir released the sequel, “A Torch Against the Night,” which Tahir presented to FHC. The students received a glimpse of what the writing and researching process was like, and got excited when Tahir announced that Paramount Pictures had already bought the movie rights.

FHC Media Specialist Andrea Head was thrilled to welcome Tahir. “We were so excited to have an author of this caliber visit FHC,” Head said. “It will be great to follow her career and see if the movie makes it to the big screen.”

FHC Library Media Specialist Kelly Hauquitz said she especially loved how relatable Tahir was to the students. “We loved that she shared her story of being an outcast as a child, which prompted her to be a reader,” said Hauquitz. “For some students, this speaks volumes, and they loved her honesty and spunk.”



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