“Unraveling the Enigma of Ayaan Mohamud: The Brilliant Mind Behind ‘You Think You Know Me'”
Thursday May 18, 2023, witnesses an enthralling debut novel by the author Ayaan Mohamud, You Think You Know Me. This novel introduces the protagonist, Hanan, a young Muslim girl who has always kept her mouth shut despite facing racist bullying. However, Hanan must find her voice in the face of discrimination when her friend is murdered, and every Muslim is blamed. Bursting with conflicting emotions, the story follows Hanan’s fight to find her identity and voice amidst the rising tensions in the community. Ayaan shared that her intention behind writing the book was to allow Muslim readers to find pride and see themselves as visible in the book.
Ayaan is a passionate writer and medical student who started writing the book during lockdown. As we sat down over Zoom, she shared her writing process, inspirations, and advice for other authors. When asked about her inspirations for the character of Hanan, Ayaan revealed that Hanan is very much like her – academic and competitive, but also quiet. Hanan’s family life is drawn from Ayaan’s family. Ayaan drew from her mother’s wise one-liners to create Hanan’s mother as a universal character.
The book deals with heavy themes such as the Somali civil war, Islamophobia, and racism. Ayaan mentioned that she found it challenging to write about the sensitive issues in the book while making it age-appropriate for young readers. However, she believed that being honest with children and teenagers was essential and did not shy away from these themes. Representation meant everything to Ayaan and her writing, as she wanted to write the truth and what she couldn’t see growing up.
As a medical student, Ayaan found it challenging to manage writing and studying. However, lockdown brought an unexpected opportunity for her to complete half of the first draft while at home. Ayaan hopes that readers take away from the book the message that “with hardship comes ease.” She advises fellow storytellers from diverse backgrounds to get stuck in and not hold back. Finally, Ayaan wants readers to know that Hana’s lips on the book cover symbolize the Somali proverb – “A closed mouth is gold” that underlies the story.