Published on June 2nd 2022 by Scholastic in the UK and October 11th 2022 in the US by Lee and Low
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An empowering story about finding your identity and the courage to fight for it.
Aaliyah is an ordinary thirteen-year-old living in the Midlands. She’s into books, shoes and her favourite K-pop boy band. She has always felt at home where she lives … until a terrorist attack at a concert in her area changes everything. As racial tension increases, Aaliyah is bullied, but instead of hiding who she is, she decides to speak up and wear a hijab. She’s proud of her identity, and wants to challenge people’s misconceptions. But when her right to wear a hijab at school is questioned and she is attacked and intimidated, she feels isolated. Aaliyah discovers she’s not alone and that other young people from different backgrounds are also discriminated against because of their identity, and feel scared and judged. Should she try to blend in – or can she find allies to help her fight back? Channelling all of her bravery, Aaliyah decides to speak out. Together, can Aaliyah and her friends halt the tide of hatred rippling through their community?
An essential read to encourage empathy, challenge stereotypes, explore prejudice, racism, Islamophobia and inspire positive action.
A story of hope, speaking up and the power of coming together in the face of hatred.
#FightBack #FindYourVoice #OurVoicesAreStrongerTogether
WHY I WROTE IT:
“I wrote FIGHT BACK because I wanted to put a spotlight on a community that is always in the news – for the wrong reasons – and explore what that might feel like in a school setting and as a family. I also wanted to explore what it feels like to struggle to express your identity and then find the courage to be proud of it, and to realise that you’re not alone and there are many others from all sorts of backgrounds experiencing the same. Most of all I wanted to show that when we come together, our voices are stronger.
My first novel looked at what it’s like to be a refugee. This novel looks at what it’s like to be a Muslim today while panning out and looking at the experiences of others who are discriminated against too. It shows what we have in common and what can happen when we come together.
Like Boy, Everywhere, this novel reflects the experiences of those who have faced discrimination, and aims for readers to experience and understand the impact of prejudice. Stereotypes are hurtful and can belittle a part of a young person’s identity. Recent revelations in sports news have highlighted the importance of words and how comments or “banter” about an individual’s identity can be immensely harmful. Aaliyah’s story seeks to build empathy, and helps to challenge stereotypes and break down barriers in our society. My hope is for anyone who hasn’t been able to express themselves the way they want, or has been excluded, or doesn’t feel like they belong, to see themselves in this story. Many people experience such struggles, but one thing is true: we are stronger when we support each other.
To stamp out hateful ideologies, we need to start discussing what’s happening at home and school early. What drove me to write this book was my hope that Aaliyah’s and Lisa’s story will bring people together and do just that.” – A. M. Dassu
PRAISE FROM AUTHORS & INDUSTRY
“Dassu explores themes such as racism, identity, heroism and male aggression in this gripping novel, which asks the reader to think about the nature of bravery and what rights we should fight for.”
Editor’s Choice, The Bookseller – The UK’s definitive book industry magazine and website
“A compelling read… BOY, EVERYWHERE was a stunning debut and FIGHT BACK, her brilliant sophomore novel, firmly establishes A. M. Dassu as a major, much needed voice in UK children’s fiction.” Alex Wheatle, award-winning author of Cane Warriors and Crongton Knights, whose life is now an episode of Steve McQueen’s hit series Small Axe
“FIGHT BACK firmly establishes A. M. Dassu as one of the best, most relevant, most important writers we have in the UK today. If FIGHT BACK were to be read and discussed in every school, there is no doubt we would live in a better world as a result.” Liz Kessler, author of When the World was Ours
“..absolutely brilliant… a vital, honest and heartfelt story that will educate, empower, and ultimately create a better world, I truly hope it becomes a widely discussed class-read in schools, this book is much needed… [it’s] such a powerful tale of speaking out, and uniting to create change, I loved it so much … phenomenal is perfect, there is so much packed into it, it feels impossible to review – you could write a book about the power of the book! It will mean so much to so many to be seen, and really empower people, of all kinds, to fight racism… I feel empowered!” Sophie Anderson, author of The House with Chicken Legs
“FIGHT BACK will help children empower themselves to safely question decisions adults make on their behalf, at home and in school, as well as challenging hateful views and recognising the difference individuals can make as part of a community. Our protagonist Aaliyah’s voice is real and honest, I love her view of the world, her place in it, and the difference she wants to make.” Caroline Fielding, chartered school librarian and former Carnegie Medal judge
“A nuanced treatment of a difficult subject, FIGHT BACK emphasises our common humanity in the face of divisive hate and does so with an exciting plot and engaging characters. A. M. Dassu does that rare and generous thing of exploring the particular and then panning out to show how many others have the same experience. And her message is one of hope and energy; together we can fight back.” Joanna De Guia, school librarian and former bookseller
“A. M. Dassu serves up an important, necessary book about racism and identity…Aaliyah is a well-rounded, likeable and spirited protagonist, who, together with her friends and allies, learns how to bring about change in her school and community. Readers will feel empowered by her journey.” Nizrana Farook, author of The Girl Who Stole an Elephant
“FIGHT BACK is a compelling fiction, written with a lightness of touch that resonates deeply with empathy, insight and courage to tell a story about Islamophobia, racism and serious threats to freedom of expression; desperately needed in these reactionary times.” Sita Brahmachari, author of Where the River Runs Gold
“Unflinchingly honest, heartbreaking, powerful, important and hopeful” Sophie Wills, author of The Orphans of St Halibuts
“Tense, terrifying, transformative. The power of this book punched me right in the chest. Read it, share it, shout about it… a book that really matters. It’s powerful and important. The world needs this book.” Kathryn Evans, author of More of Me
“A. M. Dassu is a fearless writer tackling themes of racism in the lives of contemporary teens. There’s so much to love in this story. I really liked the tight-knit family and friendship groups. The sense of community really comes across, and the city is so clearly drawn and feels very alive in the story. I love the portrayal of Muslim family life in all its warmth and ordinariness. I love the final message on enduring best-friendship. It’s such a great read and I loved Aaliyah. She’s a fabulous character, brave and resourceful and loyal.” Liz Flanagan, award-winning author
“FIGHT BACK deals with issues affecting young people in Britain today with characters that challenge stereotypes, relatable situations and conversations that invite debate… A great example of really good storytelling and should be in classrooms everywhere.” Kaye Tew, director of Manchester Children’s Book Festival at Manchester Metropolitan University.
“A wonderful novel that unscarfs the everyday fears of Muslim people caused by those who choose to not understand.” Alexandros Plasatis, author, founder and editor of Other Side of Hope, a literary magazine edited by refugees and immigrants
“FIGHT BACK is a wonderfully nuanced look at the varied tapestries of our communities, celebrating the power of an ordinary girl who chooses to raise her voice and stand up for what she believes in. A M Dassu writes with such commitment and heart, creating a cast of characters that her readers will not only see themselves in, but be inspired by. Scholastic is extremely proud to be publishing this special book.” Sophie Cashell, Commissioning editor at Scholastic
PRAISE FROM YOUNG READERS
“It’s very very good, and Aaliyah and her behaviour is very realistic and I really loved her best mate too” Sanaa, 14 yr old Muslim teen
“Truly, this book has opened my eyes to many issues I’ve always dismissed; so many different and new points of view… This book felt real and relatable on so many levels.” Rahma, 14 yr old student in Manchester
“A brilliant read, very realistic and true to my experience. You’ve described it [the concert experience] really well.” Bilal J, attended the concert in Manchester in 2017
“A beautiful depiction of what stigma and misinformation about one’s identity, culture and religion can cause and how to help and guide those who have been put through a similar situation where they are constantly targeted… I loved how she [Aaliyah] had many of the same interests as me. Juily Zamal, student in Manchester
“As much as it hurts to admit this bitter truth, the “terrorist joke” in which Muslims are held accountable for bombing places because of past actions of a FEW Muslims is very common. As the main character is a Pakistani and a Muslim, I can relate to her situation as I have experienced this as well. The media always shows the half truth about issues happening around the world and Fight Back’s depiction of this was so realistic.” Saleha Bilal, 14 year old student in Manchester
“FIGHT BACK is such an empowering and great story. It was heart-warming, and it was wonderful to read. I found it very difficult to put down.” Zunairah Afzaal, student in Manchester
PRAISE FROM EDUCATORS AND EXPERTS
“This book is brilliant and relevant. Hearing the voice of our young people and seeing how they deal with trauma is integral to our understanding of them. The support that Aaliyah gets from Jonah and co is heartening to see. This type of solidarity is important to see and speaks very much to how school children will often come together in times of adversity.” Sajeda Amir, secondary school teacher in Manchester
“Fight Back is everything I hoped it would be. It covers some hard-hitting themes but is filled with a message of hope and empowerment. A.M Dassu expertly weaves accessibility and empathy into her work while not shying away from real issues and some sad harsh truths about our society. As a librarian I can’t wait to use this in my school, especially at the early secondary level. I hope that Aaliyah’s story encourages more children to stand up for the rights of themselves and others! This book will educate and entertain everyone that reads it and will be so important to those that see themselves reflected in the story possibly for the first time.” Dr Graham Fairweather, School Librarian
“FIGHT BACK is a hard hitting and poignant story that needs to be heard. The writing is brave and tackles issues that many are not willing to talk about. I particularly resonated with Aaliyah. Her worries and struggles are all so familiar to so many Muslims, young and old. Rumena Aktar, primary school librarian and Teacher Hug Book Club Radio presenter
“Loved how it showed how everyone speaks up and how it highlights how important it is to be seen as equal” Guntaas K Chugh, Sikh sensitivity reader and literary consultant
“This book is absolutely stunning, written with incredible heart and honesty. Brave, compassionate, timely and inspiring, everyone needs to be reading Aaliyah’s story.” Philippa East, psychologist and bestselling author
“A testament to your authentic writing that I remember a lot of my experiences and how honest it is… another amazing book well needed to be heard.”
Eiman Munro, teaching assistant