Uzma Jalaluddin’s first romcom, Ayesha at Last, was an international hit. Her second book, Hana Khan Carries On, stars a budding journalist from a tight-knit neighbourhood. Hana wants to tell stories for a living–but whose stories should she tell? And why? And what’s up with the enigmatic StanleyP, who keeps commenting on her podcast? Things get more confusing when a mysterious auntie visits from India and a (very cute) competitor challenges her family’s struggling restaurant.
Alicia Cox Thomson for Chatelaine: “Is this for real or are you a catfishing bot?” This is the first thing Hana Khan says to her mystery fan, StanleyP, which instantly gives you an idea of who she is. How did you create her?
Uzma Jalaluddin: Oh, Hana. She was so much fun to write. I visualized her as this raw, feisty bundle of energy, ready to conquer the world. I had a good idea of who I wanted to write about–a young Muslim woman at the start of her “adulting” phase of life, eager to start a career but still eager to run after her dreams.
ACT: I loved her! All the secondary characters are also so vividly drawn. My favourite was Auntie Kawkab–I loved her glamour and confidence. What does Hana gain from knowing her?
UJ: She brought a confidence and elegance to the story, one I thought was a great contrast to Hana’s messy authenticity. I especially wanted to write about an older South Asian woman who was really sure of herself. Kawkab Khala’s story in the novel is actually inspired by my own family lore. Yes, she existed in real life 🙂
ACT: Food is a love language for the Khans, both within their family and in their community. Are you a cook? The descriptions were so real, it made me hungry.
UJ: I’m a cook by necessity, not passion. I used food as a symbol for legacy and how it changes over time. I wanted to talk about the diversity of cultures even within first-, second- and third-generation immigrant communities. I love the way food brings people together and I love writing about food as a way to talk about community.
Hana Khan Carries On will hit bookshelves on April 6.