U.M. Fatima - A Journey of Self Discovery and Faith

U.M. Fatima - A Journey of Self Discovery and Faith

U.M. Fatima was born in 1981 in a small town south of Boston, Massachusetts. She is a writer, artist, teacher, holistic health practitioner, and foreign language enthusiast. She has her bachelor's degree in Italian Studies from UMass, a master's degree in Italian Linguistics from Middlebury College, a doctorate in natural health from the late Clayton College of Natural Health, an Ayurvedic practitioner certification from The Ayurvedic Institute, a TEFL certificate from the International TEFL Academy, a cosmetology license from the Learning Institute for Beauty Sciences, and a professional make-up artist certification from Fleurimon Ecole de Maquillage, Paris. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, From Prom Queen to Hijabi.

Please give us a short introduction to what From Prom Queen to Hijabi is about.

From Prom Queen to Hijabi is about my search for the point of my existence in this world. For a long time I searched for my purpose, with the conviction that if I tried on as many different "hats" as possible, I would eventually find what I was put on this earth to achieve. But that just put me on an endless treadmill that allowed me to collect many different degrees and increased my knowledge in different areas which is absolutely beneficial, but it didn't feed my soul or answer the questions I had in my heart. Most of all I never felt like I found my purpose. When I realized I was insatiable in many different areas of my life, I began studying different religions and spiritual paths in an effort to get to know God. This book is about that journey.

Why did you find it important to share your story with the world?

I feel like my journey is important to share with the world because there are so many misconceptions about Islam and Muslims (many of which I had absorbed by osmosis throughout the years too just by living in this society) that I learned were untrue so I felt a need to try to explain some of them and hopefully put them to rest. As an American of northern European descent with John Quincy Adams as one of my forefathers, I feel like more people can relate to me and therefore might be more inclined to listen to another perspective regarding Islam.

Your book also touches on your studies - languages, cultures, art and design, holistic medicine etc. Why did you take this approach?

I wanted the reader to get to know me as an educated and well-rounded woman with knowledge in many different areas so that when I approached the topic of Islam, the reader would listen and absorb the information with trust and an open mind.

You grew up as a typical American girl. How were you first introduced to Islam?

While completing my master's degree in Italian at Middlebury College, I was exposed to many different foreign languages and cultures and I was particularly attracted to Arabic. A few months later, a Turkish man and woman, who were my classmates at the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, lent me a book about the Pillars of Islam because they saw that I was interested in studying different spiritual paths. I carried that book to a dog park, sat on a bench, and started to read it. Soon after, an American Muslim convert from Massachusetts approached me, and he and his wife, who is now one of my closest friends, introduced me to the Muslim community there. After moving back to Boston, I began attending an Islam 101 class in Cambridge to learn more, and a few months later I decided to accept Islam as my spiritual path.

How did your family and friends react to your "extreme" turnaround?

My immediate family wasn't too surprised because I had always been interested in different languages and cultures and holistic medicine, so I think they thought it was another one of my temporary interests. When I decided to wear the hijab, it was a little uncomfortable for them but eventually, they got used to it and are supportive of my decision. Since converting, some friendships fizzled out and that's to be expected because my interests, lifestyle, and priorities have changed. We are usually attracted to people we have things in common with so a change in company is something that comes with the territory!

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

I am an artist, I love to paint landscapes in particular, and I'm also a pretty good athlete but I don't have much time to play sports because I have two young daughters. I am in love with learning foreign languages as a means to learn about and connect with people of other cultures. I'm also a natural health practitioner and at this time I'm particularly interested in Dr. Jack Kruse's work. Strangely enough, I also used to be a hair and makeup artist and did many weddings, photoshoots, and even the special effects make-up for an indie movie. It all comes back to creative arts, that how I connect all my interests! As a homeschooling mom and homemaker now, that's my priority and it's a full-time job so I don't do much work outside the house these days!


Your book also talks about some serendipitous events that eventually gave your life direction. Please tell us more about those.

I have a very strong "gut feeling" and it's very hard for me not to trust it. Whenever I followed my gut, it always brought me to the right place even if it seemed like a crazy idea. My book talks about those "crazy ideas" that made my family sick with worry but ended up being significant events that led me to discover the answers to my questions. After reading my book, my sister said, "Hey, you forgot to write about the time you drove across the country to Albuquerque, stayed a day, and then called me on the phone and said, "I have this feeling I'm not supposed to be here right now. I have to go to Madison, Wisconsin. I don't know why but don't tell mom and dad. I'll call you when I get to the next Motel 6 in Nebraska." That's an example of the things I used to put my family through!

After converting, in which ways have your life changed most?

The biggest change is that I'm not living in the depths of existential confusion anymore. That was an awful feeling: to feel that you have no idea what we are all doing here and where we are going after we die. I hated the thought of wasting time. I wanted to know the purpose, understand the rules of the game, and try to win. It must be the competitive athlete side of me! Of course, no one has all the detailed answers to everything, but it's a really grounding feeling to know that there is an authentic "Guidebook" that puts all the pieces together in a logical, rational, and verifiable way. Following that Guidebook has changed my life and has brought me so much peace and guidance.

This is your debut work. How does it feel?

It feels so rewarding for so many different reasons. It was always on my bucket list to do, but I never thought I'd get to it for a long time. I can't believe that this was just an idea in March and 4 months later I'm at this point!

What's an aspect of being a writer that you didn't know about going in?

It's amazing how many times I could read my draft and still find errors! To look at my first draft and then the final draft, I realized how much work went into getting it "right." I'm sure I'd be able to find ways to make it better ad nauseum but at a certain point I had to say, "Ok, enough."

Did you find it hard to share some of the more personal aspects of your own life with the world?

Yes, but I kept thinking that the particulars are what could help another person on their journey. The particulars are what I searched for when I needed help spiritually so if I am able to help someone else, then I've done my job. Honestly, there is so much more that happened on my journey, but I just couldn't share everything. Some things are too private.

Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?

Yes. As a homeschooling mom that is vehemently against "screen time" with no cell phone or TV, I don't have much time to myself. The only time I had to write was when my 4-year-old daughter had a 1 hour Arabic and Quran class in the morning and my 9-month-old daughter slept in the car seat. So I'd whip out my tiny 300 dollar laptop and tried to write as much as I could in that short time frame. I drive a huge Dodge Ram pickup truck so it was nice and roomy at least!

What are you working on right now?

After this launch week, I will start on the Italian translation of my book and then start editing another workbook I completed a few years ago called "The Quran Reading Comprehension Workbook Series." That's a good one for anyone who would like to understand the Quran better. I want to release it within the next month or so, God willing.

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?

Please visit my website at www.umfatima.com and I'd love to connect with them!