Hena Khan

Episode 32

Hena Khan

Visibility Cloak: Hena Khan on Commonality Over Conformity

author Hena Khan
Masthead Waves

About this episode

Hena Khan didn’t believe her perspective mattered. As a Pakistani-American Muslim, she grew up not seeing her or her family reflected in the media she was consuming. As any kid might do, she concluded that it was simply because her experience was not important, a realization that became clearer in hindsight. Recalling her childhood writing, she discovered she had unintentionally whitewashed her homemade family newspaper.


"There's these universal truths [...] specific details, but universal feelings and universal experiences that people hopefully can relate to. And that's what I go for in all of my books. Common humanity.” - Hena Khan


Building confidence in her perspective was a gradual process, that extended into adulthood. Initially lacking self-assurance, she began writing while toning down her cultural identity to conform to perceived publisher expectations. Over time, her confidence grew, and today, she is recognized for authentically portraying stories rooted in her culture and religion.

Reflecting on her own reading experiences, Hena values shared human experiences that transcend cultural backgrounds. She aims to demonstrate that these relatable moments exist in stories featuring non-white characters and diverse cultures.

Renowned for works such as "Amina's Voice," its sequel "Amina's Song," the series "Zara's Rules", and "More to the Story," Hena Khan shares her journey of grappling with invisibility as a young reader and the evolution of her faith in herself and her unique perspective. She also recounts the unexpected connection to a book about Christian white sisters in the 1800s in her unconscious quest for stories reflecting her Muslim immigrant family.


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In Hena’s reading challenge, "Read Desi" she wants us to celebrate South Asian American writers. You can find her list and all past reading challenges at thereadingculturepod.com.
Today’s episode’s Beanstack Featured Librarian is Alli Buffington, an elementary librarian in the Santa Rosa County District Schools. She shares about how she makes her school library space one that her students love.


  • Chapter 1 - “Religious Holiday”
  • Chapter 2 - Gogol Search
  • Chapter 3 - Little Women (and the Khanicles)
  • Chapter 4 - Three Cheers From Andrea
  • Chapter 5 - Just Living
  • Chapter 6 - Common Humanity
  • Chapter 7 - Curious About Curious George
  • Chapter 8 - The Door is Open 
  • Chapter 9 - Read Desi
  • Chapter 10 - Beanstack Featured Librarian


Author Reading Challenge

Download the free reading challenge worksheet, or view the challenge materials on our helpdesk.

Worksheet - Front_Hena Khan.   Worksheet - Back_Hena Khan



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