Azizah Idris is a chef. She cooks up romance fiction, too. She is a Muslim romance writer and a bilingual writer. Also a computer scientist, she has written 20 books in English and Hausa, including but not limited to Sauyin Shiri, Halin Zuciya, The Surgeon’s Wife, Sackful of Wishes, The Bugaje Brothers Series: (Being Married, Being Loved and Being Bilaal’s Wife), Zubar Kwallah 1, 2 and 3, My Kitchen Essentials. Others include The Mechanic’s Wife 1 and 2, Halin Girma, Umm Adiyya, Maimaita Tahiri, among others.
“So far, I have written twenty books,” says Azizah Idris. “It has been challenging, amazing and an insightful journey altogether. I have learnt the art of scheduling and prioritising over the years, and, Alhamdulillah, it has worked for me.
I have found my strengths and weaknesses and worked around them.”
Reading one of Fatima Ikara’s books opened her up to the possibility that she could take on writing. She recalls, “I started writing in 2004, but first got published in 2006. I have always dabbled with story prompts during my secondary school days with a friend. I never knew it would be something I would pursue as a career some day, until I stumbled upon Fatima Ikara’s book in 2004 and realised I could also write as well. I related to that book, because of the culture and lifestyle involved in it, hence, the birth of my Muslim-Romance theme.
“It was fresh and different, and it gave me the jolt I needed as I started my writing journey with Sauyin Shiri, a Hausa love story. The response I got kept me moving.” Like a parent with many children, it was nutty for the author to pick a favourite. In the end, she narrows her choices to A Sackful of Wishes and the latest, The Bugaje Brothers series: (Being Married, Being Loved and Being Bilaal’s Wife), available on Okadabooks as ebook.
A Sackful of Wishes, she says, starkly portrays the problem of an average Arewa woman (and man) who has no voice until it is almost late. “The response it got and how people related to it on a strong emotional level is what makes it close to my heart,” she says.
As for The Bugaje Brothers series, ” It is a lengthy novel in parts of prequels and sequels that covers almost everything regarding the household romance of an average Arewa woman. It has spanned a lot of contemporary topics. I connect to all the characters really well when writing the stories that my readers dubbed the chapters as episodes, because of how vivid they could picture the story unrolling. So, I think that is a big win for me as a writer. The Complete series has a total of 3.4 million reads on the wattpad platform.”
In her cookbook, My Kitchen Essentials, Idris reveals her homely side in recreating her favourite local and continental dishes with some tweaks of flavour and technique. The bilingual writer has it good with carrying along her readers. She says, “My readers steer with me anywhere the wind blows. It has an advantage of having wide readership, in fact.”
Being a Muslim fiction writer also put her up in the space where she can inspire people from a different religious and societal background, giving more room for exposure that comes with diversity, “A lot of people are not exposed to diversity in their communities and schools, especially where Muslims are minorities, then I realise that, even in my community, youths and adults often have to fall back to the western literature to get their inspirations. But books with representation can provide that exposure.
“Muslim fiction simply means it can focus on religious aspects or include characters who are Muslims. Either way, these books can shape people’s perspectives of society by showcasing the diversity and providing a new point of view. It will provide Muslim youths with a sense of acceptance and inclusion in the world that they may not see portrayed in the media, especially with the upsurge of the Boko Haram and other extremist groups where the world paints Muslims in bad image.
“I want my readers to understand that, just like we have real heroes and heroines in the world who are Muslims, there are fictional heroes who are Muslims, too. That way, I get to portray and address the problems that plague my immediate community who are predominantly Muslims. So this is done in the hope that people who are not Muslims, too, will be provided with a different perspective.”