Unveiled: In Conversation with Memoirist Yasmine Mohammed

March 4, 2024
Interview with Yasmine Mohammed

When was the last time you read a book you couldn’t put down?  I recently came across Yasmine Mohammed’s memoir UNVEILED and found myself enthralled in her story. During the weeks after reading it, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Scenes of a young Yasmine speaking with the authorities in Canada replayed in my mind, over and over again. 

I decided to take a leap and reach out to Yasmine to ask about a potential interview for Pink Pangea, and she graciously agreed. I asked her about her courage, writing process, tips for budding writers and more. Here’s a glimpse into our conversation:

I imagine writing about some of your experiences brought back painful memories and was extremely difficult to do. For women interested in writing a memoir, do you have any advice about writing about similar memories? 

It was an incredibly difficult thing to do. I didn’t know how difficult it was going to be, and I was not prepared. I was teaching at a university at the time, and I basically said, I’m not going to teach for the next semester, I’m just going to write my book. 

The main advice I had for women is to be aware of how difficult it’s going to be. Be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. And be realistic with your expectations. I pushed myself way too hard and I needlessly caused extra pain for myself. I think if I had been mentally prepared, if I understood that I was about to climb a mountain, it maybe wouldn’t have been as difficult. 

I wrote it out as if I was writing a journal — not ever imagining that anyone would read it and I think that really helped because I received many responses from people saying that it was just really raw and real and that’s what they connected with. 

Just be completely honest. People are always trying to hold back and trying to weigh their words to make sure no one is being offended. It really takes away from the impact of what you’re trying to say if you’re constantly adding caveats. Just be honest. Just tell the truth.

Unveiled: In Conversation with Memoirist Yasmine Mohammed

How difficult was it to find a publisher? Do you have any tips for first-time authors on how to approach this part of the process?

I have no tips on how to find a publisher because I have not! I self-published. No publisher wanted to touch me. J.K. Rowling’s agent was interested in my book and even he couldn’t get any publishers interested. 

Of course, after October 7th, he contacted me and told me how much he regrets not being about to get my book published, because now the world can see why it was important. But at the time, at the end of 2019, when he was trying to, the world thought I was an alarmist. 

They couldn’t see things from my perspective. That was a part of it, I believe. The feedback they would always give me was that they just didn’t want to get involved with something with such high security concerns. He’s an agent in the UK, and that’s where the whole Salmon Rushdie thing happened, so it’s fresh in the memory of the literary world. 

I self-published in English, but it has since been published in 15 other languages. 

What was your biggest fear about sharing this book with the world? Did it come true?

My biggest fear was that I was going to be bombarded with messages and reviews calling me a liar. I was afraid that I was going to be painted a hateful person.

I’ve spoken to countless people who have been attacked publicly, who have had their reputations ruined. I was afraid they were going to do that, but I’m grateful that it didn’t happen. They did try, but somehow they were unsuccessful. 

Now that you’ve experienced so much success, how do you feel about your decision to share your story? Is there anything in particular you wish you would have known at the time when you were writing your book? 

I don’t know if I’ve experienced so much success, I still feel like an underdog because I self-published. The fact that it has been translated into so many different languages is amazing, but there’s sadness and frustration with it. I feel like I’m preaching to the choir. People who are living in countries like Finland, Sweden and Germany want to publish my book because they get it. They are experiencing it. And it’s sad that they get it. 

I wish that it would be the countries that are in a position to pay attention, to pay attention [who would want to publish it]. I think October 7th has changed the world in many ways. My Italian book is about to get published and I wrote a preface to this book because it’s being published after October 7th, and that’s significantly changed so many things. 

You’ve traveled to Egypt many times, and even lived there for a few years. These days, what do you enjoy most when you travel to Egypt? What do you find most challenging?

The last time I was in Egypt was in October. I’ll tell you a story — One of the men who came to see me, had to take a train and he was telling me how sitting on the train, just chit-chatting with a random stranger and the conversation turned to people who renounced religion and he said, “I wish I could meet somebody like that, so I could slit his throat. That would make me so proud.”  And when this man recounted this story to me, he was visibly shaken. 

What I find most challenging is, knowing how many people like Braheem, are living in countries like Egypt and they are completely surrounded, they have to be so careful, and it causes them such anxiety.

I’m doing everything I can, through Free Hearts Free Minds to help. People have told us that we’ve created a safe space. There’s one man from Iraq that was saying “this is the community that I’ve been looking for in all of my 32 years of life. I finally found it.” So, I feel very proud of the work that we’re doing, but it’s still really sad and frustrating, and I feel so helpless, that there are so many people stuck in these countries where they could be execute by the state, by their families, beaten to death by vigilanties — like what happened to Michelle Kahn in Pakistan. 

They are walking away from all that violence and destruction, and they should be celebrated and supported. But instead, they are ignored and marginalized. If they ever tell their stories, they are demonized.  

You host a podcast called Forgotten Feminists, and you provide a platform for other women to share their stories. I listened to a few of the episodes and found myself laughing and crying along the journeys of these courageous women. What do you enjoy most about hosting the podcast?

Aw, I love that you listened to my podcast — and that you laughed and cried along. You are absolutely correct, they are amazingly courageous women. What I enjoy most about hosting podcast is that I get to be in the presence of such loving and fierce women, who have overcome the most difficult of obstacles.

I feel that [these stories] would have really helped me when I was feeling like how am I going to do this? How am I going to be a single mom, with only a high school education, with a family who wants me dead. I’m going to be all alone in this world, can I do this

If I would have known other women who have done it before me, it would have encouraged me. I would have felt it was possible, versus me just swimming in the dark hoping that I survived. My hope is that I’m reaching some other women who are in that position – and I receive a lot of wonderful letters from people that tell me they are inspired by all of the women that they’re hearing from. 

My favorite part is that I get to be in a positive space with women who are inspiring — and hopefully I’m dropping a pebble and causing a ripple effect so more and more people can be inspired by these women. 


For morning information Yasmine Mohammed visit yasminemohammed.com. Photo credits by Yasmine Mohammed and Unsplash. 

About Jaclyn Mishal

Jaclyn Mishal is a co-founder of Pink Pangea. An entrepreneur, writing teacher and an inspirational public speaker, Jaclyn’s speciality is guiding people to express themselves fully. Her creative guided writing activities help even the most seasoned writers break out of their habits and expand their abilities. According to Jaclyn, writing enables us to access parts of ourselves that we may have trouble expressing otherwise. For more about Jaclyn visit www.pinkpangea.com/about

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