Writing across cultures
My NaNoWriMo project is a young adult book about a group of Muslim highschool kids (in public high schools) who start up a club, have adventures, and do some good works. While the book is clearly aimed at Muslim middle-schoolers, I'm hoping that non-Muslim kids might find it interesting and fun as well. After all these are American
Muslim kids and their culture, while definately distinct from Christian American culture, is not so very different. I'm hoping, in fact, that non-Muslim kids will see, hey these kids may have some different customs but they are just kids, while learning a bit about Islam along the way.
The biggest issue is how to handle things that Muslim kids will take for granted -- like what Assalamu alaikum, or insha Allah, means. Any Muslim kid who spends even a small amount of time at a mosque learns a whole basketful of phrases in Arabic. They need to be in the book. But, it's a bit awkward. Non-Muslim readers will have no idea what they mean, and the Muslim characters wouldn't translate them, or even comment to themselves on what they mean. After a couple chapters, I'm introducing a character who is a convert so some of the phrases could be explained to him (even though he already knows them. I swear even after twenty years as a Muslim I sometimes get very basic instructions from obviously well meaning souls.).
The question is, is chapter three too late? Will non-Muslim kids be put off by a few Arabic phrases they don't know what means, or will they, gloss over them understanding that this is how these kids say hello? How can I sneak in the meanings in ways that are realistic and don't sound like I'm just trying to be informative.Islam, Writing