Guest Post: When Your Story Is One Of The Few By Khadijah VanBrakle

Title Fatima Tate Takes The Cake
Author Khadijah VanBrakle
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date June 13th 2023 by Holiday House
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonThe Book DepositoryBarnes & NobleIndieBound

Fatima Tate wants to be a baker AND enjoy some innocent flirting with her hot friend Raheem — but her strict Muslim parents would never approve of either…

Seventeen-year-old Fatima Tate, aspiring baker (100% against her conservative parents’ wishes), leads a pretty normal life in Albuquerque: long drives with BFF Zaynab, weekly services at the mosque, big family parties, soup kitchen volunteering (the best way to perfect her flaky dough recipe!), stressing about college.

But everything changes when she meets a charming university student named Raheem. Knowing the ‘rents would FREAK, Fatima keeps their burgeoning relationship a secret… and then, one day, her parents and his parents decide to arrange their marriage. Amazing! True serendipity!

Except it’s not amazing. As soon as the ring is on Fatima’s finger, Raheem’s charm transforms into control and manipulation. Fatima knows she has to call the whole thing off, but Raheem doesn’t like to lose. He threatens to reveal their premarital sexual history and destroy her and her family’s reputation in their tight-knit Muslim community.

Fatima must find the inner strength to blaze her own trail by owning her body, her choices, and her future. Combining the frank authenticity of Elizabeth Acevedo and the complex social dynamics of Ibi Zoboi, Fatima Tate Takes The Cake is a powerful coming-of-age story that gives a much-needed voice to young Black Muslim women.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

About Khadijah VanBrakle

Khadijah VanBrakle was born and raised in Canada, to American parents. This mother of five has a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and a half-finished MBA. She started writing for children as one of her 2012 New Year’s resolutions. Khadijah writes stories about characters, like her three daughters, who are both Black American and Muslim.

It is vital for children and teens from those intersections to see themselves on the printed page.

In Septeber 2021, Khadijah was chosen for one of the Highlights Foundation’s Muslim Storytellers Fellowships. She holds an administrative position and is an active member of Black Creators HQ.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads


My name is Khadijah, and my debut, Contemporary young adult novel, Fatima Tate Takes The Cake, is due out June 13, 2023, from Holiday House. The story centers around Fatima, a 17yo Black American Muslim who aspires to become a pastry chef when her parents and an arranged marriage to her secret crush threatens to derail her dream.

Writing a novel was something, that I, who grew up in Canada to American parents never envisioned I’d be able to do. Yes, I loved reading and spent a gazillion hours in libraries but me telling stories was not on my radar. It wasn’t until many years later I decided to give it a go. In 2012, I started writing a middle grade fantasy. It was my first attempt and was terrible. I quickly caught on to the importance of learning the craft of writing. Classes, workshops and critique groups added so much more to my process. Then I moved on to pen a three-book picture book series.

After taking a speculative fiction class in 2017, I decided to write for teens. Then, one day my 9th grader came home from high school and told me about an argument she had with a classmate. The girl was adamant that my daughter couldn’t be both Black and a Muslim. Maybe it was due to a lack of exposure, but this teen’s mis-informed stance solidified my choice to write stories that feature teens, like my three daughters, who fit within this dual marginalization.

Imagine my horror, after doing some research, discovering there wasn’t a single, traditionally published contemporary book that contained a Black American Muslim teenage girl as the protagonist. In 2017, I couldn’t find these stories.

The next thing was inevitable.

I wrote my first manuscript. After many drafts, a mentorship, and many revisions, I sent it to agents — to a hundred agents to be exact. I came close a few times but no offers of rep came my way. Even though my very strong self-doubt kept whispering I could never write another story, I’m stubborn and don’t mind a challenge.

My second YA manuscript is my debut, Fatima Tate Takes The Cake.

Now, was it easy to get an agent? For me, no it wasn’t but I learned from my past. I was selective with the agents I queried and made damn sure the manuscript wasn’t sent out into the world until it was in the best shape possible. No more having to keep track of many versions of the same story — been there, done that.

I’m so grateful to my agent Kristina Perez, who loved the voice and saw a spark of something in my manuscript and worked with me to make it shiny then super shiny as Fatima’s story entered the murky waters of submission. Was it scary to have my work assessed and judged by others who most likely didn’t understand how much of me and my family’s dual marginalization is infused in my work?

It was terrifying. I forced myself to not fall down deep into the hole of NEVER. Yes, my book is a work of fiction but it’s shaped by real people, events, and feelings in addition to some elements and characters conjured up in my imagination. As we are close to three months until my debut’s publication date, I am so grateful to those authors who proved the naysayers wrong and wrote stories with BIPOC characters as the stars of their own shows. Their shining examples helped block out the negativity of those who doubted a coming-of-age story about a Black American Muslim teen would ever have a HOME in traditional publishing. To my amazing editor, Mora Couch, and the entire team at Holiday House, I thank you for understanding the story behind the words and encouraging me to delve deeper.

Fatima Tate Takes The Cake is only the 2nd YA contemporary book of its kind (we see you, Laila Sabreen, with the #1 spot) in the traditional publishing space that I could find. I’m honored to be the author and hope to continue bringing to the printed page teenagers who have long been invisible.

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Hi! I’m Jen! I’m a thirty-something introvert who loves nothing more than the cozy comfort of home and snuggling my two rescue cats, Pepper and Pancakes. I also enjoy running, jigsaw puzzles, baking and everything Disney. Few things bring me more joy than helping a reader find the right book for them!