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New mother writes children’s book for daughter to connect to Pakistani roots

Unzela Khan Sheikh, 29, wrote a children’s storybook based on her own family for her nine-month-old daughter.

Unzela Khan Sheikh has released her children’s storybook titled Pakistan, I’ll Be Back (Unzela Khan Sheikh/PA)

A new mother, who wants her nine-month-old daughter to connect to her roots in Pakistan, wrote a children’s book to prevent the links to her heritage from “dying out”.

Unzela Khan Sheikh, 29, a second-generation British Pakistani from north London, had the idea to write the storybook titled Pakistan, I’ll Be Back during her maternity leave, taking inspiration from her own visits to the country.

The story centres around an eight-year-old British Pakistani girl named Anam Khan, based on Ms Khan Sheikh herself, and it follows her visit to the country for the first time, seeing family and exploring the city of Karachi.

Unzela Khan Sheikh wrote Pakistan, I’ll Be Back for her daughter to connect with her heritage (Unzela Khan Sheikh/PA)

The book, based on Ms Khan Sheikh’s family with illustrations of her relatives to match, has been written with three language translations, English, Roman Urdu, and Urdu script – the latter of which was translated by Ms Khan Sheikh’s mother.

“I just had a thought that this is going to die out unless I do something about it and try and teach my daughter,” Ms Khan Sheikh, the race and diversity editor for MyLondon, told the PA news agency.


Born and raised in north London, Ms Khan Sheikh said she has always been “really Pakistani” but she felt she had to “tone it down in the outside world”.

Ms Khan Sheikh said that at school, she felt “really conscious” about bringing home-cooked food in for lunch, and stopped doing so even though it is a “big part” of her culture.

The book, based on Unzela Khan Sheikh’s memories of her visits to Pakistan, features illustrations of her own family members (Unzela Khan Sheikh/PA)

“I feel like I’ve always been really Pakistani, but I’ve had to tone it down in the outside world.

“If I took, for example, Pakistani food to school at lunchtime, people would be like, ‘oh, what’s that smelly food?’.

“You get really conscious about it.

“And then you’re like, you know what, I don’t want to take this kind of food to school, even though that’s a big part of you, because that’s the food you’ve grown up with, the food you have at home.

“You’re spending your whole day at school, but you can’t let that side out because no one understands.”


Ms Khan Sheikh feels many second-generation British Pakistanis find it difficult to connect to either culture, saying “you don’t feel fully connected to either side”.

Ms Khan Sheikh and her brother as children in a photo which was used as an illustration for the book (Unzela Khan Sheikh/PA)

She said: “We’re British Pakistanis, and at the end of the day, we’re never going to be fully British.

“You don’t feel fully connected to either side.

“And then there’s some kids who are just in this middle ground, they feel really British or they feel really Pakistani, but they don’t have that connection.”

After having her daughter, Aafiya Sheikh, in September, Ms Khan Sheikh said she realised “there’s so many people” like herself who have been born and brought up in England and their children “are not going to know about their heritage”.

To encourage children to explore their roots, Ms Khan Sheikh began writing Pakistan, I’ll Be Back in March, and it has just been released for purchase on Amazon.

Ms Khan Sheikh on a recent trip to Pakistan (Unzela Khan Sheikh/PA)

“Kids these days, I really want them to be able to take an interest in Pakistan,” she said.

“So this is to encourage that, explore that Pakistani side.

“You might be more in touch with it than you actually feel you are.”

Since the release of her book on July 4, Ms Khan Sheikh said she has been receiving lots of messages from fellow parents saying they will be purchasing it to show their children “what Pakistan is about”.


“Loads of people have just contacted me to be like, ‘this is amazing, for a British Pakistani to be promoting the country’.”

She added: “We could do an all-around-the-world series – Sudan, I’ll Be Back or Bangladesh, I’ll Be Back – because it would just be really good for kids to get back in touch.”

Pakistan, I’ll Be Back by Unzela Khan Sheikh can be purchased on Amazon here


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