Egyptian Lullaby is her love letter to Cairo, Arab Culture, and to Families
In the winter of 2017, Zeena Pliska was visiting her father in Cairo.
From the window in the bedroom she was staying in at her father's home, she could see a sliver of the nile, she heard the muezzin calling the community to the mosque for prayer mixed with the sound of soft traffic.
This moment began churning the wheels of her imagination that would eventually become Egyptian Lullaby.
Her newest picture book is a love letter to the city of Cairo, to Arab Culture, and to Families around the world.
Zeena is a storyteller, an educator, and a social activist. These aspects of her life are deeply intertwined, comparing each of these parts of herself coming together like a braid throughout her life and career over the last three decades. The intention of Egyptian Lullaby is to normalize Arab culture and to show the warmth and joy of the people. She wanted to take readers to the streets of Cairo and to have them feel what it's like to live in this part of the world.
Here is the story of a young girl whose Aunt sings her a lullaby every night filled with the rich imagery of the home she left behind in Egypt, keeping their memories alive through song.
Zeena describes the excitement she felt the first moment she saw Egyptian artist Hatem Aly's vibrant illustrations for the book; she was thrilled by his ability to bring the rhythm of Cairo to life on the page. She says his illustrations balance the cultural commonalities and differences in a way that invite the reader to experience the sensational energy of the city.
There is also a social justice aspect of Egyptian Lullaby which challenges the demonization that Hollywood, the media, politicians, and hate groups have perpetuated about Arab culture in the public discourse in America.
She wanted to counter these hateful messages and deliver this story to children specifically and to answer the questions they might have about the things they are hearing and absorbing around them.
Being a teacher and listener to kindergartners for over thirty years; getting inside the mind of a child to deliver these powerful concepts in a relatable picture book that is so dear to the author's heart is a labor of love.
The book challenges the falsities about Arab culture in America with a story centered on the powerful concepts of love, the commonalities of everyday life, and family.
In a way, Zeena shares, the book reaches back in time to her very first visit to Egypt in 1982 when her aunt told her, "Once you drink from the Nile, you will always return."
Get your copy of Egyptian Lullaby on April 18th, 2023 at The Book Jewel. You can preorder the book now at our website and have your copy ready at a book reading with author Zeena Pliska on Sunday on April 30th at 11:30 am.