Friday, March 26, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Hazel Edwards, Author of Hijabi Girl

What is fusion food?

We made it up. The term, NOT the food from different cultures.

Ever tried Gozleme Vietnamese style? 

Behind Melek were trays of syrupy baklava layered watermelon seeds instead of walnuts. It was SO HARD for Melek NOT to lick the sugar off the saran wraps covering the dessert trays. She didn’t.  The ladies from Melek’s mosque had rolled out dough to turn gozleme into a Vietnamesey sort of dessert.  Gozleme was one of her favourites. 

In Hijabi Girl,  our 10 year old Melek character  is a feisty girl in a hijab who wants to start an Australian Rules girls’ football team. She sets up a fundraiser where they sell ‘fusion’ food from many of the cultures of the children in their mainstream school. With the money raised they can buy their uniforms and start their sports club. But it’s really about sharing. Tien is her new Vietnamese friend whose Dad is a chef whose business is struggling, but helps his daughter’s friends. So does Melek’s hijabi-fashionista mother who designs sports clothes. 

Tasting ‘fusion’ food is genuine book research for writers. And fun. But proof- reading the names of food in our Hijabi Girl in a different language can be a challenge. And now we even have puppets which are a Vietnamese Rice Paper Roll and a Turkish Kebab! Australian Larrikin Puppeteers are performing Hijabi Girl the musical and touring post-Pandemic.

So glad we made up ‘fusion food’ to share cultures. Fact is following fiction.

Now real schools are combining the food of different cultures on celebratory days. And students are dressing up as Hijabi Girl and her friends for Book Parades.  This is an extract combining Turkish and Vietnamese cuisine. 

For the fund-raiser, Tien’s Dad, helps with a fusion menu of Vietnamese and Turkish food. It’s a sell-out.  Pays for footy uniforms for all:

'I have the price lists,' Lily said. 'My Dad and I printed them out last night.' She tried to place the correct prices on the trays. 'Soo which one is the Gozleme with peanuts? The rice pudding with muuun ga beans?’  Lily tried to pronounce "mung beans".

‘It’s hard to price things you can’t say.’

'I'll show you, ' Melek helped Lily match names and prices on the desserts.’These are my favourites. This round one is a moon cake, filled with Turkish pistachios. The ones in the clear cups are sutlac, it’s like a milk rice pudding but Tien’s dad made it with bananas and tapioca pearls. And this one, che, is in the bowls. It looks like a soup, but it tastes just like Baklava!’ 

Co-writing across cultures means being introduced to tasty food, even if difficult to pronounce the names. Food matters in children’s books. As the Australian author of the picture book There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake (Puffin PRH),  I’ve shared lots of cake in hippo shapes across  40 years of  launches, book weeks, the film and the stage musical.

But our co-written Hijabi Girl junior novel had many knockbacks before publication due to media coverage of political incidents related to terrorism. Many of my books explore ‘coping successfully with being different’, but having ‘hijab’ in the title was challenging. My Australian co-author Ozge Alkan is a Muslim librarian who wears a hijab, is of Turkish origin, and was educated in USA, so she has an American accent. Ozge has helped on cultural issues. So has Serena Geddes, our illustrator of Sri-lankan heritage.

Australia is a very multi cultural society and when our book was launched at Craigieburn Library, an outer suburb of Melbourne, we had 62 nationalities and languages present.  Of our other characters Tien is Vietnamese, Zac is soccer mad , Lily loves fashion and for the series. AliGator is publishing and the Larrikin Puppets are performing, we’ve added Abdul, an Afro-Australian boy. A culinary and cultural mix. Ozge has been our cultural adviser on clothing length, hijabi folding and food.

In children’s books, food plays on the senses and provides a theme for book launches. A book offers the opportunity to live in another’s world for the length of the book and beyond via ‘fusion’ food and fusion cultures.

Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Hazel!

Touring post-Pandemic, Hijabi Girl features 14 colourful hand puppets and creative rod puppets hand-crafted by seven different puppet builders from across Australia, Indonesia and the USA. The show includes bizarre and delightful pencil, football,shark  and FOOD puppets. Puppeteers - Brett Hansen and Elissa Jenkins –were trained in the USA by Jim Henson puppeteers from The Muppets and Sesame Street.

You can find more about the book, play, authors and more here:

Hijabi Girl Book Page of latest news, reviews, photos, clips and resources for Hijabi Girl. Also has Teacher Resources which educators appreciate.

Larrikin Puppeteers  

Ali Gator Productions

Illustrator Serena Geddes New Website   

Larrikin Puppeteers’ successful submission to Artour for 2021/2 Qld touring.  Details of Hijabi Girl content and process. Vital case study of persistence.

About the Author:

Hazel is interested in stories crossing mediums. Celebrant Sleuth: I do or die, an adult mystery with an asexual sleuth is her latest AUDIBLE fiction, plus  KINDLE sequel Wed Then Dead on The Ghan being adapted as a screenplay with co-writer/producer Geoffrey Wright.

Co-written Hijabi Girl series  soon to tour as ‘Larrikin Puppets’ musical  explores cultural diversity. There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake series, turned 40 in 2020. 
Her memoir Not Just a Piece of Cake-Being an Author explores longterm creativity. Hazel is the current patron of the Society of Women’s Writers (Victoria).


  1. I love both Vietnamese and Turkish food! I also love the inclusion in Hijabi Girl for all kids. The puppetry is wonderful. Three creators from different heritages who are Australian. Love this

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