Abda Khan was born in inner city Bradford, England, in 1969. She was the seventh of eight children to Pakistani immigrant parents, and the first of their children to be born in the UK. Abda was the first child in her family to sit ‘A’ level examinations, and go on to higher education. She is a woman of many talents, solicitor, speaker, author, trustee. She is a powerhouse of a woman and we wanted to know more about her.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I am a solicitor by profession, and I run my own law firm. I started writing a few years ago. My novel was Stained was published in 2016. My latest novel Razia will be published in July 2019. In addition, I am a public speaker, mentor, Trustee for Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid, and a Lloyds Bank Women of the Future Ambassador.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by people and their stories, and especially women who are strong, tenacious and yet humble. I find inspiration in the ordinary and the extraordinary. But the number one inspiration in my life has been, and always will be, my late mother.
What book has have greatly influenced your life?
Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
My novel Stained has been called the “contemporary Tess of the d’Urbervilles” by Booklist in the USA. I am humbled and honoured by the compliment. Tess will always be my favourite heroin. The novel is a beautifully crafted, brave story, which initially Hardy struggled to have published. Through this book, Hardy directly confronted society’s attitudes at the time, particularly towards women; he was critical of the hypocritical sexual double standard that was deeply rooted in Victorian morality and society. This was a courageous story written by a bold and fearless writer, and fearless writers are what we need in today’s world more than ever before; writers who will not shy away from problematic and taboo subjects. Razia deals with some tough, hard-hitting issues; modern day slavery, ‘honour’ based violence and gender inequality to name just a few.
What purchase of £100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months?
My reading glasses! I was mortified to learn that I needed them, but they sure have made a difference!
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success?
My novel Stained, which is an empowering story that delves into ‘honour’ and sexual abuse, was declined for publication in the UK, as although literary agents told me they liked the writing, and the story, they said they did not think they would be able to ‘place it’. In other words, it was not ‘mainstream’ enough. However, I didn’t let that stop me, as I think the best way to deal with rejection and failure is with renewed determination. I signed a publishing contract with a niche publisher in America and it was published in the USA in 2016 and is available worldwide on Amazon. It has received great critical acclaim, and as a direct result of the novel and the issues it highlights, I was highly commended in the Nat West Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2017 in the Arts & Culture category. With my new novel, Razia, because of my previous experiences, I didn’t submit to any literary agents or publishers in the conventional sense. Instead, I decided to crowdfund the book with the award-winning publisher, Unbound, and the novel will be published in a few months’ time.
The story is about one British Asian lawyer’s fight for justice for a modern-day slave. As a result of my writing and other work relating to such difficult issues, I recently won the Noor Inayat Khan Woman of the Year Award 2019 at the British Muslim Awards.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?
I love so many quotes, but here is one of my favourites
“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.” Khalil Gibran
In the last 2 years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?
I have definitely worked on trying to be ever more patient. Patience really is a virtue, it can take many years to develop, and there is always room for improvement.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven student about to enter the “real world? What advice should they ignore?
Pay attention from day one; your training period and early working life is an invaluable foundation for your future. And remember, you are always learning – we never know everything, so keep an open mind and soak up everything around you. Be inquisitive.
Do not be afraid of making mistakes. Don’t panic if you do! It is only by making mistakes that we learn, and there is rarely ever a mistake so calamitous that it cannot be rectified.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
Life can become very overwhelming at times, and when that happens, I try to bring it back to the present moment. As my older daughter wisely said to me, you don’t have to work it all out, you just have to get through today. So, if you feel overwhelmed, break it down and just focus on the here and now. Tomorrow can wait.
Tell us something that would surprise us about you?
When I was little, I dreamed of being a singer!
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
There have been many challenges but the one that will always dominate will be the loss of my mother when I was 18 years old. I don’t think it’s something you can ever ‘overcome’ but you certainly learn to cope. She died very suddenly whilst abroad, just months before my A level exams. I came from very traditional family where I faced cultural barriers when I expressed a wish to carry on in school after the age of 16. The reason I was able to go on to Sixth Form, and later to university, was because of my mother, who fought for me to be allowed to have an education. However, when she passed away, I was devastated. She was my whole world, and I was broken hearted. I almost gave up on my studies, but then I realised I owed it to her, and to myself, to continue on the path for which she had so lovingly paved the way.
What would be your message to the AWMB community?
You are your best advocate. Believe in yourself, for you have the ability and power to achieve whatever it is that you set your mind on. We sometimes complain we don’t have enough time, but if you truly want to achieve your goals, you will magic some time from somewhere. More power to you!
You can contact Abda on her website or social media