Author Interviews

Interview with Laila Sabreen

Having read You Truly Assumed, I was absolutely in love with Sabreen’s story. The way Sabreen is able to balance these three separate POV’s lives, as well as their online activism and struggles with islamaphobia. I was so happy when I was able to interview Sabreen and these were my favorite questions!


Sabriya has her whole summer planned out in color-coded glory, but those plans go out the window after a terrorist attack near her home. When the terrorist is assumed to be Muslim and Islamophobia grows, Sabriya turns to her online journal for comfort. You Truly Assumed was never meant to be anything more than an outlet, but the blog goes viral as fellow Muslim teens around the country flock to it and find solace and a sense of community.

Soon two more teens, Zakat and Farah, join Bri to run You Truly Assumed and the three quickly form a strong friendship. But as the blog’s popularity grows, so do the pushback and hateful comments. When one of them is threatened, the search to find out who is behind it all begins, and their friendship is put to the test when all three must decide whether to shut down the blog and lose what they’ve worked for…or take a stand and risk everything to make their voices heard.

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Find You Truly Assumed on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.

Author Interview

When you first had the idea of YOU TRULY ASSUMED did you always know it would be multiple POV?

Not at first! Sabriya was the first character who came to mind when I first got the idea for YOU TRULY ASSUMED, but as I explored the idea more, I realized that I wanted to include different characters who would interact with the blog that she starts. From there, I got the idea for a few more POV characters and Zakat and Farah were the ones that I decided to include in addition to Sabriya.

Were there any major changes in Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah’s characters throughout drafting? Did you find writing one POV was harder than the other?

Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah’s characters have stayed relatively the same since I began drafting. Though their character arcs have grown a bit, their personalities, interests, and individual set of side characters have been pretty much consistent across drafts. And I actually didn’t find that writing one POV was harder than the other two! I think that’s because Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah all felt really well-developed as characters before I started drafting, so making the switch from POV to POV wasn’t difficult.

As someone with a blog, and on social media, I loved the blog/social media element in YOU TRULY ASSUMED. Was this always the way their stories would connect? Can you talk about the themes of space in relation to the blog? I loved how these characters have to navigate the creation and protection of online space – i.e. the blog and the community there – and how they need to figure out together how to protect it.

Yes, the blog was always the way that I wanted their stories to connect! I used to be a book blogger in high school, so making the blog a key component of YOU TRULY ASSUMED grew from that. In regard to the theme of space in relation to the blog, I wanted to explore how online spaces are created and maintained despite the fact that they aren’t typically physical or tangible. How can community be built in a virtual world is a question that I found myself writing towards when drafting. I enjoyed exploring the theme of space and, so as a result, I found it engaging to consider how Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah were able to move in the spaces that they physically inhabited and those that they virtually inhabited and the similarities and differences between navigating the two.

YOU TRULY ASSUMED has so much heartfelt emotions specifically in regards to the islamophobia and racism the girls experience. How did it feel to write the stories of both pain and resistance? Was it a difficult process for you?

It felt really important to write a story that was both about pain and resistance. Though when I was drafting YOU TRULY ASSUMED, the focus of the story was really on the friendship that grows between Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah. The focus of the story has stayed the same throughout multiple rounds of revisions and edits I wanted to ensure that Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah’s entire narratives weren’t about Islamophobia and racism because though they experience those things, it’s not all that they experience! In terms of writing a story about both pain and resistance, it was actually a really cathartic process for me. Drafting the book gave me the space to unpack the Muslim Ban, and all the anti-Muslim hate that led to it and followed it. Working on YOU TRULY ASSUMED also became an opportunity for me to process the results of the 2016 election and what that meant for me as a young Black Muslim woman growing up right outside DC.

While YOU TRULY ASSUMED is about the experiences which bind the girls together, there’s also very distinct stories for each of them. One of the themes within these stories is family and reconciling identity. How was it to balance the girl’s individual stories while also tying them together? Was it hard to figure out when to pull back or when to sink into one POV versus the other? 

Balancing Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah’s individual stories while tying them together was really fun, but it took a lot of work. Sometimes I would explore the same event from different characters, which I would enjoy writing, but I would have to edit those sections during revisions in order to smooth out the timeline of the entire book. As a writer, I really love creating characters, so getting to develop all of the girl’s individual journeys was one of the highlights when drafting. But I definitely did have to figure out which events made the most sense to explore from a certain perspective and how that decision would impact the entire timeline in YOU TRULY ASSUMED. That type of work came during revision, and though it wasn’t necessarily hard, it did require a lot of attention to detail to strike the right balance.

I love how you feature different types of activism and conversations surrounding activism in YOU TRULY ASSUMED. How has your relationship changed to activism as you have grown older – or has it remained the same?

I love this question! My relationship with activism has changed as I have grown older. The focus of my activism has shifted to supporting and uplifting those in the communities that I’m a part of, as opposed to spending my energy educating those outside of those communities. That shift can be seen in my approach to YOU TRULY ASSUMED! The goal of the book is not to educate those outside of the communities of which I’m a part of, but to uplift those who I am in community with. I’m hopeful that any reader will be able to take away something from YOU TRULY ASSUMED, but I was very aware of my audience when revising for publication and I think that awareness grew from my relationship to activism.

I gotta ask about the title of the book and the blog, did you always know that it would be called that? I love when the title appears in the book and YOU TRULY ASSUMED appears a bunch!

Yes, in part! I always knew that the blog was going to be called YOU TRULY ASSUMED, and then when I was trying to come up with a title for the first draft, I thought that having it be the same as the blog would be a cool detail. As a reader, I always enjoy when I see the title of the book pop up in the book itself, so that’s also why that was a stylistic touch I wanted to include!

About the Author

Laila Sabreen (pronounced lay-luh suh-breen) is a young adult contemporary writer who was raised in the Washington DC area. She currently attends Emory University where she is double majoring in Sociology and English.

Her love of writing began as a love of reading, which started when she used to take weekly trips to her local library. There she fell in love with the Angelina Ballerina series, so much so that she started to write Angelina Ballerina fanfiction at the age of five (though she did not know it was fanfiction at the time). When she isn’t writing, she can be found working on essays, creating playlists that are way too long, and watching This Is Us.

Her debut YA contemporary novel, YOU TRULY ASSUMED, releases with Inkyard Press/HarperCollins on February 8, 2022. She will also have a short story included in the YA anthology, STUDY BREAK, which releases with Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan in Winter 2023 and features short stories written by Gen Z contributors for Gen Z readers. She is represented by Kat Kerr at Donald Maass Literary Agency.


What is your favorite YA book with a Muslim teen MC?

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