The Next Chapter

Uzma Jalaluddin's novel Hana Khan Carries On is a modern day meet-cute inspired by a love of rom-coms

The Ontario author and educator spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing a novel about food, resilience and rivals who become lovers.
Hana Khan Carries On is a novel by Uzma Jalaluddin. (uzmajalaluddin.com, HarperAvenue)

Uzma Jalaluddin is a teacher, parenting columnist and author based in Ontario. She is also the author of the novel Ayesha At Last.

Hana Khan Carries On is a romantic comedy from Uzma Jalaluddin. In Hana Khan Carries On, Hana is an aspiring radio host who is working at her family's halal restaurant. When her aunt and a cousin come to town, and a rival restaurant opens in their neighbourhood, Hana's life is upended and family secrets are revealed. Fighting for her family is a big battle, one that will put all of Hana's skills to the test. It's a battle that gets more complicated by Hana's growing attraction to the rival restaurant's attractive owner, Aydin.

Jalaluddin spoke with Shelagh Rogers about why she wrote Hana Khan Carries On.

Halal happenings

"The origin story of this book goes way back in 2017, which feels like a million years ago right now! My husband and I were celebrating my birthday. We were at this upscale halal restaurant that serves American-style food — burgers, steaks, ribs, things like that.

I thought this would be such a great way to explore the way that the changing dynamic of immigrants evolves over subsequent generations.

"We were remarking that a halal restaurant like this simply did not exist when we were growing up in Toronto. I thought this would be such a great way to explore the way that the changing dynamic of immigrants evolves over subsequent generations. 

"And I also just love food. So both those two things combined, I thought it would be really fun to explore."

Uzma Jalaluddin on why she keeps reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. 2:03

A love for romantic comedies

"I love the classic rom-coms. One of the really popular tropes is 'enemies to lovers,' and I'm a sucker for that trope. I love it so much. I knew that in the very beginning, just by the very nature of Aydin's presence in the neighborhood. He is the owner of this new restaurant that is threatening Hana's family business. I knew they would immediately be enemies. 

"I really enjoyed playing up the tension between Hana and Aydin. In their very first meeting, he shows up at the restaurant. She doesn't know who he is. He talks down to her thinking that she's just the waitress. She gets offended — and they're off to the races.

"They have multiple interactions where they're bantering back and forth, but then they give each other a chance and that's the beginning of them becoming friends."

Generational tension

"With stories that are set in regionalized or marginalized communities, I find that a lot of the tension comes, with justification, from parents who are demanding things for their children. And that is definitely a conflict that some children face. 

With stories that are set in regionalized or marginalized communities, I find that a lot of the tension comes, with justification, from parents who are demanding things for their children.

"But then I think about a lot of people I know, who do come from those backgrounds, and their parents never really force the issue, but they still feel a responsibility towards giving back to the community and giving back to their family. I wonder about those kids who internalize that responsibility, even though their parents tell them to do what makes them happy and run after their dreams. 

In Hana's case, she is so aware of all that her parents have sacrificed to get her to where she is right now —and she wants to help them."

Uzma Jalaluddin's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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