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Aalia’s Guardian Angel: A Novel for Junior Youth About Grief, Friendship, & One of Life’s Big Questions

February 16, 2023, in Articles > Books, by

It’s always a joy to see new titles being released by authors I’ve come to admire. Tahirih Lemon shared her picture book about God’s love with us, as well as her series for curious junior-youth who are searching for answers.

Aalia’s Guardian Angel is her latest book and she very kindly shared with us how and why she wrote it.

Could you tell us a little bit about Aalia’s Guardian Angel?

Aalia’s Guardian Angel is about a 15-year-old girl, Aalia, who feels she’s experienced a lifetime of grief. Not only has she lost her grandmother, and beloved cat Abbey unexpectedly, she’s grieving the recent loss of her best friend Charlotte.

Her curiosity piques when Liam, Charlotte’s younger brother passes on a message from Charlotte from the afterlife stating, “Help Willow.” But how? She only met Willow, a new student, earlier that day when “buddied” by the Year 10 Coordinator?!

Initially I was planning on writing a non-fiction book for adults exploring life after death. I purchased several recent books by journalists and medical physicians who had extensively researched the subject and in one case a neurosurgeon who had experienced a near death experience himself. However, after viewing the series of webinars organised by the Wilmette Institute under the umbrella heading of Illumining and Strengthening the Work of Baha’i Writers in May 2022 and hearing the need for more books for junior youth including fiction that is engaging, I changed course. I’m trying to live my life more aligned to Baha’u’llah’s Will and listening to my intuition following prayer and meditation. At the time I felt urged and guided to write a book for junior youth on life after death.

What inspired you to create it?

Author Tahirih Lemon

Like many authors writing fiction, I too used personal experiences. Upon reflection I realised that when I was 15, one of the first friends I made who I had been buddied with when I moved to Australia aged 11, died of Leukemia. Up until that point no one close to me had died. Ever since her death, I have been particularly interested in life after death. I was intrigued and fascinated in my early 20s when I came across Dr. Raymond Moody’s (an American philosopher, psychiatrist, and physician) publications on near death experiences.

Who is its audience?

Aalia’s Guardian Angel is a contemporary novella written for junior youth (12-15) about coping with grief, the power of friendship, and exploring one of life’s big questions: what happens when we die?

Earlier in the year I had pitched the book to an Australian literary agent who stated she would read the manuscript and consider it if it was longer. However, I purposely wanted to write a shorter book that would not be daunting and off putting to those who aren’t necessarily “book worms”. I had the first 3,000 words edited and reviewed by a professional who liked the story line but suggested removing the “scripture” quotes used throughout the book, if it was to have any chance of it being traditionally published. It was at that moment I decided to self-publish what I feel is a much-needed niche area. As Baha’is we know the power behind the Creative Word, and to me this was paramount. There’s such an emphasis for more diversity in publications, yet religion tends to be averted where possible.

What do you hope readers will take away with them after reading this book?

I hope readers will be inspired to explore their own beliefs about the afterlife including but not limited to near-death experiences, reincarnation, guardian angels, communicating with the departed, and the Baha’i Faith’s perspective. I purposely made Aalia, the protagonist, a friend of a Baha’i as opposed to being a Baha’i so that the book would appeal to a wider audience. It also enabled me to explore other beliefs and thoughts as opposed to just the Baha’i Faith’s perspective. With regards to the antagonist, I focused predominantly on an internal antagonist emphasising Aalia’s emotions around death, loss, and grief. There is also the antagonist Paris, another student whose character I did not fully develop nor provide any real depth to, more of a cardboard character. This was intentional because too many books for young people go into so many scenes and details around young people taunting, baiting, and ridiculing one another as if this is the norm. We need to model and present another reality. However, to make it more realistic to the lived experience of so many young people, there had to be some bullying to unfortunately reflect the society within which we currently live.  

What was something you learned while writing this book?

Something I learned while writing this book is to truly “step aside” and remove yourself during the creative process and see what arises. I’ve always wishfully admired authors who describe being able to tap into some creative cosmos. I decided to give it ago. After prayer and meditation, I’d sit down in front of my computer in the morning and write a chapter. The first five chapters I tried to tap into this divine creativity or source whatever you want to term it. I had no idea what I would write or where it would take me. It was a lot of fun. I remember the first chapter took me by surprise as it has a fantasy genre feel to it. It was after several edits; walks on the beach and reflections I decided the first scene is a dream Aalia is experiencing and only then was I able to connect it with the rest of the story.

This book addresses the subjects of grief, loss and life after death. Could you share some thoughts on the importance of writing about death for young readers?

This book addresses the subjects of grief, loss, and life after death. Death is a natural part of life, yet it isn’t explored in our education system beyond cultural burial and funeral practices in social science. Young people have inquiring minds and are exposed to death more and more through various social media platforms, and unfortunately increasing rates of youth suicide. We are very fortunate that the Baha’i Writings provide us with a wealth of information regarding the afterlife providing our lives with deeper meaning, purpose, and direction. Removing our fears around death.

...in the spiritual realm of intelligence and idealism there must be a centre of illumination, and that centre is the everlasting, ever-shining Sun, the Word of God. Just as the phenomenal sun shines upon the material world producing life and growth, likewise the spiritual or prophetic Sun confers illumination upon the human world of thought and intelligence, and unless it rose upon the horizon of human existence the kingdom of man would become dark and extinguished.

– Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith (US Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1976 ed) pp.254-255

Thank you so much, Tahirih, for taking the time to share your creative process and some behind-the-scenes details of your latest book!

You can purchase Aalia’s Guardian Angel from a variety of book retailers including Bahaibooks.com.au in Australia and Amazon.

Posted by

Sonjel Vreeland

In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.
Sonjel Vreeland

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