Yassmin Abdel-Magied (Photo credit: Daniel Boud).
Goalpost Pictures has optioned two children’s novels by Yassmin Abdel-Magied, a Sudanese-Australian writer, broadcaster and social advocate.
Published by Penguin Random House Australia last year, You Must Be Layla follows 13 year-old Layla as she leaves her Islamic school in Brisbane after getting a scholarship at a private school where she is the first and only child to wear a Muslim headscarf.
In the first week she gets suspended for fighting back against a prejudiced bully so she decides the only way to prove herself is to win a big regional robotics competition with her very ambitious invention.
Due for release next year, the sequel Listen, Layla follows the protagonist as she looks forward to spending the holidays with her friends and designing a Grand Designs Tourismo invention.
Her plans are interrupted when her grandmother in Sudan falls ill and the family rush to be with her. The last time Layla went to Sudan she was only a young child.
Now, she feels torn between her Sudanese and Australian identities. As political tensions in Sudan erupt, so do tensions between Layla and her family.
Her agent Curtis Brown negotiated the option deal with Goalpost Pictures’ Rosemary Blight, facilitated by the Queensland Writers Centre’s Adaptable program, which connects authors and their works with top screen producers.
The author said she is “excited and honoured” to work with Goalpost on adapting the novels to a drama series. It will be Goalpost’s second adaptation of children’s novels following Lockie Leonard, the Nine Network series based on Tim Winton’s books.
Yassmin started out designing race car chassis and was one of the few female engineers to work on oil and gas rigs around Australia before focusing on her writing and broadcasting career.
Earlier this year she co-wrote with Anthony Spargo United Queendom, Les Enfants Terribles’ immersive theatre production at Kensington Palace which followed King George George II, his wife Queen Caroline and his mistress Henrietta Howard. She was also awarded the Keesing Studio International Development Residency by the Australia Council.
According to her website, her 2015 TED talk, What does my headscarf mean to you? has been viewed more than 2.3 million times. By challenging the orthodox view of gender in Islam, she says she spurred a global conversation about being a young, black Muslim woman in the West today.
“Speaking out came at a cost, and now ‘getting Yassmined’ is an academically recognised term for the punishment meted out against women of colour who challenge white comfort,” she said.