In Conversation with Salwah Isaacs-Johaadien
What is Tittle Tattle Talia about?
Tittle-tattle Talia is a sweet, fun story filled with humour, drama, adorable illustrations and a bunch of cute, diverse characters. The main theme that the story addresses is gossiping, a detrimental habit that is easy to slip into but very serious in its consequences.
The main character Talia gets caught up in the short-lived fun and popularity that initially comes with telling tales but soon learns that gossip hurts, divides friends and damages relationships and reputations on all sides. Valuable lessons are learnt and all is well in the end. The story is written and illustrated in an entertaining way in order to appeal to young children while still conveying a serious message.
Why did you choose to address this topic?
I wrote this book at a point in my life where I was seriously pondering the issue of beneficial vs. evil speech. It troubled me that it had become such an easy thing to slip into casual conversation about others in their absence and before we know it, we utter things that we shouldn’t have said. As Muslims we are taught that the tongue is one of the most difficult body parts to protect from sin. We will be held accountable for every word we utter and a “loose tongue” will lead to destruction in this world and the hereafter.
The list of sins of the tongue is long and gossiping and backbiting are of the more serious of these sins to avoid in order to earn Paradise. After trying to discuss the topic of gossiping with other adults, I realised that this bad habit, if not kept in check, becomes entrenched over time and is more difficult to undo later in life. I decided to write a story that warned children about this destructive habit, intending to help them avoid this vice as early on as possible, hoping to contribute to building good character from a young age In shaa Allah.
What are some of the main lessons that can be derived from the story?
The story is filled with lessons - I’ll list some of the main ones that come to mind:
• It is wrong to entertain ourselves by spreading shameful stories about other people.
• It is easy to speak about someone when they’re not present but difficult to take back the bad words once they’re exposed.
• Listening to gossip is equally as bad as telling it.
• Listening to gossip facilitates its spread.
• Gossiping can feel like fun and become addictive as a result.
• Gossiping not only harms the one who is gossiped about; it harms the one who is gossiping even more.
• When we don’t have something nice or kind to say, then choosing to be silent is best.
• Good words help to build each other up while bad words break each other down.
• Acknowledgement of and remorse for one’s mistakes lead to good outcomes.
• Forgiveness and reconciliation restores friendships and goodwill.
Do you believe that this book is unique?
Definitely, the book is a first of its kind. It is the only children’s book that I know of currently that deals with the issue of gossiping within an Islamic context. It explores a heavy topic linked to major sins and diseases of the heart and conveys lessons that are relatable for young children without sugar-coating or preaching.
Gossiping is a universal issue so I tried to make the story as universally appealing as I could. It is a book that can be appreciated in any classroom or home setting.
Tittle Tattle Talia - Salwah Isaacs-Johaadien - 9780860377443