Finding My Voice…. certainly is a very apt name for the Nadiya Hussain’s book about her life which she spoke about on Saturday afternoon at a post Henley Literary Festival event when she said, “I was sexually abused as a 5 year old” afterwards adding, “That’s the first time I’ve said this out loud.”
Each chapter of the book is about a role she has played in life; daughter, mother, wife and starts with a poem and ends with a recipe.
Growing up in a traditional Bangladeshi family, Nadiya recounted how she fought with her parents when she was younger but said this has made her “the woman she is today”. She was bullied at secondary school and nearly ended her life, she said, “I didn’t know how to stop them. I didn’t understand death but just thought if I am dead I didn’t have to go to school.” On the day she planned her suicide her mother announced she was pregnant with her youngest brother. Nadiya explained “I thought I had better hang around to meet my new brother. He made me choose life.”
When her husband Abdal signed her up for Bake Off in 2015, Nadiya was suffering with extreme anxiety. She recounted, “I could barely get out bed and feed the kids.” I remember when I was told I was in the final 12 I rang up the production 3 times to tell them I couldn’t do it and I hung up. I even asked my husband to ring up and tell them that I’d died. When I started I used have panic attacks in the toilets.”
Only realising that she had been sexually abused after a Year 8 biology lesson, Nadiya now understands that this and the bullying caused her anxiety and PTSD which she has recently been diagnosed with. She said, “Sexual abuse happens quietly. It happens every single day and we do not talk about it. With abuse we carry shame and sadness. It destroys lives and it shouldn’t happen.” Nadiya feels empowered to have written the book and she hopes it will empower others.
Nadiya said, “The book is as much for me as it is as much for the readers. I love writing and cooking and I’m pleased that the platform I now have I can use in a positive way.”
As always, the audience got the chance to ask their own questions with one asking how does she handle bad comments on social media which she replied, “I used to ignore them but now I call them out!” Another member of the audience just wanted to say “thank you” to Nadiya for making her documentary on anxiety as it had helped her. Nadiya immediately then stood up and went to the lady and gave her hug… a really moving moment for everyone there.