More great reads are available for young Muslim readers
By Amani Salahudeen
As a Muslim Sri Lankan American, these are the books that resonate the most with me and make me feel seen. I adore them because for the first time I was reading about things I had heard about or seen in my community. I wish I had had them while growing up. I am ecstatic that there are writers out there writing about Muslim protagonists who are proud of who they are. Unfortunately, I often see characters who are written as Muslim but who have very little, if any, relationship to Islam or its culture.
I present the following books and hope that you will include them in your high-school classroom library.
“Love from A to Z,” by S.K. Ali
First off, I have to say that I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing S.K. Ali before, and she’s one of the nicest authors I’ve “virtually” met. This book talks about having mixed cultures, disability awareness, being a practicing Muslim and a chronic illness in a way that I have never seen anyone do before.
I love how readers got a glimpse of how the main characters spend Eid together in the future as S.K. Ali’s Eid gift to her readers. Alright, alright, back to the review. Islamophobia is the first thing that’s introduced in the story, but I like that it wasn’t done in a cliché form. The story starts off with Zeynab being expelled for a comment she made after a teacher made Islamophobic comments. I was initially worried about how this story was going to go, but I loved how it was resolved and the different events that took place because of it.
Another thing I adored about this book was that its protagonists came from different backgrounds and that absolutely nothing felt out of place! I hope that one day I can write characters as lovable as them.
Second, the representation of such a diverse community was incredible. I really liked that we got to know each character’s quirks, what they thought about each other and how even the side characters like the Emmas had a role. Additionally, the disabilities were represented in a way that made the story feel real, which I really appreciated. My only con is that I would’ve loved to see what went down at the school board meeting. You’ll know what I mean when you read the book.
In case you didn’t know, “Love from A to Z” recently got a new paperback issue. And, if you want to know more about why it’s one of the best love stories I’ve ever read, then you should definitely check it out!
“That Can be Arranged” by Huda Fahmy
This comic depicts how Huda met her husband Gihad. She talks about the shenanigans that ensued when she was on a mission to find a husband and how she dealt with having chaperones. Huda also talks about the suitors she met before Gihad came into her life. This is a book you don’t want to miss, especially if you’re a fan of Jane Austen and comedies! It’s also extremely heart-warming and a book anyone can enjoy.
“Saints and Misfits,” by S.K. Ali
Trigger Warning. This book discusses sexual assault in the Islamic community.
The book’s premise is that 16-year-old Jenna is assaulted by a boy who is a hafidh. This word refers to those who have memorized the Quran, which often causes the highest level of respect to flow toward them. The story details how she processes it, tells her family and the aftermath. Such stories aren’t discussed nearly enough within our community. Ali’s story is written in gut-wrenching style, and Jenna is an incredibly brave teenager. If this isn’t a trigger for you, I urge you to read it! Furthermore, next-year’s sequel, “Misfit in Love,” includes a big, fat Muslim wedding by the lake!
“Crowning Soul” by Sahira Javaid
This is the first time I’ve encountered a Muslim protagonist in a fantasy series! Muslim writers often draw from cultural experiences or backgrounds (which is great), but this author wrote her story in such a way that I could almost see myself in Nezha’s story. What’s unique about this book is that Javaid self-published it and announced on Twitter that she’s working on the sequel and the novella to it!
Nezha Zaman can control fire but believes it’s a perilous gift to have or the way she views it: as a curse! Weeks after her encounter with a demonic being, she transports to another dimension far away from the familiarity of her backyard. If Nezha doesn’t stop the unjust prince, then a nefarious jinn will destroy her soul. The stakes are high, and I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!
“Once Upon an Eid,” edited by Aisha Saeed and S.K. Ali
This anthology features 15 published Muslim authors: G. Willow Wilson (“Alif the Unseen” and “Ms. Marvel”), Hena Khan (“Amina’s Voice” and “Under My Hijab”), N. H. Senzai (“Shooting Kabul” and “Escape from Aleppo”), Hanna Alkaf (“The Weight of Our Sky”), Rukhsana Khan (“Big Red Lollipop”), Randa Abdel-Fattah (“Does My Head Look Big in This?”), Ashley Franklin (“Not Quite Snow White”), Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (“Mommy’s Khimar”), Candice Montgomery (“Home and Away” and “By Any Means Necessary”), Huda Al-Marashi (“First Comes Marriage”), Ayesha Mattu (“Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women” and “Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, & Intimacy”), Asmaa Hussein (“Snatched,” “A Place of Refuge,” and others”) and Sara Alfageeh (an illustrator). Each contributor has a short story with its own lesson and involves the characters celebrating Eid. There’s a comic in this, and it’s perfect for ALL ages!
Overall, each book has its own unique charm and wit, shows what it means to be a practicing Muslim and what that involves. All of these books are worth adding to your bookshelves!
Amani Salahudeen, who is pursuing an MA in secondary English education, has a B.A. in journalism and professional writing from The College of New Jersey.
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