Jun 25, 2017

Recs for Ramadan || A rec list of books with Muslim MCs and rep

Hi bookworms!

First of all, Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim friends! I've been wanting to do this post the whole of Ramadan, but only ended up posting on Eid. Well, better late than never! :D

Today I bring to you a recommendation list of books with Muslim MCs and representation courtesy of Ramadan. Addition to my own list, I've also invited some ownvoices and authors to present their recs for their favourites, so let's get going!

I am trying to keep my list mostly YA and MG,but I have linked up some references for adult titles!

Backlist YA with Muslim MCs

Naila is a Pakistani American teen whose forbidden romance is threatened when her parents take her on a vacation to Pakistan which was supposed to explore her roots, only to end up with a possibility of an unwanted arranged marriage. Ownvoices author.

A cute romance between two Muslim teens, set in London. Ali is coming to terms with his identity as a Muslim when he meets Amirah, a hijab wearing Muslim teen who has sworn never to marry. 
Ownvoices author.

In a story set in Iran, Sahar the MC, is a lesbian and is in love with her best friend. In such a controversial cultural backdrop, being homosexual isn't easy, and Sahar's story explores the struggles and nuances of the experience. Ownvoices author.

Set in present-day Afghanistan, this is the story of two teenagers, one Pashtun and one Hazara, who must fight against their culture, their tradition, their families, and the Taliban to stay together. 

That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

Featuring complex, Muslim-American characters who defy conventional stereotypes and set against a backdrop of Radiohead’s music and the evocative metaphors of Urdu poetry, That Thing We Call a Heart is a honest, moving story of a young woman's explorations of first love, sexuality, desire, self-worth, her relationship with her parents, the value of friendship, and what it means to be true.

God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems by Ishara Deen

Asiya Haque, a Bengali Canadian teen takes on the role of Nancy Drew in this enlightening, engaging and hilarious coming of age murder mystery.

Ayesha Dean The Istanbul Intrigue by Melati Lum

A relaxing trip from Australia to Istanbul turns complicating when Ayesha and her best friends find a mysterious letter which calls their detective skills to test.

Shooting Kabul by N.H.Senzai

Fadi goes on a journey to find the sister who got left behind in Afghanistan when his family illegally immigrated to US.
Ownvoices. Partially based on the author's husband's own experiences

Secrets under the Olive Tree by Nevien Shaabneh

Secrets Under the Olive Tree is a haunting, mesmerizing novel that touches on the depths of the human spirit and unbreakable bonds that transcend tragedy. It is a story about the power of hope, second chances, and faith in the midst of tribulation. 

Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Jamie just wants to fit in. She doesn't want to be seen as a stereotypical Muslim girl, so she does everything possible to hide that part of herself. Even if it means pushing her friends away because she's afraid to let them know her dad forbids her from hanging out with boys or that she secretly loves to play the darabuka (Arabic drums)

Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

In a middle-class neighborhood of Iran's sprawling capital city, 17-year-old Pasha Shahed spends the summer of 1973 on his rooftop with his best friend Ahmed, joking around one minute and asking burning questions about life the next. He also hides a secret love for his beautiful neighbor Zari, who has been betrothed since birth to another man. But the bliss of Pasha and Zari's stolen time together is shattered when Pasha unwittingly acts as a beacon for the Shah's secret police. The violent consequences awaken him to the reality of living under a powerful despot, and lead Zari to make a shocking choice...

A Love That Disturbs by Medeia Sharif

Maysa Mazari is alarmed by her mother’s talk about arranged marriage. As a hijab-wearing Pakistani-American, she wants to find love on her own. Her judgmental Muslim clique has protected her from racist taunts, although the leader is turning on her as Maysa strays from the group because of her attraction to Haydee, a girl who's attempting to pull away from a life of prostitution.

Muslim Girl by Umm Zakiyyah

Faith turns to shame, confidence to doubt, and conviction to rebellion. Inaya was only nine when her mother converted to Islam and moved the family to Saudi Arabia. Now, at sixteen years old, Inaya returns to America and decides to remove her Muslim clothes and hide her religion at school. ...And she hopes to get the attention of a boy she likes. But she has no idea how to hide this double life from her mother, and from everyone who admires her strong faith.

When Wings Expand by Mehded Maryam Sinclair

Writing on the pages of her journal, Nur, a teenage girl in Canada, charts the onset and advance of her mother's cancer. Nur watches her mother's body begin to shrink and her mood begin to darken. And when family and friends begin to encroach, Nur must face the prospect of her mother's looming death. Nur bears the crushing loss and finds her adolescent life more demanding and complex. But with the legacy of her mother's love, her family's support, and the guidance of her faith, she manages to overcome the searing pain and use her newfound strength to bring joy to the lives of others, showing them that after death wings can expand

A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar

Nidali, the rebellious daughter of an Egyptian-Greek mother and a Palestinian father, narrates the story of her childhood in Kuwait, her teenage years in Egypt (to where she and her family fled the 1990 Iraqi invasion), and her family's last flight to Texas. Nidali mixes humor with a sharp, loving portrait of an eccentric middle-class family, and this perspective keeps her buoyant through the hardships she encounters

I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister by Amelie Sarn

Sohane loves no one more than her beautiful, carefree younger sister, Djelila. And she hates no one as much. They used to share everything. But now, Djelila is spending more time with her friends, partying, and hanging out with boys, while Sohane is becoming more religious. A poignant story about two Muslim sisters is about love, loss, religion, forgiveness, women’s rights, and freedom.

And I Darken by Kiersten White

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Fire Boy by Sami Shah

The first of a two-part urban fantasy set in modern-day Pakistan, where djinns roam the street alongside corrupt cops, hustling beggars, and creatures from the darkest corners of Islamic mythology.

MG novels

Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game named The Gauntlet. Steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this sweet and moving middle grade novel

A map, two train tickets, and a mission. These are things twelve-year-old Maya and her big sister Zara have when they set off on their own from Delhi to their grandmother’s childhood home of Aminpur, a small town in Northern India. Maya’s grand adventure through India is as thrilling as it is warm: a journey through her family’s history becomes a real coming-of-age quest.

Aliya already struggles with trying to fit in, feeling confident enough to talk to the cute boy or stand up to mean kids — the fact that shes Muslim is just another thing to deal with. When Marwa, a Moroccan girl who shares her faith if not her culture, comes to Aliya's school, Aliya wonders even more about who she is, what she believes, and where she fits in. Should she fast for Ramadan? Should she wear the hijab? Shes old enough for both, but does she really want to call attention to herself?

Upcoming titles

(January 2018)

An Indian American Muslim teen deals with her shared identities and the islamaphobia she faces in the wake of a suicide bomber attack.
Ownvoices author

( November 2017)

Step into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty—an imaginative alchemy of The Golem and the Jinni, The Grace of Kings, and One Thousand and One Nights, in which the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom rests in the hands of a clever and defiant young con artist with miraculous healing gifts
Ownvoices author

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena
( February 2018)

When Zarin ends up dead in a car crash in Saudi Arabia, everything everyone thought they knew about her is questioned. 
This debut novel tackles complicated issues of race, identity, class, and religion, and paints a portrait of teenage ambition, angst, and alienation that feels both inventive and universal.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud
( July 2018)

A YA fantasy/SF trilogy inspired by the author's Moroccan background, in which a poor girl from an isolated moon must become the body double to the cruel imperial princess, and learns that life in the royal palace is far more dangerous and complicated than she imagined

Not the Girls You're Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi
(Spring 2018)

A coming-of-age novel, set in Houston, that follows Lulu Saad as she navigates the unpredictable waters of love, friendship, and Ramadan. 

This Promise I Will Keep by Aisha Saeed
( 2017/18)

A Pakistani teenager enters indentured servitude to pay her family's debts, and must choose between pursuing an education and freedom or the chance to save her village from a dangerous threat.

Let's hear from the experts...

Recs from S.A.Chakraborty ( author of City of Brass ) 

"As a SFF fan, I adore Alif the Unseen, but as a Muslim convert, The Butterfly Mosque has a special place in my heart. I read it at a time when my faith was a little shaky and it just made me feel so normal."

The extraordinary story of an all-American girl’s conversion to Islam and her ensuing romance with a young Egyptian man, The Butterfly Mosque is a stunning articulation of a Westerner embracing the Muslim world.

The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami

"The best historical fiction I've ever read, tracing the fate of one of the tens of thousands of Muslims enslaved and taken to the Americas."

In this stunning work of historical fiction, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America—a Moroccan slave whose testimony was left out of the official record.

Arabian Nights and Days by Naguib Mahfouz.

"Literally my favorite book. An utterly delightful "sequel" to the 1001 Nights as witty and occasionally cruel to its unfortunate characters as the original."

A renowned Nobel Prize-winning novelist refashions the classic tales of Scheherazade in his own imaginative, spellbinding style. 

Ruzaika from Regal Critiques says

Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali "An book about realistically portrayed Muslims- no stereotypes involved? I'm positively drooling at the prospect! Saints and Misfits is touted to be a journey of self-discovery, a YA contemporary about a girl who is faced with the daunting reality of having to confront a monster masquerading as a saint (read hypocritical rapist). What happens when it's a tightknit Muslim community and the monster is celebrated as a pious person...? Well, hijabis, niqabis and wallah bros, I can't wait to find out!"

Aneeqah from My Not So Real Life also picks

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim
Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
Saints and Misfits by S.K.Ali

Asiya from Literary Head says

"When I read this book at the age of 12, I could definitely relate to how self-conscious the MC felt. Whenever I used to put on the hijab, I felt extremely conscious of my head shape. As a young muslim, this book helped me get over that feeling. Besides the hijab, the book resonated with me because it explores how faith and growing up can sometimes collide. While twenty-year old me won't appreciate the book because of the language and simple plot, this book was helpful to me as a pre-teen."

I love how the book tackles familiar concepts from islamic traditions to arranged marriage at a young age. The lineage of the characters traces back to the India-Pak subcontinent and that's a bonus for me since my ancestry is similar. From the start of the book, we see the importance of skin colour and getting married into a certain type of family. The narration in the book highlighted the community's idiosyncracies and cracked me up while portraying an accurate picture of a typical islamic community. I recognise The Story of Maha as my own voices book for these reasons.

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