This week’s top five book list is one that I am so unbelievably excited to share with you today! Muslim women are almost always portrayed in the media as being oppressed, fragile, and even unintelligent beings. Well, as someone who was born female (even though I don’t identify that way) in an Islamic household, I can safely call bollucks to that whole ideal. Most of the people that I know in my life, especially those who identify as women, are the fiercest, strongest individuals that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I wanted to celebrate some of these women today, a couple of whom I’m lucky enough to call my friend.
Even with the recent awareness of diversity in literature and the importance of representation for all walks of life, I never expected to see so many books releasing by Muslim authors. Not only to have them release within the same year, but to see so much respect and excitement surrounding these releases. Frankly, it gives me hope and inspiration during a time where it’s very challenging to have some.
Please join me today in adding these following books to your To-Be-Read lists, and quite possibly even pre-ordering them if they sound like something you’d enjoy. In a world full of hatred, spreading support, love, and compassion are the best ways to look towards the future where (hopefully) one day things won’t be so dark and dreary. By supporting and uplifting people who artistically instil brilliant imagination and messages of equality amongst faiths, cultures, identities and genders, whether they are warriors or individuals trying to find love, is a wonderful place to begin!
05. Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi
Tell Me How You Really Feel is a contemporary, LGTBQIA+ novel by an American-Muslim about two girls who are on the complete opposite sides of the social spectrum from one another and that end up working together to make a film in Los Angeles. The only problem is that Rachel hates Sana believing that Sana asking her out a blue moon ago was nothing more than a jackass joke of sorts. The novel releases on June 11th.
04. The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah
The Light at the Bottom of the World is a science-fiction novel by a British-born Muslim of Afghan descent. The story takes place at the end of the 21st century where the world has changed dramatically. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim along the ruins of landmarks such as Big Ben and the Tower of London, while the citizens waver between being frightened of the things that lurk within the abyss and holding on to hope with all they’ve got that humanity will find a way to reclaim their planet once more. Enter 16-year-old Leyla who is trying to prove her father’s innocence of a terrible crime. When she’s chosen to participate in the London Submersible Marathon, Leyla finally gets the chance she has been waiting for secure her father’s freedom, however things go terribly wrong, forcing Leyla to step outside of the bounds of all she’s ever known. The novel released on October 29th.
03. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
We Hunt the Flame is a fantasy novel authored by an American-Muslim that is heavily inspired by Ancient Arabia. The narrative follows a young woman named Zafira who disguises herself as man in order trek into the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people; a woman whose exposure would cause all of her accomplishments to be brutally rejected. Then we have a Prince of Death named Nasir who assassinates everyone that defies his father; a boy that will befall the most brutal death himself if his inner compassion is ever revealed. Both individuals are forced into becoming legends in a realm of danger for the sole purpose of survival. As the world becomes blanketed in darkness with a war brewing of evil at the brink, Zafira and Nasir find themselves on a collision course of deceit and magic. The novel releases on May 14th.
02. Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali
Love from A to Z is the second novel by a South Asian-Canadian Muslim who changed my life with her debut novel Saints & Misfits. It was the first Islamic book that I read, and it represented so much of my identity struggles that it shall forever be near and dear to my heart! Love from A to Z is a contemporary story about a young lady named Zayneb, the only Muslima in her class, who gets suspended for confronting her teacher. Fuming over the events, she kicks off Spring Break early by heading to her aunt’s home in Doha, Qatar. After a short while, she crosses paths with a dude named Adam. Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he’s stopped going to school and instead focuses on making things with hope of keeping his mother’s memory alive for little sister. As Zayneb and Adam navigate the lives they live for others, things begin to unravel in unexpected ways for them, all starting with them meeting. The novel releases on April 30th.
01. The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad
The Candle and the Flame is a fantasy novel authored by a Fijian-Muslim (who is also a very dear friend of mine with the kindest heart ever) and is quite possibly one of the most beautiful and captivating books to have been written. It takes place in the city of Noor, which is a stop along the Silk Road. It’s an enigmatically diverse and thriving city that has brutal scars from when a chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered the entire population save for a woman named Fatima and two other humans. Now the city is ruled by a new maharajah with protection from the Shayateen djinn by the Ifrit and their commander, Zulfikar. When death steals one of the Ifrit, Fatima is changed in ways she doesn’t understand, and finds herself drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, as well as the affairs of Zulkifar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magic-infused battlefield. The novel releases on May 14th.
These novels have already been released and they are also some of my anticipated reads for 2019, so I wanted to give them a proper place on this list today!
The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali is a contemporary LGBTQIA+ novel authored by a Bengali-Muslima. It follows a 17-year-old named Rukhsana Ali who has done everything she can to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but the older she gets, the more difficult it seems a feat to accomplish. She is counting down the days until her carefully caged existence in Seattle is left in the dust after she heads off to college at Caltech where she can finally be herself. But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend, Ariana, all of her dreams get shattered. Being gay is as a good as a death sentence in the Bengali community. Her family immediately takes her to Bangladesh where they try to arrange her marriage and steep her in more conservative traditions. However, when Rukhsana comes across her grandmother’s old diary, she realises that it’s time to stop being afraid of going after what she wants in her life. This released on January 29th.
The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
The Weight of Our Sky is a historical fiction novel authored by a Malaysian-Muslim that focuses quite a bit on mental health themes. Set against the backdrop of the race riots in 1969 Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, we follow a 16-year-old named Melati Ahmad with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) who loves films and The Beatles. Unlike more teens her age, Melati is also under the impression that her body is harbouring a djinn, one that threatens her with nightmares of her mother’s death unless she adheres to elaborate rituals of counting and tapping to satiate him. Nonetheless, there are things that are outside of Melati’s control, such as the intense racial tensions between the Chinese and the Malays, which hits a boiling point on May 13th, causing her mother to get separated by a city engulfed in flames. With a 24-hour curfew in place and all forms of communication in disarray, Melati accepts the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent to overcome the violence that surrounds her, as well the djinn’s voices, and her own prejudices, so that she may rescue the one person who means the world to her. The novel released on February 5th.
I have all of these books pre-ordered—or sitting on my shelf for the ones that have been released—and I cannot wait to dive into them! They all sound fabulous and I feel like there is a story here for just about every sort of reader, or a little something for fans of various genres at the very least. If you get a chance, please do take a moment to add them to your TBRs or library waitlists, if available. 🖤