The Once Upon a Ramadan Book Tag was created by YA Book Corner after they were inspired by the new release of Once Upon an Eid, which is an absolutely beautiful anthology of Eid stories edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed. I was tagged to do this gig by the brilliant blogger and all-around kind human, Neelam from The Tsundoku Chronicles.
Culture: Name a character that identifies with one or more cultures.
Maya Aziz from Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed is an Indian-American teen living in Chicago who struggles between her conservative Indian culture and the ways it clashes with her American cultural identity.
Tradition: Name a book where the character(s) have a tradition.
In The Candle and The Flame by Nafiza Azad there was a character who would receive flowers every year on a very special day from their partner as a way to mark the romance and adoration they shared; it was their heart-warming tradition.
Generosity: Name a character that is generous.
Alizayd from The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty uses his abilities to help the people of a stranger nation after they sheltered him from great strife in the wake of a family tragedy. He helps to rejuvenate the natural surroundings they rely on for survival, protect them from outsiders with ill intentions, and more.
Community: Name a book where community plays an important role.
In Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan, an interdenominational community band together in order to re-build a devastated mosque after a terrible hate crime.
Faith: Name a character who has a strong sense of faith.
Amal from Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdul-Fattah is a teenager who makes the choice to wear the hijab in spite of the ostracization she faces at school and the lack of support she receives from her family. Her faith is something that is very important to her, something she’s proud of and she refuses to compromise her faith, even in trying times.
Gratitude: Name a book that you are thankful for.
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty as it completely revolutionised my already vehement passion for the fantasy genre. It further cemented my strong belief that diverse fantasy narratives are far more compelling and stunningly imaginative than non-diverse fantasies. I shall forever be grateful for it.
Sacrifice: Name a character that makes a sacrifice for another.
The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah has a character that makes a sacrifice to protect the one(s) they love dearly.
Light: Name a book with “light” in the title.
Islam: In Light of History by Rafat Amari
Hope: Name a book or quote about hope.
The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf is a heart-breaking book that tackles so many difficult themes, but it’s also a book about having hope in the face of incredible hopelessness and it really drives home what the power of hope can help a person achieve.
Love: Name a book with an epic love story.
I haven’t really read any #OwnVoices Islamic books with epic love in the traditional sense (there are a lot of Islamic books with romance, I just haven’t made my way through most of them yet), but in an untraditional sense, I would say that the love in Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali is pretty epic with regard to compassion, mutual respect, and so much more.
Forgiveness: Name a character who is the forgiving type.
I struggled with this one a lot and the only one I could think of was The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdul-Fattah, which has elements of forgiveness in it that can be powerful.
Memories: Name a book that holds special memories for you.
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. It was the first #OwnVoices Islamic adult fantasy book that I ever came across and I remember feeling so shocked by it. I grabbed it off the shelf and held it to my heart because it was a dream come true as it was basically my identity coupled with my favourite reading genre.
Belonging: Name a book or character that dealt with the struggle of belonging.
Nahri from The Daevabad Trilogy struggles with belonging throughout the series. First upon arriving in Daevabad and then learning about her family roots, then again in the second novel when she’s placed in a traumatising and challenging position where she has to come to terms with those roots for the survival of herself and her people.
Family: Name a book that features strong family bonds.
The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar is the story about a family of refugee women (three sisters and a mum) on the run for their lives. The trio of sisters have a semi-dysfunctional relationship and they do bicker back and forth, but at the end of the day they would die to protect each other in a heartbeat. Their bond only deepens as they endure the trauma of being refugees.
Joy: Name a book that brough you joy.
Once Upon an Eid edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed. It’s an anthology dedicated to stories about how different families celebrate the holy holiday of Eid. It’s a book I have literally been searching for all my life, and I never expected to see something so beautiful, heart-warming, and validating in existence. Having it here in my hands and being able to read and experience stories that I relate to so intimately is so beyond joyful.