In case you’re new to the Pond’s book recommendation posts, the recommendation posts are brought to you by Varian, the Pond’s very own Toadshifter who is knowledgeable in all kinds of magic! One of Varian’s ambitions is to get better at sewing, hence why whenever Varian has come up with their latest costume, they will always recommend a few books that inspired them!
Ramadan mubarak to all my friends who celebrate! Although the world is a strange and unfamiliar to us at the moment, I hope that all of my Muslim friends can find peace and fulfilment this month.
In celebration of Ramadan, I decided to put together a list of some of my favourite books by Muslim authors! All the books that I recommend on this list are books that I have already read (save for one, which I am partway reading and I’m loving it so far!), so they have my stamp of approval. Reading books by Muslim authors is a fun and awesome way to show solidarity to our Muslim friends during this time. Better yet, why not join in on the #RamadanReadathon that’s going on right now? You can find more information about this readathon on Nadia’s blog, the readathon’s Twitter account, and Instagram account!
Without further ado, here are my top 10 Muslim book recommendations! At the end of this list, I’ve also put together a ‘bonus’ section, where I share some Muslim books releasing in 2020 that I’m looking forward to reading.
All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney
I’m currently reading this at the moment and I am liking it so far! So I’m going to take a leap of faith and I’m going to go ahead and recommend this book nonetheless.
- Follows Allie, a Muslim Circassian-American teen, who navigates what it means to be Muslim.
- This story provides a different perspective of Islam and what it means to practice – specifically, from the perspective of a teen brought up in a non-practising family and how being white-passing offers her privilege.
- I’m looking forward to reading more, but friends have also highlighted that All-American Muslim Girl is ‘heartwarming’ and ‘affirming’.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
If you haven’t read this fantasy quartet, then you’re missing out! The fourth and final book, A Sky Beyond the Storm https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31520883-a-sky-beyond-the-storm releases at the end of the year and am I ready? No.
- Follows Laia, a slave who becomes a spy for rebels and infiltrates the Empire’s military academy in exchange for rescuing her brother, and Elias, a reluctant soldier who longs to escape the academy and whose fate intertwines with Laia’s.
- The first book of this series is good, but the second and third books are such fantastic and thrilling whirlwinds that will make you feel pain, excitement, and dread – in a good way, of course.
- The worldbuilding is inspired by Ancient Rome with West Asian mythology and so so fascinating.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
This book is truly unforgettable and will sear into your memory. If you haven’t read this fabulist masterpiece, please do.
- Follows Nadia and Saeed, who live in an undisclosed city in the Middle-East, and how they travel through a magical door to escape the horrors, violence, and instability of their city.
- Using fabulism (magical doors that transport someone to another place), this story explores refugee experiences, emigration, and the impact of moving has on the self, and their relationships with others and the world.
- This book is so poignant and bittersweet – I’ll probably never forget this book for as long as I live.
Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali
Love from A to Z was effortlessly one of my favourite diverse contemporaries that came out in 2019. This book made my heart feel so full and I hope that you all read this!
- Follows Zayneb, a brown Pakistani-Carribean hijabi, and Adam, a Muslim Chinese-Canadian boy, and their whimsical meeting and blossoming relationship during their visit at Dohar, Qatar.
- This was probably one of my favourite YA contemporaries of 2019 – heartfelt, sensitive, real, and also explores ‘real’ topics such as the impact of anti-Islam rhetoric and living with multiple schlerosis.
- This book is unapologetically and thoroughly Muslim and it is so good. Truly a balm for the soul.
More to the Story by Hena Khan
If you know me, then you will know that one of my favourite middle-grade books is Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan! I always shout about Amina’s Voice, so I thought I’d shout about her new book instead.
- Follows Jameela, a Pakistani Muslim girl who has to deal with some pretty tough stuff in her family while also taking on the big responsibility of being features editor at her school’s newspaper.
- This is a retelling of Little Women! I really loved how Hena gives the classic a fresh twist in More to the Story.
- This book expertly balances heartfelt and gentle with ‘real’ and sensitive through its exploration of illness in the family.
Ms Marvel by G. Willow Wilson
If you’re in the mood for a graphic novel by a Muslim author, may I recommend Ms Marvel?
- Follows Kamala, a Pakistani-American teen who finds herself with superpowers like her role model, Captain Marvel.
- I love the new generation of superheroes with different backgrounds and identities, and Ms Marvel does this perfectly. Not only does she have to grapple with her new powers, but it also explores how she grapples with how people perceive her faith, her identity, and also how she grapples with overprotective parents.
- If you want to have fun, read this comic! It’s so good and the subsequent volumes are fantastic too.
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
This is probably one of my favourite middle-grade novels of all time. More, it’s entirely in verse! Trust me: Other Words for Home is a masterpiece.
- Follows Jude, a Syrian girl who, with her mother, escapes to America when things at home in Syria are growing tense, violent, and uncertain.
- This is a story about many things, but chief among them are about immigrating, regrowing roots, finding yourself, and the gnawing ache of separation.
- I loved how this book conveys complex and life-changing experiences in such simple yet astute ways and how raw and vulnerable emotions are perfectly captured and conveyed in a few lines.
The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi
If you love the idea of a steampunk modern-day Jumanji, then The Gauntlet is here to satisfy your curiosity. And what a delightful middle-grade this is!
- Follows Farah, a Bangladeshi-American hijabi girl who gets sucked into the game of The Gauntlet with her two friends, and tries to finds her little brother who is lost in the game.
- The setting is so unique and I loved it! Not only is it a steampunk retelling of Jumanji, it also has Middle-Eastern influences that will be delightful for both younger and older readers.
- The character arcs were wonderful and so empowering. I loved how this book celebrates that every child has their own strengths.
The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
One of the most hard-hitting and real books I’ve read in and is also a story that is incredibly personal to me and my family history.
- Follows Melati, a Malay teen with OCD plagued by a djinn and visions of her mother’s graphic deaths, who searches for her mother amidst the racial riots between Chinese and Malay people in Malaysia.
- This book is unapologetically Malaysian and I love it! The nuances and nods to Malaysian identity and culture were so wonderful.
- Can be heavy – but in a way that necessitates being read. Explores trauma, prejudice, cultural differences, and also what solidarity might look like in a time when different could mean life or death.
When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Last but absolutely not least, this underrated gem is so important and is, and will be, one of my forever-favourite books.
- Follows Mina, an Afghanistan teen and refugee living in Australia, and Michael, a white Australian teen, and how their worlds collide when they find themselves on opposite ends of the ‘refugee debate’.
- If you love electrifying and politically-charged novels, then you’ll love this. This book delves into the ‘refugee debate’ and explores the impact of prejudice and hate.
- The star of this novel is undoubtedly Mina – a brave, compassionate, strong, and wonderful protagonist who takes no nonsense from anyone.
Muslim Books Releases in 2020!
I love taking any opportunity to shout about books I am excited for, especially when they are stories inclusive of readers who don’t often see themselves in the media, so here are some more books you can add to your to-read lists! These books are books by Muslim authors that are releasing in 2020 – whether they have already released, will be releasing soon, or will release towards the end of the year, I’m so so excited to read them all.
Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed
Once Upon an Eid is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid!
Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift-giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy. The anthology will also include a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations.
Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Khan
Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Zara Hossain, has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas, since her family moved there for her fath
er to work as a pediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family’s dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.
But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara’s house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara’s entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she’s ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.
Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.
A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi
Set against the backdrop of Karachi, Pakistan, Saadia Faruqi’s tender and honest middle grade novel tells the story of two girls navigating a summer of change and family upheaval with kind hearts, big dreams, and all the right questions.
Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.
The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?
Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most.
A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan
Sixth-graders Sara, a Pakistani American, and Elizabeth, a white, Jewish girl meet when they take a South Asian cooking class taught by Sara’s mom.
Sixth-graders Sara and Elizabeth could not be more different. Sara is at a new school that is huge and completely unlike the small Islamic school she used to attend. Elizabeth has her own problems: her British mum has been struggling with depression. The girls meet in an after-school South Asian cooking class, which Elizabeth takes because her mom has stopped cooking, and which Sara, who hates to cook, is forced to attend because her mother is the teacher. The girls form a shaky alliance that gradually deepens, and they make plans to create the most amazing, mouth-watering cross-cultural dish together and win a spot on a local food show. They make good cooking partners … but can they learn to trust each other enough to become true friends?
More Than Just a Pretty Face by Syed M. Masood
Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.
When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man–a school-wide academic championship–it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.
The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf
A Malaysian folk tale comes to life in this emotionally layered, chilling middle grade debut, perfect for fans of The Book of Boy and The Jumbies.
I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.
Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.
But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.
Mad, Bad & Dangerous To Know by Samira Ahmed
Told in alternating narratives that bridge centuries, the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed traces the lives of two young women fighting to write their own stories and escape the pressure of familial burdens and cultural expectations in worlds too long defined by men.
It’s August in Paris and 17-year-old Khayyam Maquet—American, French, Indian, Muslim—is at a crossroads. This holiday with her professor parents should be a dream trip for the budding art historian. But her maybe-ex-boyfriend is probably ghosting her, she might have just blown her chance at getting into her dream college, and now all she really wants is to be back home in Chicago figuring out her messy life instead of brooding in the City of Light.
Two hundred years before Khayyam’s summer of discontent, Leila is struggling to survive and keep her true love hidden from the Pasha who has “gifted” her with favored status in his harem. In the present day—and with the company of a descendant of Alexandre Dumas—Khayyam begins to connect allusions to an enigmatic 19th-century Muslim woman whose path may have intersected with Alexandre Dumas, Eugène Delacroix, and Lord Byron.
I hope today’s book recommendation post has helped you find a new read! Thank you all so much for reading and for joining me in celebrating some truly wonderful Muslim reads.
- Have you read any of these books on my list? What did you think?
- What is a Muslim book that you’re really excited to read?
- Am I missing anything on this list? Let me know in the comments below!