Something exciting is happening in June! Nadia of Words Beneath the Wings and Zoya of We Are All Critics have joined together to create the Ramadan Readathon - readathon dedicated to reading books by Muslim authors throughout June, coinciding with Ramadan.
I thought this was such a great idea! It's only very recently that I've found, through Twitter, just how few YA books by Muslim authors there are. A small number have come out recently/will be coming out this year in the US, but not all of those are coming out in the UK. This thread on Twitter from author of MG debut The Gauntlet, Karuna Riazi, shows how few are being published in the US through 2017 - 2018, and the numbers are not anywhere near enough. Thinking back over my own reading, I think I've only read one book by a Muslim author. Just one. And this isn't ok.
During my research for this post on what YA books by Muslim authors I could read that are available in the UK, I came across two posts which made me realise just how important the Ramadan Readathon is. In Ramadan, Books and a Plea: Be the Change You Want to See, YA author of Written in the Stars, Aisha Saeed, talks about what it was like when, while out book shopping with her son, she saw a display of children's books on Ramadan and Islam, but also how few books there were available. In Muslims Represented in YA Fiction, Nuzaifa of Word Contessa talks about the representation of Muslims in the media, specifically books, and how most of the time, the representations are harmful, and why it's so important to see Muslims in literature. Before reading these posts, my thoughts on the Ramadan Readathon were, "This looks like fun! And it will be good to read even more diversely." Now I've read those posts, I realise just how hugely important the Ramadan Readathon is. It's about promoting and highlighting the books by Muslim authors we have, but also about saying there's interest in these books, and we want more.
I'm really looking forward to taking part. I have a few books by Muslim authors on my TBR that I'll be reading (just to note that the Ramadan Readathon is about reading books by Muslim authors, not necessarily featuring Muslim characters; I don't believe all of these books feature Muslim characters, but I hope to read more books that do than books that don't):
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir - Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.
What if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution?
For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice.
For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power.
When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.
But once Laia and Elias meet, they will find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high and this time that price might demand everything, even life itself. From Goodreads.
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed - This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?
Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late. From Goodreads.
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan - In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.
Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self? From Goodreads.
Out of Heart by Irfan Master - Donating your heart is the most precious gift of all.And a few others I hope to read, but don't have at the moment:
Adam is a teenage boy who lives with his mum and younger sister. His dad has left them although lives close by. His sister no longer speaks. His mum works two jobs. Adam feels the weight of the world upon his shoulders.
Then his grandfather dies and in doing so he donates a very precious gift - his heart.
William is the recipient of Adam's grandfather's heart. He has no family and feels rootless and alone. In fact, he feels no particular reason to live. And then he meets Adam's family.
William has received much, but it appears that he has much to offer Adam and his family too.
A powerful tale of love and strength in adversity. From Goodreads.
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi - Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.
The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.
The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.
Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior. From Goodreads.
The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah - Michael is drawn to his new classmate Mina, but they're on opposite sides of an issue that's tearing their town apart. His parents are part of an anti-immigration group, while her family have fled their besieged home in Afghanistan. As tensions rise, lines are drawn and both must decide what they want their world to look like, no matter the cost. From Goodreads.
Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah - When sixteen-year-old Amal decides to wear the hijab full-time, her entire world changes, all because of a piece of cloth...
Sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full-time and everyone has a reaction. Her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else.
Can she handle the taunts of "towel head," the prejudice of her classmates, and still attract the cutest boy in school? Brilliantly funny and poignant, Randa Abdel-Fattah's debut novel will strike a chord in all teenage readers, no matter what their beliefs. From Goodreads.
You're Not Proper by Tariq Mehmood - Karen thinks she's not proper white.
Her dad is Pakistani and her mother is white Christian, and somehow she feels as if she doesn't quite fit in... anywhere. So she's made a choice: she's switching sides.
Karen’s going to convert to Islam to find her true identity.
But Shamshad, her Hijab-wearing school mate, isn’t making things easy for her. What's her deal, anyway? Is Shamshad really any more proper than herself?
Trouble and turmoil await in the old textile mill town of Boardhead East, as school battles are replaced by family troubles, name calling turns to physical confrontation and cataclysmic secrets are unveiled.
Set against a backdrop of seething Islamaphobia, You're Not Proper is the first in the Striker series, written by Tariq Mahmood to shine a light on issues of identity, religion, politics and class affecting young people today – a unique new series in young adult fiction. From Goodreads.
A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master - An extraordinarily rich debut novel, set in India in 1947 at the time of Partition. Although the backdrop is this key event in Indian history, the novel is even more far-reaching, touching on the importance of tolerance, love and family. The main character is Bilal, a boy determined to protect his dying father from the news of Partition - news that he knows will break his father's heart. With great spirit and determination, and with the help of his good friends, Bilal persuades others to collude with him in this deception, even printing false pages of the local newspaper to hide the ravages of unrest from his father. All that Bilal wants is for his father to die in peace. But that means Bilal has a very complicated relationship with the truth... From Goodreads.
I'd urge you to take part too, to help highlight books by Muslim authors. Check out the Twitter account to hear more, and follow the #RamadanReadathon hashtag.
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