Hi everyone, this week’s post is another short-ish booklist for your perusal. This list has a selection of teen reads featuring a selection of Muslim teenagers from several locations of the world who are much smarter and braver than you could imagine. Shall we delve in and find out more about them then?
My first selection, Love, hate and other filters by Samira Ahmed (Hot Key Books; 2018), takes the reader into the young life of Maya Aziz. She dreams about kissing boys and going to film school in New York, but miles away, an unknown danger looms. A terrorist attack in another city unleashes fear and hate in Maya’s small town, changing her life and disrupting her future. This stunning debut novel celebrates the power of personal choice in a world that wants to put labels on us all. Fuelled by the influence of two young men, one American, another Indian like her, Maya plucks up her courage to chase her dream. This intense read was not your usual Indian-teen romance novel. Set in a landscape rife with prejudice and fear, our protagonist forges her own path overcoming all kinds of odds to achieve her dream, some physical and some more closer to her heart. Samira Ahmed had me hooked from the beginning. Her style is exceptional to say the least. Although there is another story behind this, it adds another depth to the larger issues around the whole book. Better for older teens due to the mature content described.
The next one, Yes, No, Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed (Simon & Schuster; 2020) is a heartwarming, hilarious story about the power of love and resistance. Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state candidate – as long as he’s behind the scenes. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes… until he meets Maya. Told in the alternating voices of Jamie and Maya as they go door to door canvassing for their local candidate. These youngsters have to navigate a scorching Georgia summer, manage to survive Jamie’s sister’s bat mitzvah and Ramadan, all the while falling hopelessly in love with each other. What I loved the most was learning of two very distinct cultures in Jamie’s Jeiwish life and Maya’s Muslim upbringing. I felt captivated by the calibre in writing by these bestselling authors in this masterpiece of a collaboration. Again this read is better for older teenage readers as there are mature themes of racial prejudice, homosexuality and cyber bullying discussed here.
This third selection was one I stumbled on by chance. The day of the pelican by Katherine Paterson (Sandpiper; 2009) is one that takes the reader into the not so distant past. The Lleshi family are Albanians who become homeless refugees in Kosovo – a country trying to fight off Serbian oppressors. Meli Lleshi’s seven-member family and the family of her aunt and uncle have their courage and resilience tested at every turn. They are forced to go without food or water; when her uncle’s truck is stolen, they walk the dangerous roads on foot and transport her sickly grandmother in a wheelbarrow; they live in cramped tent cities. Then, unexpectedly, they are brought by a church group to a small Vermont town. The Lleshis have just begun settling into their new community when the events of 9/11 cause unexpected hardships for this Muslim family. But America has become their home, and they will not turn back. This was a powerful read for me! For someone who lived during these years and grew up hearing of the conflict that led to the separating of the former Yugoslavia; this was the first teen book I’d read about what happened in Kosovo. Meli’s voice is tinged with the sadness of leaving her homeland but I was inspired by how she and her family persevered and adapted to every hardship and obstacle in their path. Paterson has created another worthy read in this tale. The Huxhin family who the Lleshi’s are based on are truly survivors. As some scenes are a bit graphic this is another one that is better for older teens.
My last selection, All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney (Farrar Straus Giroux; 2019) was a story that took me by surprise. We meet straight-A student Allie Abraham who seems to have it all – good friends, a close-knit family, and is dating the popular Wells Henderson. The problem: Wells’s father is Jack Henderson, America’s most famous conservative shock jock, and Allie hasn’t told Wells that her family is Muslim. It’s not like Allie’s religion is a secret exactly. It’s just that her parents don’t practice and raised her to keep her heritage to herself. But as Allie witnesses ever-growing Islamophobia in her small town and across the nation, she begins to embrace her faith – studying it, practising it, and facing hatred and misunderstanding for it. All-American Muslim Girl is an own voices, relatable story of being caught between two worlds and the struggles and hard-won joys of finding your place. When I selected this book I had no idea how much it would move me!! From the first chapter we see how Allie’s fiery spirit matches her red hair as she stands up to Islamophobic travellers. Her voice throughout the book gives us an insight into her Jordanian culture, her mixed race parents and what matters to her. I love how at sixteen she decided to learn more about her religion and start practising. Allie may be a fictional character but I suspect there are teens like her out there who grow up in mixed race families who struggle to define themselves. This gorgeous diverse story of family, friendship, love and identity will truly tug at your heartstrings and bring you to tears. An awesome read better suited for older teenagers!
Well, there you have my list of Muslim teen reads. Have you read anything else? I’d love for anyone to share their thoughts on this list and maybe recommend anything else for me.
Stay safe and keep reading
2 thoughts on “Let’s enjoy some Muslim teen reads!”
I highly recommend the YA novel WE CAN’T KEEP MEETING LIKE THIS by Rachel Lynn Solomon!
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Thanks for the recommendation! I actually have a TBR of teen books a mile or two long. Another one won’t hurt!!
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