On Online Book Club Recap
Updated: Jul 1, 2019
Bismillah ar-rahmani ar-rahimi
Welcome to our book club. As usual, we have several books on the roster to dissect and to finish! Grab your drink and enjoy reading our thoughts on the books selected.
The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A.Chakraborty
Here is a series with the perfect mix of great storytelling and writing skills. In Book 1, The City of Brass, Chakraborty allures the reader with intrigue and sharp storytelling skills that pack a punch making it hard for the reader to break off the trance that Ali, Nahri and Dara cast upon them. Alizayd (aka Ali) is awkward, eccentric, self-righteous but lovable. Nahri-the thief who is oblivious to her magical skills is dragged into an adventure like no other, literally thrashing and kicking until something warm and sweet blooms between her and Dara; the djinn warrior who can't seem to get eternal peace with power hungry folks enslaving him again and again.
In Book 2, The Kingdom of Copper, Alizayd makes a stand against his politician family and gets closer to Nahri.
Intrigued yet? You should be! Grab your copies today because hands down, these are five stars books.
Book Club Questions on Dear Martin by Nic Stone with Mrs. Shoohada Khanom
PF: Society being afraid of black males is not new. While reading the book, the blessed Sahaba Ubada bin as-Samit's story with the Coptic leader of Egypt who was afraid of a Black man came to mind. His story and the one of Pharaoh actually come to mind every time I hear of another black tragedy on the streets. Do you think that books like Dear Martin can fix or erase this unfounded fear?
SK: If everyone read books, then maybe. But we both know, that’s not the case, so I’d say books can play a very important role. With stories like these, we are able to learn, emphasis and understand struggles of others. Things we might not have otherwise heard or experienced ourselves. Stories like these, get people talking. For me, that’s the most important thing, talking. PF: Do you think that jealousy at times plays a role in the dramatic and genocide of these teens?
SK: Yes, absolutely. Alongside hate, prejudice, anxiety and privilege. We see some of these in this book. Justyce was racially profiled by the cop who handcuffed him, for wearing a hoodie. The cop that shot Manny, done so out of fear and because he had the power to do so. Jared was prejudice against Justyce. His ignorance later turned into jealousy when Justyce got into Yale. It was great to see Jared challenging his ignorance at the end, by choosing differently.
PF: Did you like this book better than The Hate U Give? Or was it the other way around?
SK: This was a great read, however I loved THUG. In THUG we have Starr, who’s relatable, likeable and realistic. I found it easy to slip into Starr’s shoes. The book itself is double the size of Dear Martin. I had more time to spend with the characters and watch the themes tie up. It didn’t feel rushed, which left me satisfied. I mean, it was on the best sellers list for over 100 weeks, that says it all I think.
PF: Thank you Shoohada.
A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena
Don't judge a book by its cover applies to this book! The protagonist is not Muslim but she lived in the Middle East with her uncle and abusive aunt when her life takes a turn for the tragic with a guy who has puppy dog eyes for her; Porus. I had never heard of a Zoroastrian before reading this book, so I learned something new. It's a difficult read that exposes the hypocrisy of many people when it comes to any religion. Additionally, it depicts how malicious rumors can emotionally impact a person and drive them to their death. Bhatena's writing is praise-able. Therefore, it's 4/5.
Book Club Questions on An American Marriage by Tayari Jones with Khadijah AbdulHaqq
PF: What did you like best about this book?
KAH: I love the story of redemption and reinvention. The protagonist was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit but this was a door way to developing who he really was. I like that because it is very relatable.
PF: How original and unique was this book?
KAH: We normally read about wives who stick it out in support of their husbands but here the wife was not willing to give up here life to wait for her husband. Although I did not agree with her sleeping with his friend, I understood being in love and wanting to be with the one you love.
PF: What new things did you learn?
KAH: I come from a place where people stay together even in pure misery. Here, she not only didn’t want to be miserable but her family understood that about her and accepted her freedoms. In my culture, people would have tormented her ruthlessly.
PF: What did you like least about this book?
KAH: Sometimes, there was too much meandering between characters taking too much time to get to the point. Sometimes, there was too much back story. But overall, I loved this book. I finished it in one setting.
PF: Khadijah, skukran!
Yes, I'm Hot in This by Huda Fahmy
This is an hilarious illustrated account of what life looks like for a Muslim woman or girl who dons the hijab. Fahmy also makes fun of men in general. Seriously, these guys can never find anything! I think it's genetic, haha! My son can't find anything too... when all this time, my nemesis is staring right back at him. Smdh! Rating : 4/5 .
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
This story revolves around a steadfast Shia Muslim family. In this tale, we revisit the jealousy of siblings like in the story of Prophet Yusuf (aleihi salam) and his brothers. Mirza makes many connections between her plots and Abrahamic religious stories in a very non-preachy way. The story starts with at a Sushi (Sunni-Shia) wedding and the tale, of a once united family now divided, unfolds before our eyes. The reader is compelled to piece the story together to make her own conclusions. In all, Mirza is a creative writer and this is a 4.5/5 rating for us.
Mirage by Somaiya Daud
I really liked the writing; it's poetic. That said, I didn't fancy the creation of a religion, a Messenger, and the slowwwwwwww pace of the story for such a dystopian book. I was expecting an adventure book but it was a romance set in a dystopian world. In addition, I found the book as a whole, very risky because of my tawhid foundation. This is subjective by the way. It doesn't bother other Muslim readers like it does me; so my opinions are to be taken with a grain of salt. 3.5/5
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla
Finally, an American immigrant book I can relate to. From cultural, race, religious and intellectual discrimination, to jealousy and resentment from people who look or don't look like you, emotional abuse, etc. it's all there for the Immigrant in America to relate to. Rating: 4/5 .
Here With You by Umm Afraz Muhammad
A unique family drama triangle involving a mother-in-law, a son and husband and a wife and daughter-in-law. This Muslim fiction tale is smooth, soul searching and very relatable. I definitely recommend this book to halal romance lovers and readers of Muslim women’s contemporary fiction. Bravo!
An Ember in the Ashes Series by Sabaa Tahir
The plot is believable, and the storytelling is detailed and good. I just didn't like the POV used to pen the story. The chapters were labeled, but I found myself thinking that it was Keris talking when it should be Helene. Or Laia speaking when it was Elias. The first POV didn't help differentiate who was speaking because of the similarity in their (first POV) voices. Laia and Elias didn't grow on me. They annoyed me at times. I liked the character of Helene and how Tahir flipped the script with the character of Cook. While a few times things seemed too easy, everything that should go wrong goes wrong, and that's awesome. My overall rating is 3.3 (Book 1 = 3, Book 2 = 3 , and Book 3 = 4 ).
Unlikely Friends by Sahar Abdulaziz
Wow...Wow...Wow! I simply loved it. Irwin is a weird Librarian who has put a facade on because his heart has been broken. Now, he protects it with all his might. I REALLY loved Irwin and the rest of the characters. They are truly relate-able folks. One character that you won't forget is Darren. I laughed, I cried and I somewhat healed in the process alhamdullilah. Abdulaziz's works while highlighting important social ills also show the humanity in the human race. Unlikely Friends will make you want to eat some Baked Ziti, trust me. Finally, any story that greatly moves me gets a 5 stars. And this one does.
The Map of Salt by Zeyn Joukhadar
I really liked many passages in this book because I found them inspirational; especially the ones about one's voice, soul and path. On the other hand, I didn't like the use of several tenses to weave this story. Different tenses in the same book should be used sparingly to not mess with the pace and tone of the story. In this book, several tenses appear and that dulled the story a bit. Some action scenes also seemed a bit too easy but it's a good read overall. Rating: 3/5 .
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
For a bookstore owner like myself, I had to read it. And the book didn't disappoints except for a few mentions of the unseen spirited elements I consider false gods. Anyway, the book made me wonder if I simply loved to iqra or if I was clutching books as security blankets and/or if the fact that I easily get bored with things have a deeper meaning. That's a question I answered during my precious moments of silence, alhamdullilah. Also weaved with some steamy romance, I enjoyed not putting it down *wink*. Rating: 4/5 .
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Mafi's writing is "effing perfect" in this YA book like Shirin, the protagonist would put it when it came to her description of her English. This earns Shirin detention from her micro-aggressive teacher. This is a book that many non-Black Muslims can relate to after the incidents of 9/11. I say this because Black Muslims have been in the USA long before that and faced other profiling issues. A Very Large Expanse of Sea also delves in the tricky challenge that dating causes Young Muslims. Finally, we have feminism and other topics relevant to the rising age of Islamophobia. Rating: 4/5.
Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
I found this book very funny. That said, I also found it very secular Muslimish and blaspheming at times. I'm not sure if I need to be laughing at things many Muslims won't tolerate or find funny. My sense of humor is a bit peculiar...so bear with me. Anyway, this is a retelling of Pride & Prejudice... in Pakistan. The author is creative but not too original. How she finds names for the original characters in Urdu is laudable. "Georgeullah is no mullah," said Mari. That made me lough out loud! Rating: 3/5.
Pride by Ibi Zoboi
That's another retelling of Pride & Prejudice... in Brooklyn! Zoboi is a great poet and writer. The quote that made me roll on the floor is, "Love is abstract. Money is not." True... Anyway, the metaphysical part of the book wasn't my cup of tea because I'm Muslim but I won't be criticizing that. It's not my book. Writers are free to include what they want in their books; especially what portrays their voice and diversity. Rating: 4/5
Children of Blood and Bones by Tomi Adeyemi
I really wanted to like this book but I was extremely disappointed. The cover is a beautiful work of art. However, I found that the POV used made the story flat and boring for an adventure genre. Again here, the African fetishes mentioned were a turn off because when you read a book you absorb things from that book. So, I had to be careful how I read this book so that I didn't leave with my fitra chipped at. Rating: 2/5.
Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai
A few things corrupted the book for me even though I found it well-written and captivating. The main one was the mention of the supposed god of storm. If a non-Muslim character would have believed in such a thing, I would have found it ok because we're not supposed to make fun of other people false gods. However, Nadia, a Muslim character who should have some tawhid sense even if she is not a practicing one entertaining the idea of such a thing put me off. Well-written otherwise with a brave protagonist. Rating: 4/5.
She Would be King by Wayetu Moore
"She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them.
Moore’s intermingling of history and magical realism finds voice not just in these three characters but also in the fleeting spirit of the wind, who embodies an ancient wisdom. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.” In this vibrant story of the African diaspora, Moore, a talented storyteller and a daring writer, illuminates with radiant and exacting prose the tumultuous roots of a country inextricably bound to the United States."
Review: The story is told by an elemental. While I found some parts of the story confusing, I enjoyed the similarities between the tribes of Liberia and some of the tribes of my birth country; Ivory Coast. Rating: 3/5.
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
Born A Crime by South African comedian Trevor Noah is a memoir of 282 pages. It deals with many things; light skin African privileges, unemployment, racism, domestic violence and many more social ills. Noah’s voice is humorous and witty. His mom is very inspirational. She taught him how to be a man and raised her son to reach beyond the stars. The world needs more mothers who don’t put any limits on their children. The world needs more parents who teach their children to think critically and to always strive to the best version of themselves. There were many quotes I liked from the book. The favorite passage said this: “…the traditional man wants a woman to be subservient, but he never falls in love with subservient women. He’s attracted to independent women. ‘He’s like an exotic bird collector,’ she said. “He only wants a woman who is free because his dream is to put her in a cage.” Rating: 5/5.
Krick? Krack! by Edwidge Dandicat
Almost thirty years after the novel was released, Krik? Krack! by Haitan-American author Edwidge Dandicat is still relevant. One stark resemblance and observation among Black people around the world—displaced or not—is that they all share tidbits of the same culture. And this novel attest to that. Krik? Krack! by Edwige Dandicat is a collection of short stories about Haitians in Haiti and in America. The book starts off oddly but by the end of the book, we make the connection between all the short stories; colonialism, slavery, women with broken spirits, mothers wanting sons-in-law with cultural manners, the unseen, African folklore, sacrifices made, lives lost and much more.
Another trend I picked up with African literature is that it is more cryptic. Some African writers’ works don’t translate well in English on purpose. They do it to keep the original dialect in transliteration to keep their native tongue alive someway, somehow. It’s only when the reader realizes it that it can truly enjoy African literature. Favorite quote : “… things you say, thoughts you have, will decide how people treat you.” Rating: 4/5.
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
This book is a family tragedy similar to a Cain and Abel-esque story. It illustrates the perils the young generation faces when they discard the warnings of their elders; especially when these warnings deal with the unseen world and spirits that crawl all over the place but we can't explain. Written like a tragic Greek masterpiece, The Fishermen paints West Africa accurately with the culture, smell, food, etc. Rating: 4/5.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Every Black person should read this book. If you aren't Black and you don't want to subject Black people to the burden of blacksplaining, pick this book too. Many tensions among Black people are reflected here. Colonialism, Imperialism and White Supremacy are also touched upon. To understand the impact slavery had on Africa and around the world, pick this book to open your eyes. It spans over 300 years. Rating: 5/5.
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Forced marriages are a reality in many Muslim communities. I know it for a fact it happens in West Africa. Reading about it in another culture made me realize that (again) patriarchal societies have inked cultural values and their own agenda in the religion. Naila, the protagonist, sees her life thrown upside down as a result of such a practice. Thankfully, the book doesn't end dramatically or tragically. Rating: 4/5.
Ayesha Dean and the Seville Secret by Melati Lum
Book 2 in this sleuthing series is a fast and easy read. Ayesha, Jessica and Sarah are back with a new friend; Kareem. From devouring delicious Spanish food, uncovering sad and loving family histories and ancestries, evading and exposing dangerous treasure seekers to making appropriate and exciting friendships, this is the book you want your teenager to read in an overly materialistic society. It's very Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys style with a non-Preachy Islamic dose. Lum spins great YA and MG mainstream books rooted in Islamic History. Rating: 4.5/5
The Tower by Shereen Malherbe
In The Tower, Malherbe explores fictionalized real events and realities such as the Grenfell tower incident, the remnants of the war in the Middle East and women's mental health like she did in her first novel Jasmine Falling . We can definitely say that Malherbe's great narrative skills of the setting bring us to the scene, making The Tower a moving tale. The book shows that when stricken with deep love rejection, tremendous loss of family members, etc. human nature shows its resiliency by making an effort to survive the darkness. Rating: 4/5
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
I really liked this book. Amal is outspoken and brave for sure. I loved her voice and the way the story was written to raise awareness about education for women and abuse of power. That said, the trend I continue to see in many books published by mainstream publishers often written by Muslim authors is the lack of mention of any of these characters observing the faith throughout the day. At least mention it in passing or briefly so that the reader knows. Now, what made me cringe is the fact that in this book and like in "Written in the Stars," there is also another servant named Bilal. Perhaps the author likes this name and thought to draw a link between a blessed sahaba and another servant under the thumb of a mean-spirited master but it was lost on me. This is an instance where cultural sensitivity editors would have come handy to warn the author of the choice of name which might not be taken so lightly by people with a troubled history of slavery not just servantship. Maybe it's just me. Rating: 4/5.
Rebels by Accident by Patricia Dunn
This book was well written, and I loved many quotes in Rebels by Accident; especially the ones that dealt with how peculiar people have their own beauty standard. On the other hand, I also found the book very secular on many levels. The Historical Egyptian Muslim Feminist mentioned in the book who throws her hijab in the sea like a bra burner (myth or not) because she felt diminished is nothing to be proud of in my opinion. Hijab empowers me. If you don't wear it because you aren't ready or because of fitna, I can understand that. We have all been there. But if it's your ego that's at play, I'm sorry I can't help by show my disapproval. Rating: 4/5.
Current Reads :
The Sign of the Scorpion (Archipelago Series Book 2) by Farah Zaman
A desert castle. An evil presence. A thirst for vengeance.
Four teenagers are about to have a vacation they’ll never forget. When Layla, her brother Adam, and their friends Zaid and Zahra, arrive at Dukhan Castle, they anticipate an exciting time exploring the mysteries of nature. They soon find themselves delving into mysteries of a different nature. A cloaked figure, spooky midnight screams, incense being burned in the eerie lookout tower, and startling secrets are just a few. The clues can only lead to one conclusion. Something sinister is simmering beneath the surface and it’s just a matter of time before it breaks loose. A chance encounter with a gypsy woman begins a guessing game of intrigue, pitting the teenagers against a shadowy foe known as Al-Aqrab, the Scorpion. As danger draws closer to the castle, they must race against time to unmask the Scorpion and foil a demonic scheme of revenge.
The Sign of the Scorpion is the thrilling second book in The Moon of Masarrah Series.
Musa And The Blade (Miraath Al-Kabeer Book 1) by Q. 'Abdullah Muhammad
In the village of Al-'Aqrab, there lived a young orphan by the name of Musa ibn Rudainah. Shunned for what he inherited of his mother's legacy, he was ever the target of his people's scorn and contempt. Even so, his aging grandfather, Talha, knew that Musa was the rightful heir to the legendary Ladghatul-'Aqrab; a sword whose fame and glory were known throughout all the lands. With countless foes plotting to get their hands on it, Talha, the current keeper of the blade, must prepare his grandson for what awaits him of impending perils and predicaments. Join Musa as he delves into a world of excitement and adventure, of swords and savagery; finding his place as the inheritor of the blade and forging a legacy of his own.
Women under Scrutiny compiled by Randy Susan Meyers
Women Under Scrutiny is an honest, intimate examination of the relationships we have with our bodies, hair, and faces, how we’ve been treated by the world based on our appearance—and how we have treated others. The women who created the serious, humorous, and courageous work in this anthology—women ages seventeen to seventy-six—represent an array of cultures and religions from across the United States. They are an extraordinary group of women who all share one thing: the ability to tell the truth.
The Belles (Book 1 & Book 2) by Dhonielle Clayton
The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna AlKaf
The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Allah is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma
The Ducktrinors (Book 1 & Book 2) by Papatia Feauxzar
L'Enfant Noir (Re-reading) by Camara Laye
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Have you read some of these books?
1. What did you like most?
2. What gave you pause?
3. What didn't you like?
4. What are your other thoughts?
We look forward to hearing from you.
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Until next time, subhanaka Allahumma wa-bihamdika ash-hadu anla ilaha illa anta as-taghfiruka wa atoobu ilayka. Aaamen.
Papatia-the Barista @ The Fofky's Book Club