The best books about Muslims

4 authors have picked their favorite books about Muslims and why they recommend each book.

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“Muslim”

By Zahia Rahmani, Matt Reeck (translator),

Book cover of “Muslim”

Translated from French, this beautiful 101-page narrative reads like a poetic meditation. Our character once lived a deeply rural life in North Africa, a cultural and linguistic outsider. Now, as a refugee plunged into a new world of identities, she has been informed that she is Muslim. But what does it mean, this word, across languages and cultures? Deep questions about the interlacing of culture, religion, and geopolitics are posed here with startling urgency in a style that evokes not only the machinations of the state, but the deeply interior world in which we define ourselves to ourselves.


Who am I?

My writing career has been in middle grade and YA, but as a reader I’m always trying to branch out. When I was a kid, literature opened the door to the whole world, and as an adult, I’m still exploring. When I read work in translation I can feel the literary connection to other writers and thinkers and simultaneously appreciate the differences that arise through geographic and cultural heritage. I hope my selections here might help readers like myself who enjoy reaching out to new voices and places.


I wrote...

The Wikkeling

By Steven Arntson,

Book cover of The Wikkeling

What is my book about?

In the futuristic city of The Addition, children are raised safely and efficiently. Their diets are standardized. Their schoolwork is synchronized. Even their sleep is quantized and analyzed. Yes, it’s all figured out . . . but the results aren’t quite as advertised. At least, not for Henrietta Gad-Fly, who lives in a rundown old house, gets bad headaches, and is on the verge of being expelled from school for poor grades. Henrietta is fortunate in one regard, though—she’s got really great friends in her schoolmates Gary and Rose. Friendship can help a person even in the weirdest situations. For instance, let’s say you find a hidden attic above your bedroom in which a mortally wounded magical cat has taken refuge . . .

More to the Story

By Hena Khan,

Book cover of More to the Story

More to the Story by Hena Khan is a retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, Little Women. This version features four Muslim Pakistani-American sisters who live in Georgia. Their experiences and personalities both mirror and bring new light to the characters that I read and appreciated as a child. The novel delves into the personal challenges and joint effort of being a family in ways that are authentic and familiar. The details of setting and culture make the characters and story truly stand on their own. The importance of empathy, individuality, and support are all things that I loved about this book.


Who am I?

I grew up reading all kinds of stories, but I was also a big fan of playing outdoors. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was always a favorite of mine, but as an adult, I realized something…the one main female character who was my age, Becky Thatcher, didn’t seem to like adventure at all! I loved the idea of Becky being as much of a mischief-maker as the boys – and that became my first novel, The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher. I love retellings of classics and how they respect the original story, but are also able to imagine a new path! I hope all readers have adventures, inside and outside of books!


I wrote...

The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher

By Jessica Lawson, Iacopo Bruno (illustrator),

Book cover of The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher

What is my book about?

Tom Sawyer’s and Huckleberry Finn’s adventures are legendary, but what about the story you haven’t heard? In 1860, eleven-year-old Becky Thatcher spends much of her time on her own, getting into mischief. Before long, she joins the boys at school in a bet to steal from the Widow Douglas, and Becky convinces her new best friend, Amy Lawrence, to join her.

But the theft doesn’t go as planned, and Widow Douglas ends up being unfairly accused of grave robbing as a result. So Becky concocts a plan to clear the Widow’s name and find a hidden cave treasure to boot! In this retelling of Mark Twain’s classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Becky might just get away with it all…that is, if that tattletale Tom will quit following her around.

How To Be Right

By James O’Brien,

Book cover of How To Be Right: In a World Gone Wrong

A revealing dive into the minds of those who phone into radio progammes from this LBC presenter, with directly quoted dialogue from the calls. Is the average person who rings in particularly ill-informed and unable to absorb facts and apply logic, or it that a condition that applies to all of us? The book is funny, depressing, and worrying, but always revealing about the state of mind of the British public


Who am I?

We all need to understand more about how the world ticks, who is in control, and why they act as they do. And we need to salute those of courage who refuse to go along with the flow in a craven or unthinking way. I was an MP for 18 years and a government minister at the Department for Transport with a portfolio that included rail, bus, active travel, and then at the Home Office as Crime Prevention minister. After leaving Parliament, I became managing director of The Big Lemon, an environmentally friendly bus and coach company in Brighton. I now act as an advisor to the Campaign for Better Transport, am a regular columnist and broadcaster, and undertake consultancy and lecturing work.


I wrote...

...And What Do You Do?: What the Royal Family Don't Want You to Know

By Norman Baker,

Book cover of ...And What Do You Do?: What the Royal Family Don't Want You to Know

What is my book about?

The royal family is the original Coronation Street – a long-running soap opera with the occasional real coronation thrown in. Its members have become celebrities, like upmarket versions of film stars and footballers. But they have also become a byword for arrogance, entitlement, hypocrisy, and indifference to the gigantic amount of public money wasted by them.

In this book, former government minister Norman Baker argues that the British public deserves better than this puerile diet. … And What Do You Do? is a hard-hitting analysis of the royal family, exposing its extravagant use of public money and the highly dubious behaviour of some among its ranks, whilst being critical of the knee-jerk sycophancy shown by the press and politicians. Baker also considers the wider role the royals play in society, including the link with House of Lords reform, and the constitutional position of the monarch, which is important given Prince Charles’s present and intended approach.

Mommy's Khimar

By Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Ebony Glenn (illustrator),

Book cover of Mommy's Khimar

My Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Ebony Glenn was one of the first picture books by a traditionally published author I read and I was hooked! I love the relationship between the mom and child, but also the grandma, who is not Muslim, but so loved by mom and child. It’s a tender and fun story for kids to enjoy!


Who am I?

I am a freelance journalist and have written on many topics related to Arabs, Muslims and immigrants. I also teach an intercultural communication class at the University of Toledo and have taught Arab culture in the past. I have a master’s degree in Education with a focus on teaching English as a second language.


I wrote...

The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story

By Aya Khalil, Anait Semirdzhyan (illustrator),

Book cover of The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story

What is my book about?

Kanzi's family has moved from Egypt to America, and on her first day in a new school, what she wants more than anything is to fit in. Maybe that's why she forgets to take the kofta sandwich her mother has made for her lunch, but that backfires when Mama shows up at school with the sandwich. Mama wears a hijab and calls her daughter Habibti (dear one). When she leaves, the teasing starts. That night, Kanzi wraps herself in the beautiful Arabic quilt her teita (grandma) in Cairo gave her and writes a poem in Arabic about the quilt. The next day her teacher sees the poem and gets the entire class excited about creating a "quilt" (a paper collage) of student names in Arabic. In the end, Kanzi's most treasured reminder of her old home provides a pathway for acceptance in her new one.

Unsettled

By Reem Faruqi,

Book cover of Unsettled

Unsettled by Reem Faruqi, loosely based on the author’s own story, chronicles the experience of Nurah, a thirteen-year-old girl who moves from Pakistan to Georgia. She experiences racism and prejudice in a variety of forms, she makes new friends, discovers new passions, undergoes loss, and learns to adjust to a vastly different place. Many verse novels tell stories of immigration, but this one stands for its consistent lyricism and its honest, moving portrayal of a coming-of-age experience that is at once specific and universal. 


Who am I?

I have written three verse novels; two YA, Skyscraping and The Way the Light Bends, and one half-verse, half-prose MG Every Shiny Thing (co-authored with Laurie Morrison.) I teach verse novel specific classes for The Highlights Foundation and The Writing Barn, on topics like plotting verse novels, creating an image system in verse novels, revising verse novels. I also edit verse novel manuscripts, working with one private student per month. Along with this, I’ve taught a Writing for Children class at Bryn Mawr College. Presently, I teach kids and teens through the Kelly Yang Project and run a local, kids’ literary journal here in Philadelphia called the Mt. Airy Musers. 


I wrote...

Every Shiny Thing

By Cordelia Jensen, Laurie Morrison,

Book cover of Every Shiny Thing

What is my book about?

In this beautifully constructed middle-grade novel, told half in prose and half in verse, Lauren prides herself on being a good sister, and Sierra is used to taking care of her mom. When Lauren’s parents send her brother to a therapeutic boarding school for teens on the autism spectrum and Sierra moves to a foster home in Lauren’s wealthy neighborhood, both girls are lost until they find a deep bond with each other. But when Lauren recruits Sierra to help with a Robin Hood scheme to raise money for autistic kids who don’t have her family’s resources, Sierra has a lot to lose if the plan goes wrong.

Lauren must learn that having good intentions isn’t all that matters when you battle injustice, and Sierra needs to realize that sometimes the person you need to take care of is yourself.

Halal Hot Dogs

By Susannah Aziz, Parwinder Singh (illustrator),

Book cover of Halal Hot Dogs

I love Halal Hot Dogs written by Susannah Aziz and illustrated by Parwinder Singh because not only is it hilarious, but highlights the different food that Palestinians/Arabs eat. I love seeing humorous picture books with Muslim characters, and Susannah does an excellent job with Halal Hot Dogs! It is filled with so much character and love!


Who am I?

I am a freelance journalist and have written on many topics related to Arabs, Muslims and immigrants. I also teach an intercultural communication class at the University of Toledo and have taught Arab culture in the past. I have a master’s degree in Education with a focus on teaching English as a second language.


I wrote...

The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story

By Aya Khalil, Anait Semirdzhyan (illustrator),

Book cover of The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story

What is my book about?

Kanzi's family has moved from Egypt to America, and on her first day in a new school, what she wants more than anything is to fit in. Maybe that's why she forgets to take the kofta sandwich her mother has made for her lunch, but that backfires when Mama shows up at school with the sandwich. Mama wears a hijab and calls her daughter Habibti (dear one). When she leaves, the teasing starts. That night, Kanzi wraps herself in the beautiful Arabic quilt her teita (grandma) in Cairo gave her and writes a poem in Arabic about the quilt. The next day her teacher sees the poem and gets the entire class excited about creating a "quilt" (a paper collage) of student names in Arabic. In the end, Kanzi's most treasured reminder of her old home provides a pathway for acceptance in her new one.

Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero

By Saadia Faruqi,

Book cover of Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero

Like many parents of kids and tweens, I sometimes forget that my kids weren’t alive yet on 9/11, nor do they understand the ripple effects of the terrorist attacks and surrounding time on our current political and social world. My husband and I had just moved to New York City on September 11, 2021, and witnessed the city’s grief and resilience firsthand, but it’s hard to explain to our kids the effects that that event had on how some people treat and regard American Muslims and people of color, and how history still very much affects us all today. This book is a wonderful way to start that conversation with kids.


Who am I?

I started writing for kids and teens before I became a parent myself, but now, seeing these kinds of stories from both perspectives, I’m even more passionate about helping foster conversations among families, about the things that are hard to talk about. In the time of pandemics and global warming and school shootings, not to mention the access the internet provides, kids have more questions and concerns than ever. I’ve found, both in my research and in practice, that being honest with kids in a way that they can understand and process is a true gift to them.


I wrote...

AfterMath

By Emily Barth Isler,

Book cover of AfterMath

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old Lucy isn't prepared to be the new kid at school. She’s still grieving her little brother, Theo, who recently died from a congenital heart defect. Her parents are so intent on a “fresh start” that she doesn’t know how to talk to them. And the other kids in her grade are survivors of a very different tragedy: a school shooting that devastated their small town four years ago.

Without the shared past that both unites and divides her classmates, Lucy feels lost. Even her love of math doesn’t offer the absolute answers she craves. An after-school mime class gives her a chance to forge new kinds of connections. Lucy finds that while grief can take many shapes and sadness may feel infinite, love is just as powerful.

Homeland Elegies

By Ayad Akhtar,

Book cover of Homeland Elegies

This book calls itself a novel, but it is deeply intertwined with the author’s own life and experiences as a second-generation immigrant from Pakistan. The chapters often read more like incisive personal essays than segments advancing the plot of a conventional novel, as the author grapples with the economic obsessions and spiritual poverty of contemporary American culture, the experience of everyday racism and the rage it provokes, and the feelings of alienation that many immigrants feel from both their country of origin and their adopted home. 

The central preoccupation of the book is the difficulty of living as a complete, nuanced, self-contradictory individual in a world that forces you to choose—between cultures in conflict with each other, between absolutist world views that permit no ambivalence, between economic success and authenticity. It is a tension that may be especially pronounced in an immigrant’s life, but one that entraps everyone and results…


Who am I?

I’m a language scientist and a writer, but most of all, a person who is smitten with language in all its forms. No doubt my fascination was shaped by my early itinerant life as a child immigrant between Czechoslovakia to Canada, with exposure to numerous languages along the way. I earned a PhD in linguistics and taught linguistics and psychology at Brown University and later, the University of Calgary, but I now spend most of my time writing for non-academic readers, integrating my scientific understanding of language with a love for its aesthetic possibilities.


I wrote...

Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self

By Julie Sedivy,

Book cover of Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self

What is my book about?

Memory Speaks relates a tale that is as familiar as it is painful: as a child immigrant to Canada, I quickly absorbed the English language and lost much of my ability to speak my own mother tongue—and with it, a deep connection to my elders and my own cultural origins. A linguist by training, I set out to understand the science of language loss and the potential for renewal, weaving together a rich body of psychological research with my personal story of language loss.

I challenge the view that linguistic pluralism splinters loyalties and communities, arguing that the struggle to remain connected to an ancestral language and culture can bring people together, as people from all backgrounds recognize the crucial role of language in forming a sense of self.

Salaam, with Love

By Sara Sharaf Beg,

Book cover of Salaam, with Love

My favorite genre to read and write is romance, but there are different levels to them. I got the honor to read Salaam, With Love before it came out and although the romance in here is more subtle and sweet, this book is definitely about loving yourself. About discovering who you are and being proud of where you’re from. Although our lives and cultures are different, I can definitely relate to Dua’s journey of self-discovery and was rooting for her every step of the way. 


Who am I?

As a kid, I’ve always loved reading romances, even if it meant spending my recesses in the library and reading through lunchtime. This resulted in my 6th-grade teacher giving me the weirdest look when she caught me reading a romance at school. When I started writing, I wrote a couple of different genres to test out, but YA contemporary romances were always the ones that stuck with me. I loved writing about the fluttery feelings of first love and the complexities of an uncertain future. It also helps that I met my husband, the love of my life, in high school so I’ll always have a soft spot for books that make me feel that way again.


I wrote...

Fake It Till You Break It

By Jenn P. Nguyen,

Book cover of Fake It Till You Break It

What is my book about?

Mia and Jake have known each other their whole lives. They’ve endured summer vacations, Sunday brunches, even dentist visits together. Their mothers, who are best friends, are convinced that Mia and Jake would be the perfect couple, even though they can’t stand to be in the same room together. After Mia’s mom turns away yet another cute boy, Mia and Jake decide they’ve had enough. Together, they hatch a plan to get their moms off their backs. Permanently. All they have to do is pretend to date and then stage the worst breakup of all time―and then they’ll be free.

It’s the perfect plan - except that it turns out maybe Mia and Jake don’t hate each other as much as they once thought…

White Teeth

By Zadie Smith,

Book cover of White Teeth

This is a polyphonic narration of London, witnessing contemporary urban everyday language and identity practices. Zadie Smith completed her (debut) novel in her final year at Cambridge, after an auction for the rights was won by Hamish Hamilton (currently part of Penguin Random House), based on a partial manuscript.

Recent trends in language studies have produced a human turn in research to make sense of present—intricate, transnationally connected and dynamic—complexity, problematizing the countability and representability of cultures, languages, and identities as single entities. This book offers a glimpse of the type of languaging which naturally emerges in spaces inhabited by polyglots and other individuals drawing from several linguistic repertoires in urban landscapes. Each character stands out for their idyosincractic speech, with little Standard English being used and a number of different varieties appearing alongside it.


Who am I?

I am a professor of English Linguistics interested in all aspects of language, identity, society, and power. I grew up and live in Southern Italy, in the Naples area, except for extended summertime family visits to San Diego, Southern California. I alternate my reading and writing between books on language and identity (how we self-promote ourselves to the public through personal style and narratives, molding our public image in a way we believe most advantageous to us) and texts on language and society (how we as individuals do things with words and gather information about other people from the way they communicate) and how these aspects intersect with power issues.


I wrote...

Celebrity Accents and Public Identity Construction: Analyzing Geordie Stylizations

By Emilia Di Martino,

Book cover of Celebrity Accents and Public Identity Construction: Analyzing Geordie Stylizations

What is my book about?

How does a celebrity construct a positive self-image and even succeed in reversing attempts at stigmatization and snowballing? How can this ability to manage individual image feed, in turn, into a process of mutual favorable associations with a dialect, endowing popular forms of speech with cool status? 

I illustrate the press’s attempts to brand Britain’s beloved singer Cheryl as a specific stereotype of working-class youth─the chav, side by side with the singer’s efforts to resist this label, re-orienting and steering her working-class belonging into a ‘milder’ form of working-classness, where she would inhabit a poor but certainly not deprived background. Cheryl didn't simply claim authentic membership of Geordie culture; she contributed to reinscribing the category, ‘laminating’ the Geordie dialect with a layer of coolness and making it ‘marketable’.

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