Short Stories – Muslim Voices

The 9th month of the Islamic Calendar marks the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims. A special time of the year where Muslims worldwide reflect on their faith, commemorate the birth of Islam (divine revelation) and engage in a month of sun up to sun down fasting. A time to reflect and a time for prayer. And.. in a blink of an eye – the count down is on again as we are due to start mid-May 2018.

As we enter the holy month, I wanted to take a quick moment to share 2 books that bring out Muslim voices in Australia as I found these collections of short stories so insightful and inspiring. Personally, as a Muslim reader, I love seeing stories like this becoming more and more available for Muslim and Non-Muslim readers alike as I believe wonderful books like these do in fact help bring a mutual understanding within the community. They bridge gaps, dispel myths and even open up positive discussion.

Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia – edited by Amra Pajalic and Demet Divaroren
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

“Muslim people in Australia come from over 70 countries and represent a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and experiences. Yet we are constantly bombarded by media stories feeding one negative stereotype. What is it really like to grow up Muslim in Australia? In this book, famous and not-so-famous Muslim-Australians tell their stories in their own voices.”
Growing up a Muslim, hijab wearing Aussie of Indonesian heritage, I related to this book and the stories within very much. Sadly, the battle is real and when we say this, it’s not to play victim – it’s simply to call it what it is. These honest stories resonated with me and I believe them to be insightful for all readers as it provides different snapshots and perspectives of Muslim life in Australia that most importantly, dispel myths, stereotypes, and above all celebrates diversity, courage and friendship. A beautiful coming of age group that is said to be “coloured with many shades of humour, warmth, sadness, anger, determination and honesty, it will resonate with readers from all backgrounds and beliefs”

Headstrong Daughters: Inspiring Stories From The New Generation Of Australian Muslim Women – by Nadia Jamal
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

This book is a collection of short stories written by Nadia Jamal and based on interviews she conducted with ordinary Muslim women around Australia. This book takes a deeper look into the lives of Muslim women and their determination to stay true to their faith and to themselves. These are resonating stories told by working professionals, mothers and students and reveals a side that is little known and often misunderstood. This too, is a book I really related to as a young Muslim woman living in Australia, a working professional and a woman who strives to live a well balanced life with faith, work, family and being in touch with her culture without it clashing with faith. I also found this book dispelled a lot of myths that hang about with Muslim women – particularly with the hijab and status of women in Islam. I found it quite inspiring myself. Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me an advanced review copy of this book – this book should be available in leading book retailers.

Wishing all who commemorate the Holy Month of Ramadan a wonderful and blessed month. May your fasting come at ease and may you all have special time with loved ones this coming month.

Ramadan Mubarak!!!
-Annie

Advertisements

I am Thunder… and I Won’t Keep Quiet by Muhammad Khan

“A thought-provoking and empowering story which will encourage readers to question what they see and hear.”

One of the most confronting books I have read this year and a story that really hits the nail on the head. A new YA voice that demonstrates how far one can go to protect what they believe in and accurately depicts the world today. I really want to take this moment to thank the author, Muhammad Khan, for writing this story. As a Muslim woman reading this book – I felt this was a real eye-opener for non-Muslims and a warm hug to the Muslim brother/sisterhood as he stated in his author’s note.

“I am Thunder” is told by protagonist, 15 year old Muzna Saleem, who dreams of being a novelist but is trapped between 2 worlds: controlling parents who only care about her studying to be a doctor and growing up in a world that tells you to be what you want to be. As Muzna’s father lost his job, Muzna is forced to move to a new school in South London at a critical time of her life and after her best friend is shamed in a scandal.

Whilst dialogue among teens can be cheesy, I found the book to be very well written and honest. It’s a book that will definitely spark positive discussion. I had such a personal connection to the story and the character but felt extremely thankful I didn’t experience absolutely everything Muzna went through.

When Muzna is thrown into this new school, just like the real world, she realizes bullies are everywhere and yes difficult times are ahead but do you take a stand and fight for what is right or do you fade out because it’s easier? Struggling with home life and school yard prejudice against her culture and faith, the world looks bleak for Muzna until she meets Arif – her knight in shining armour – or so she thinks…

The author did a fantastic job in demonstrating the constant confusion in families who put culture first, Islam second which is a leading cause of clash and confusion in families and the wider community. Cultural identity is a real challenge especially among the youth and I really felt for Muzna being an only child growing up in the western world with strong ties to her cultural traditions and expectations, it can be a challenge but it can also be an opportunity. I felt Muzna had the right idea of wanting to be a novelist as a means to set a passive example that demonstrates that these acts committed do not represent her or her faith.

In addition to cultural identity, the fury Muzna and her parents felt when waking up to headline news of terrorist attacks and murder of innocent victims carried out in the name of Islam was all too real for me. It was a wave of mixed emotions – anger for what this mob do in our name and the compounding weariness of stepping out of our house wearing the hijab, that need to constantly be vigilant in your own home in case you’re next to be on the receiving end of hate attacks for crimes you never committed or endorsed but refusing to live in fear. 

The story is so real – with strong characters making poor decisions or turning a blind eye to things you think is so obviously wrong, but that’s exactly why it was so real – because it demonstrates exactly how extremists operate. They select articulate, intelligent individuals and targe their vulnerability as leverage for their own agendas.

Again, this book is extremely well written and fast paced. I am sure readers will have an emotional reaction to the story. I gasped, cringed, laughed, cried and I even had to put the book down for a moment as I was getting so worked up over it (it’s so real). I feel this is an important story and I do recommend this as your next read. Suitable for the YA audience from ages 14 years and up.

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy of this book as part of the Summer Readings Blog Tour.
-Annie

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Synopsis from Goodreads
Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah. But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is…

My Thoughts
I can’t believe that I just finished a book that took me on emotional roller coaster ride. It’s been well over a decade since that has happened. The tears are still coming. Throughout Autoboyography I was crying my eyes out, squealing with joy, felt like my heart is braking in two and slowly mending again. I’m going to be recommending Autoboyography to anyone who asks me for a book recommendation. I leave with this question – How soon is too soon for a reread? …I’m off to get a tissue…
-Meredith

Long Way Home by Katie McGarry

Seventeen-year-old Violet has always been expected to sit back and let the boys do all the saving.

It’s the code her father, a member of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, raised her to live by. Yet when her dad is killed carrying out Terror business, Violet knows it’s up to her to do the saving. To protect herself, and her vulnerable younger brother, she needs to cut all ties with the club—including Chevy, the boy she’s known and loved her whole life. But when a rival club comes after Violet, exposing old secrets and making new threats, she’s forced to question what she thought she knew about her father, the Reign of Terror, and what she thinks she wants. Which means re-evaluating everything: love, family, friends . . . and forgiveness. Caught in the crosshairs between loyalty and freedom, Violet must decide whether old friends can be trusted—and if she’s strong enough to be the one person to save them all. 

My Review
Violet and Chevy’s story brings to the fore front what most young teens probably think about what fuels the desire for some people to be in a gang.

There is the gang called the Riot who represent the typical corrupted money and power hungry who will do what ever it takes to get revenge and then there is the gang the Reign of Terror who represent being a non blood family who values respect, loyalty and who think they are protecting the ones they love but soon both Violet and Chevy learn that there is no safety and that the non blood family they love can’t protect them.

I really enjoyed how this book was written from two perspectives and how the chapters blended together easily, I also had no idea this book was actually book 3 in a series and that it was so well written that I honestly thought it was a stand alone book.

A beautiful story about breaking dependencies, making choices and forging ones own path in life.

Recomendation:
For teenagers about to embark on studies or life choices this book is a pleasant encouragement about life and making choices while also touching on the dangers of not making a choice or following the wrong crowd.

THIS BOOK HAS AN EASTER EGG!!!
There is a page at the very end with a song list to go with the chapters so give it a try while reading along for a little extra sensory experience.

Many thanks to Harlequin Publishers for supplying this book in exchange for my honest review.
– Crystal

Blog Tour: Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood

3 amazing women collaborate on 1 amazing book.. This is a must read for all teens!!! It’s the ultimate Aussie Contemporary YA of 2017!!!

Take Three Girls follows 3 students: Kate, a quiet boarder, making some risky choices to pursue the experimental music she loves. Clem, shrugging off her old swim team persona, exploring her first sexual relationship, and trying to keep her annoying twin, Iris, at arm’s length.  Ady, grappling with a chaotic family, and wondering who her real friends are, she’s not the confident A-lister she appears to be. When their private boarding school, St Hilda’s, establishes a Year 10 Wellness Program in response to the era of cyberbullying, the three girls are thrown together and an unlikely friendship is sparked. One thing they have in common, each is targeted by PSST, a site devoted to gossip and slander that must have a source within St Hilda’s.

Who can you trust when rumour is the new truth?

While I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but feel thankful that I’m not a 16 year old in today’s world.. This book covered many issues teens face in today’s world but one issue that resonated with me was the aspect of cyber bullying and social media trolling. When I was in high school, yes bullying existed in the school yard which was bad enough but that’s where it stayed – in the school yard. In today’s world it creeps into cyber space where it effects the home environment and it’s also immortalised. Even if you were to pack up and move away for a fresh start, cyberbullying can follow you.
I felt this book is relevant, important and sends positive messages to all teens through a raw and funny means of reading about deep themes that need to be discussed – effects of cyberbullying, the sense of identity, friendship and even feminism. I loved the format of the book as I was reading journals and a story narrative. The dialogue was intelligent and humorous and I loved the friendship between Kate, Clem and Ady and regardless of how diverse they were in social status, background or current issues, the wellness program brings them together and it was just great to read about.
  A great book… A fantastic collaboration of 3 female Australian authors.. I would have to say this is the ultimate Aussie YA Contemporary of 2017!!!
Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for inviting me to be part of this Blog Tour and for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

One by Sarah Crossan

This is a must read for YA fans… I read this book in one sitting!!!

A moving and beautifully crafted story about identity, sisterhood and a love that ultimately asks one question: what does it mean to want and have a soulmate?

“One” is a story about Grace and Tippi, who are twins – conjoined twins and it follows their lives in high school as they have to decide whether or not to have the operation which will physical separate them.

I have always struggled to enjoy poetry but this book did the impossible. It made me love the poetry style with which this story is told. This story, and the poetry prose through which it was told, was a raw, personal story which had me feeling every emotion.

I loved this book and could not stop hugging this book after I finished the story.
-Amanda

 

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Two boys.. Two secrets..

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long

The writing style and characters in this book were both engaging. I found myself flying through the pages and getting lost in the story. It’s written in such a way that I deeply cared for many of the characters and cried a few times. The characters felt authentic and the story is full of heart.

Representation is important. I’m so happy to have read a book that is so rich and is a high quality YA novel.

-Amanda