Book Recommendations, Booksish Discussions, Muslim Shelf Space

Why I Love the Disability Representation in The Theft of Sunlight Duology

The Theft of Sunlight and its sequel, A Darkness at the Door by Intisar Khanani has some of my favourite disability rep. It made me feel so seen and I was literally sobbing at how wonderful the rep is. This is a book I think everyone should read for so many reasons and it will always hold a special place in my heart because of the incredible disability rep.

These books mean so much to me not only because being Pakistani and seeing a desi inspired magical world with brown characters but also because the main character has a physical disability and the representation was so well done and made me feel so seen. As someone who has a disability that affects my mobility it was so refreshing to see a young woman who has similar issues but this isn’t her whole personality nor is it tokenised. 

She fights injustices that she sees and while her mobility may limit her in some things she adapts and continues the fight. She is constantly underestimated because people only see her disability but she proves time and time again through her actions and the person she is that she is more than capable. 

I also loved seeing that Bren accepted her completely and entirely as she is and didn’t for even one second think less of her or pity her because of her disability. I think it’s so important for people with disabilities to see that. To be reminded that they are enough the way they are and they don’t need to hide or minimise themselves to fit in or be loved. That they are deserving of love just the way they are. That Bren supported her and when he overstepped, she told him and he realised and fixed himself and did not take it out on her that she should be grateful and appreciative of receiving any help at all. 

We also see how she is defensive and has walls up to protect herself because of how people have treated her so it is difficult to accept help and see that some people are truly just trying to help her. We see how this has affected her relationships with people and that she struggles to trust and open up to people but as she meets people who truly have her back she slowly starts to break down those walls and open up to people more. I related to this a lot as it’s so tiring to have to deal with people who demand answers about why I use a walking stick or say things like, but you’re so young you shouldn’t need a stick. It is easier to just not let new people in but it does get lonely and I saw that in Rae too. 

Rae has to walk and run a lot because of what is happening in the books and because of this it causes her pain in her foot. Her chronic pain tires her quicker and slows her down and it makes her frustrated and angry at herself and I loved seeing that part of her in the books too. Having chronic pain is exhausting and yes we do get tired much more quickly than an able bodied person. It is frustrating for us and affects us emotionally and mentally and seeing this in the book just made Rae more realistic and relatable. 

But I also loved seeing how Bren and the others helped her through these times and didn’t make her feel less because of it. One scene where Bren quietly asked her if it would be more helpful to stand on her other side so she could hold onto his arm and just supported her in a way that she needed. These a tiny details in the story but for me they stood out so starkly because we don’t get to see this in books or even in real life and it was so wonderful to see these small instances in just the way Bren cared for her without expecting her anything in return. 

Then we get the scene on the rooftop in Darkness that has been seared into my memory because of just how much I absolutely loved it and I will forever be thankful to Intisar for giving me and all of us Rae and Bren. 

This duology is so incredible in so many ways and made me feel seen in ways I had never felt seen before and these books will forever hold a special place in my heart. 

Musings of a Muslimah, Ramadan Readathon

Ramadan When You Have A Disability

I decided to write about what Ramadan is like for me for Ramadan Readathon as I am unable to fast because of my disability and chronic illness.

Ramadan holds a special place in my heart, especially in my 20s when I could truly appreciate it and all the blessings it holds. But my 20s were also when I started struggling with my health and was eventually diagnosed with a prolapsed disc, fibromyalgia and vertigo. It affected every single aspect of my life and continues to do so, though I have mostly learned to adjust and make accommodations. 

However, it became more and more difficult for me to be able to fast and it severely affected my health. I eventually had to stop fasting after speaking to both my imam and doctors about how it is affecting me and it was probably one of the most difficult things to come to terms with.  

Every Ramadan I feel like I am missing out on these blessings and rewards for those who fast. Every Ramadan I have to prepare myself when people “need” to know why I am not fasting. The looks of pity and sometimes even judgement, saying “I should just try.” 

It makes me think twice about going to the masjid or public gatherings and when I’m there my anxiety is in overdrive. Because not only am I not fasting, but I also require a chair to sit as sitting on the floor causes my legs to go numb. But I don’t look disabled so I will always have to justify myself. I think there is only one masjid I’ve been to where I have actually felt welcome and that has truly made such a huge difference in my life.  

But it’s been a few years now that I haven’t been fasting and I’ve mostly come to terms with it. I know that Allah will reward me because it isn’t my fault that I cannot fast and that not fasting has allowed me to be able to function during the day as I can take my medication and manage my pain. It means I am able to pray taraweeh and stay up at night for ibadah. It means I can focus on my salah and Quran because I am not dying from pain and it also means that I am able to make iftar for my husband and get the rewards for feeding a fasting person.   

Seeing all the blessings that Allah has given me and the ability to still be able to complete other acts of worship and focus on that instead of the one thing I can no longer do has helped me to come to terms with this and still be able to make the most of this month. Having people in my life I can talk to about this has also been really helpful because sometimes I feel frustrated but after speaking to someone I love about it, I can see a different perspective and also just get it off my chest. Just being able to sit and ask Allah for help and turn to him especially when I am having a bad pain day just brings me sukoon and contentment. I know I will be okay. 

Obviously I still have good and bad days, days when I am more productive and days when I need to rest more (generally the day after I have cooked I need more rest as that takes a lot of spoons). So I know to manage my days accordingly. On days when I am not able to stand up and pray taraweeh I will sit and read Quran even if it’s from my phone because the joint pain in my hands are bad. If I can barely sit up I will watch a lecture or listen to Quran, do some dhikr to make the most of my time. I can still sometimes over do it but I am learning and alhamdulillah I am very lucky that it’s just me and my husband, he is very supportive and helps me with my pain management. If I’ve had a bad few days and there isn’t really any food for iftar, he will open his fast at the masjid and then bring home something for me to eat too.  

It’s been a big learning curve for me but alhamdulillah I am trying to make the most of Ramadan even if I can’t fast. It can be a lonely experience which is why I decided to write about mine and maybe someone else will read it and not feel like it’s only them, all alone. 

You can find more Ramadan Readathon content over on the Blog, Instagram and Twitter

Monthly Wrap Up

August 2020 Monthly Wrap Up

I had a really great reading month this month and read some incredible books though I have found I find it easier to listen to audiobooks than actually pick up a book. I’ve listened to 6 audiobooks this month! I am loving my scribd subscription so much because of all the audiobooks on there!

If you want to try scribd for two months for free you can use my link which will also give me a month free. This is my link

So here are the books I read this month:

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He – I listened to the audiobook and it was incredible! My review will be up soon!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali – A reread via audiobook and if it’s possible, I loved it even more this time. You can read my review here.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes – I really loved this book. Seeing the point of view of the women was incredible. There is so much of history missing because we only see the male point of view. The audiobook was also great to listen to.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud – I enjoyed this sequel which is full of political intrigue and a young woman who fights for a better life for everyone she knows. My review is here

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan – This book blew my mind! It’s a fantasy inspired by Islamic beliefs and the main character has incredible strength and faith and seeing actual quran verses incorporated into the story was so wonderful to see. My review will be up soon.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Love at First Fight by Sandhya Menon – A great short story set in the dimpleverse.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston – Another great nerdy contemporary with a booknerd as a main character! My review is here

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – A reread because I love this book and I forgot how much I loved this book and how funny it is. My review is here

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Beauty of her Face by Sahar Mustafah – This is such a poignant and relatable story of Muslim woman who’s school is attacked by a terrorist who goes on a murdering spree, we see flashbacks of her as a young girl who is trying to find her place in the world and how she ends up the woman she is. It is an incredible book and everyone should read it. My review will be up soon!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang – This book utterly destroyed me, I am very afraid for the lives of my faves because Rebecca is brutal. My review will be up soon!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst – This book was such an unexpected surprise. I did not expect to love it as much as I did. One of the MCs is an older woman and a single mother and I loved seeing her be a total badass!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Nyxia Uprising by Scott Reintgen – This was a great conclusion to a great trilogy. Fast paced and intense and I loved the characters so much!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You Must be Layla by Yasmin Abdel-Magied – I was excited to read this but I was a little disappointed. It felt like it needed more editing even though the themes were really interesting and relevant.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

So that’s everything I read this month and clearly I have been handing out 5 stars a lot but these books have been incredible and you should all go read them!

I also shared these blog posts this month:

 My review of Diana and the Island of no Return by Aisha Saeed

My review of Allah Loves by Omar Suleiman

Book recommendations based on Daevabad characters

My favourite quotes from The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

My favourite quotes from The Damned by Renee Ahdieh

Diverse retellings you need to read

My latest post in my Inspiring Muslim Women throughout History. This post is about Hafsah bint Umar (ra) who was the custodian of the Quran.

That’s everything for this month! Have you read any of the books I read? What was your favourite read in August?

Book Recommendations, Muslim Shelf Space

Why You Should Read Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali

If you know me then you know that I love this book with my whole heart and I need you all to read it. So to give you more incentive than my incoherent screaming, here are some reasons why you should read this wonderful book.

Muslim Romance

This book has the most wonderful romance while also keeping it all halal! Sajidah was able to show that Muslim’s can fall in love and that it can be romantic but it can still be kept within the boundaries of what Islam teaches us about relationships between men and women. We see cute fluffy moments and that they still interact with each other and u was grinning so hard all the way through but especially by the end! It’s a nuance often lost to most people but seeing so wonderfully done in the book was so great to see. I felt so seen.

Sajidah also showed through how they handled being attracted to each other, the realities of Muslim youth, especially the in the west. That it’s okay to have feelings and be attracted to each other, Islam doesn’t stop these natural feelings but how we handle them is the important thing. This was such an important nuance to show in the book and I love how it was shown.

Muslim Rep

The Muslim rep in this book was so wonderful to see. We are shown practicing Muslims but we also see them live, they are complex and well developed, they have friends and hobbies and passions. We also see how people who are Muslim are treated and the Islamophobia they face but also that they are happy and living their lives. We see differences in even how some people are more visibly Muslim than others and how that affects them and how they are treated.

Most importantly we see Muslims who are happy and that they don’t feel oppressed by their religion. We see them embrace their religion an do their best to stay true to their faith. It was refreshing to see that. Not only that, but we see representation of Muslims who have converted to Islam and that come from different parts of the world. So much diversity and culture was so great to see in the story.

Multiple Sclerosis/Chronic Illness Rep

Adam has been recently diagnosed with MS when we first meet him and it causes him to re-evaluate his life and how this will affect him long term. The rep was done incredibly well and I felt so seen because I also have chronic health conditions. The way he feels and how he has to navigate so many unknowns and yet still wants to make the most of things. He still falls in love and is wholly accepted by her.

Islamophobia

One of the things that Zayneb has to deal with is having a teacher who is Islamophobic and how angry and upset it makes her. But also that her being visibly Muslim means she has to deal with that where ever she goes. She wears a hijab, she can’t hide that she is Muslim so it makes her a target. I related so much to Zayneb especially how it’s the “little” things that get to her like a woman saying she feels unsafe to sit next to her or her not being allowed to use the swimming pool because she chose to wear a swimming costume that covers her entire body instead of the standard swim suit that makes the white man feel okay. That she’s expected to put a white man’s feelings above hers. It was so real seeing that in a book and love how Sajidah wove it into the story as it’s something that so many of us have to deal with.

It also makes Zayneb turn to activism to channel her anger and pain into something positive so she can try to make things better and make people aware how these things affect Muslims. She is passionate and fiery and I loved that about her.

Friendship & Platonic Love

One of the things I loved seeing in the book was how despite this being a love story, friendships were still shown importance. Zayneb and Adam both have a group of friends who they intereact with just as much as  each other. Zayneb especially as she also interacts and spends time with Adam’s friends too. I loved seeing that friendship is shown to be important and how platonic love for your friends can make you just as happy and hurt you as much as romantic love. We need to see more romances where we see different types of love included in the story!

Finally, if you are an Avatar fan then you will be pleased to hear that there are several avatar references in the story!

This book has wonderful nuanced Muslim rep, incredibly real chronic illness rep, has a wonderful love story that will leave you with a serotonin boost.

Everyone go read this incredible book and also read Saints & Misfits so we can all scream about Misfits in Love which will be out next year complete with a big fat Muslim wedding and a cameo with Adam and Zayneb!

My review is here for Love From A to Z

I also wrote about why this book means so much to me.

Fiction Books, YA Books

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer – Book Review

I recently reread ACSDAL during the Curse Readalong hosted by Bloomsbury Publishing and I forgot how much I loved this book!

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Fall in love, break the curse.
Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

This book was not what I was expecting, in a good way. I have seen a lot of Beauty and the Beast retellings being released over the last few years and I’ve found them to be quite similar in their storyline which made me hesitant to read this. However this was a totally unique take on the story and I absolutely loved it!

We get both Harper and Rhen’s point of view so it was really interesting to see things from both of their views. Harper is an outsider and doesn’t know much about Emberfall and Rhen is the prince of Emberfall and while he grew up there, he hasn’t been out of his castle for 5 years. Harper reminded him that despite the curse he can still help his people and gave him hope. I really loved seeing that.

I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.

Harper is by far my favourite character, she is brave, determined, resilient and doesn’t let anyone push her around, not even a prince! She has cerebral palsy, which I was surprised to see because we rarely get any disability or long term health conditions rep in books and this rep was really great! She accepts this is a part of her life but doesn’t let it control her life and neither does she allow anyone to just pity her or baby her because she is in pain or walks with a limp. She will always hold a special place in my heart because I have long term health conditions which affect my daily life and I could see myself in Harper.

When we first meet Rhen, he is stubborn and arrogant and impatient. He could be petty at times too and I didn’t particularly like him at first. But he did grow on me as we learn more about him and he grows a lot as a person throughout the story.

The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless.

The third character was Grey and while we don’t get his point of view, I completely fell in love with him! I actually prefer him to Rhen and shipped him and Harper more. He is Rhen’s guard and absolutely deadly. Yet he is a big softie which we see throughout the story when he interacts with the children. I really hope we see more of him in the second book, especially after that ending and epilogue!

This story doesn’t centre around Harper and Rhen falling in love so Harper can break the curse, it is bigger than that. It’s about saving all of Emberfall and caring for all the people there who have been suffering. It’s about social justice and doing something to help even if you can’t save everyone. It showed me that having a disability doesn’t mean you aren’t capable.

Failure isn’t absolute, just because you couldn’t save everyone doesn’t mean you didn’t save anyone.

I’m really looking forward to reading the next book, I especially hope to see more Grey and more of the world as we don’t really get to explore much we are only told of places and other kingdoms.

PS. If you preorder A Heart so Fierce and Broken which is out in January then you can get some amazing preorder goodies! Check out the link here for more information!