Book Recommendations, Muslim Shelf Space

Why You Should Read Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

I recently reread this book and I really loved it as much as I did the first time I read it and I think I appreciated it more this time.

This book discusses sexual assault and having to deal with the aftermath of this especially if the person who assaulted you is a beloved member of your community.

You can read my review here about why I loved this book so much.

So here are some reasons why you should read Saints and Misfits:

Well, first and foremost the sequel will be out on May 25th and will feature a big fat Muslim wedding and a love story and will have cameos from Adam and Zayneb from Love From A to Z! Check out the hashtag #CelebrateMisfitInLove to see everyone sharing their wedding aesthetics and more!

Muslim Representation

We see so many Muslims in this book, from the Imam of a masjid to the young adults and teens. We see how Muslims aren’t monolith and how some practice more than others and that each one of them has their own difficulties and struggles that they deal with. We see how teens and youth are often active members of the community how the Masjid is more than a place of worship. It’s a place where the young and old alike can meet and find a safe place. I just loved seeing it all.

Janna is a relatable Muslim teen living in the West

I felt her struggles on a deep personal level. She wants to fit in at school but also follow her religious practices. Sometimes they collide and you can’t do both and it can be difficult to manage that. The expectations and pressures from both sides can feel like a lot for a teen. She had a crush on a classmate but didn’t want to date but still had these feelings and now she has to manage and navigate this amongst people who won’t necessarily understand her completely.

Discussions of Rape Culture and Victim Blaming

We meet Janna just after she survives a sexual assault by a monster known as Farooq. As he is in a position of power in the community she finds it difficult to tell anyone what happens and he constantly inserts himself in her life. He tries to convince her she wanted it and it was her fault. She has a lot of fears and struggles to come to terms with what happened and becomes angry about her situation and being unable to do anything about it. The complicated feelings she goes through and feeling unsafe in places she should be safe felt very real. These are discussions that are important to be had especially amongst youth who are often told by society that the victim is at fault and the abuser can often get away with little or no consequence especially if they are in a position of power.

Female Friendships

I loved seeing all the women that Janna is surrounded by! Her best friend Tats was such a wonderful character and truly looked out for Janna. I also loved Sausan who is a badass niqabi and has her own youtube channel. I loved the slow friendship that started to develop between Janna and Sarah and how your own assumptions about a person can be so wrong once you get to know them. I really loved Sarah especially and I cannot wait to see her in Misfit in Love.

Sibling Dynamic

I loved seeing how real the relationship between Janna and her older brother, Muhammad was! The bickering and sniping at each other and yet always being there for each other. The making sacrifices for each other and being the only one the other can turn to for help. How Muhammad relied on Janna for help in being able to meet Sarah in a halal way. It was just fun to see them!

Nuah the Cinnamon Roll

Look, he is the sweetest and I was SCFREAMING at Janna to see what was right in front of her the whole time. A practicing young man who respects women is kind and caring and funny and seems to understand Janna really well. He was adorable and I cannot wait to see him Misfit in Love!

So these are some of the reasons why you should read Saints and Misfits and of course pick up the sequel after!

Book Recommendations, Booksish Discussions, Muslim Shelf Space

Why Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali Means So Much To Me

I first read Love From A to Z last year and completely fell in love with the book and the characters. But I just want to share more about this wonderful book and why I love it so much.

PS. You can read my review here

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This book is a love story between two young Muslims who stay within the boundaries of Islamic etiquette and rulings on interacting with the opposite sex and this isn’t something we ever get to see in books. I have wanted to see this type of love story for so long.

“Maybe that’s what living is – recognising the Marvels and Oddities around you.”

I hope we get to see more of this because it is the story of me and my husband and yet there were people who made us feel like we betrayed our religious beliefs by choosing to marry each other. I was made to feel guilty and doubt my faith in Allah because how could I be a good Muslim and still have chosen to marry my husband myself. And on the other side I had people completely unable to understand how I could possibly marry someone I hadn’t dated or had an intimate relationship with him before marriage. Basically there was no right thing to do.

But if I had been able to read this book back then, I know it would have helped me. I would know that I have done nothing wrong and that would have helped me a lot. So I am so happy to see this book published because I am sure there are more stories like mine.

Zayneb is also one of my absolute favourite characters ever, I see myself in her in so many ways. Her anger at the Islamophobia she faces especially from those in a position of power and how she can’t do anything about it. Yet she remains unapologetically Muslim. She practices her faith openly and doesn’t care that people know she is Muslim. I wish I had her confidence when I was a teen. I wish I had been able to see characters that looked like me and shared the same beliefs as me as a teen and I am so glad that young people today will get to see themselves in books in ways I never could.

“I didn’t have to open my mouth or do anything for people to judge me. I just had to be born into a Muslim family and grow up to want to become a visible member of my community by wrapping a cloth on my head.”

Zayneb just wants to be able to practice her faith freely and also be able to be your average teenage girl and go swimming and hang out with her friends. Yet she finds barriers to even doing something as simple as swimming because some people find it unacceptable for her to be fully covered while in the pool despite adhering to the policies there. She can obviously choose what to wear but only as long as it is acceptable to those people.

And then we have Adam who I love so much because I related to him so much, because he found out about his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis during college and I also was finally diagnosed with my chronic health issues just as I graduated university. He struggles at first with adjusting to his new reality and how his life will be so different now and what he may or may not be able to do now and I related so much with all of this. I felt all of this and still do at times.

I absolutely loved seeing such a well rounded character with such great and realistic disability and chronic illness rep. I understood why he felt he should leave college, I understood his misgivings about telling Zayneb how he felt about her because it would not be a “typical” marriage as they would both be affected by his chronic illness. I went through all of this, I still feel a lot of these and struggle with it. I also loved how his faith impacted the way he dealt with his chronic illness. The way that Sajdah captures all of this and more while still making this a love story is exceptional.

“Hope – she was giving me hope. She was trying to light the way forward with hope. Amazing. To think I’d not been alone.”

Their story is a love story but not like the usual love stories we read in books but it doesn’t make it any less of a love story. The way they interact with each other and how they spend time and speak to each other, they develop feelings for each other but they both also keep in mind their faith and it filled my heart with such joy. I remember going through this exact thing myself and even when others told me to date because how can I marry someone I hadn’t dated or been intimate with I knew I could never compromise on my religious beliefs and it kept me going. I remember feeling all the emotions and just like Zayneb I remember seeing my now husband and first thinking, he’s cute and that he’s tall (my husband is 6 ft 3″). And my husband told me the first thing he noticed about me was my hijab as I was the only one in our university class who wore one.

This book captures so many important parts of my life and I could relate so much to the characters in so many ways from them slowly developing feelings for each other yet also practicing their faith and also dealing with their own issues while navigating their feelings. I absolutely fell in love with this book and Adam and Zayneb. And also, while I saw myself in Zayneb, I also saw my husband in Adam (minus the chronic illness) and it felt like this book was written for me.