TL;DR 8/10. Misfit in Love was a beautiful and heart-warming read that touched on unexpectedly deep topics without ever subtracting from the fun of, as Janna puts it, the “big fat Muslim wedding” at the heart of the story.
Misfit in Love is the sequel to Saints and Misfits written by S.K. Ali, but can also be read as a stand alone. The description of the book can be found here.
Okay, I have to admit that I wasn’t super excited by the premise of the love square/triangle thing. As I’m already not a huge romance fan, a book centered around one girl’s search for love with three possible love interests sounds like the last possible thing I’d read. BUT!! S.K. Ali is a Canadian-Muslim author and being as desperate for good Muslim rep as I am, I simply had to give this a chance. Without getting too serious (this is a summer wedding story after all!!) I have to say that I am always personally disappointed with how Muslims are usually portrayed in fiction, whether it be in books or TV. To see a hijab-wearing MC who loves her religion, who isn’t afraid to quote the Qur’an or practice what she believes in, be the main character of her own story is so refreshing and beautiful to me. Too often Muslims are either vilified or victimized in the media, and that can translate into acts of hatred in real life. Still, Misfit in Love is NOT about Islamophobia–the only time Muslims get to have a voice should not be when they have been attacked. Instead, this book is simply about Muslim characters living their lives as they ought to, eating ice cream, preparing for a wedding, and feeling safe (although a little lovelorn). Simply put (as if I haven’t gone on long enough) the representation in this book is so heart-warming and beautifully integrated that it didn’t feel preachy or informational at all, and instead felt as if S.K. Ali had personally written this book to me.
Powerful, brilliant and captivating. Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples tells the story of two powerful Muslim heroines, one named Star and one named Helper (or one who helps), and it’s a story full of courage, hope, and strength.
In the rural mountains of Afghanistan, Najmah lives a simple but happy life with her parents and elder brother. But when the Taliban takes her father and brother prisoner to fight against the rebel forces, Najmah and her pregnant mother are left alone to look after the farm. Despite the days her mother wouldn’t get out of bed, and her Uncle who is trying to steal their land, Najmah is convinced that they can survive on the farm themselves until her father and brother come back, and is determined to keep going. When Najmah’s brother gives birth to a beautiful baby boy they name Habib, Najmah and her mother are elated. Her newfound happiness is shattered, though, when one day, while Najmah is herding the cattle into the far hills to the fresh grass, there is an air raid strike on her house. Najmah runs back just in time to see her mother point towards the airplanes in the sky before the bombs drop, killing the only family Najmah had left.
Nusrat, née Elaine, was born an American but never felt at home until she converted to Islam and met her husband, Faiz. When they hear of the American bomb attacks on Afghanistan, Nusrat’s natural instinct to help kicks in, and the married couple soon find themselves in Peshawar, Pakistan, Nusrat running a school for poor and orphaned children, and Faiz running an emergency clinic in the town of Mazar-i-Sharif. Nusrat loves her new family of in-laws, and teaching the eager children at the Persimmon Tree School, she finally feels like she belongs. But when the letters from Faiz stop coming, and the Taliban threaten to take her students away from her, Nusrat realizes she will have to keep her faith strong if she wants to keep the hope of her husband’s return.
Internment by Samira Ahmed is a dystopian novel, but it’s not your usual aliens-have-invaded one. Instead of focusing on technology, space travel, or wars, Samira Ahmed focuses on another relevant topic in our society; hate. She takes the racism and xenophobia that is present in today’s world, and the experience of people such as the Japanese during World War 2 to create a horrifying yet very real story set in near-future America.
The main character of this story is Layla Amin, a strong-willed Muslim girl living in America. Her character is well-written, with many unique traits, and a developing personality. She’s a breath of fresh air after over-used and stereotypical Muslim characters. America is a country running high on Anti-Muslim and Islamophobic ideas and the setting of this story is very similar to how the world would have been for Japanese people in America and Canada during World War 2 or for Jews in Germany during the same time.
Internment by Samira Ahmed gets 8.5/10. There was your usual romantic subplot (sigh) and some of the things were slightly exaggerated, but it was a compelling read nonetheless. The ending was breathtakingly good, but not realistic enough, again, to be perfect. Overall, it’s a book I enjoyed, and one that I would recommend.
P.S. The cover is GORGEOUS.
P.P.S. The library doesn’t have a hard copy of this book, but there is an audiobook, and an ebook.