A good contemporary novel has a way of making you feel at home. The characters, the plot, the storyline, and even the themes are all ways for you to connect and see yourself in them. For the last two decades, several Muslim authors have published outstanding contemporary novels that deal with family, love, hatred, drama, and issues that are always relevant to us Muslims. The following five books are just a few of the dozens of books out there that will make you feel either painfully wistful or devastatingly woeful.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns by world-renowned author Khaled Hosseini is a novel that explores the lives of two very different women. Mariam is an underprivileged young girl who is facing stigma from around her community and is set to marry Rashid, an abusive and controlling man. A generation later, Laila, who was born privileged and had a comparatively better youth, is also being set to marry Rashid. The two women then go through trials and tribulations and explore various themes whilst being amid a post-Soviet and Taliban controlled Afghanistan.
Hosseini rose to fame with his debut novel The Kite Runner and has since then beautifully written novels set in Afghanistan. His award-winning stories are always heart-wrenching and thought-provoking, and his writing style and character development have always been some of the best in the publishing industry.
Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali
Love from A to Z is a young-adult contemporary romance novel that is sure to get your heart beating just a little faster. The novel follows the story of Zayneb, a straight-forward and angry teenager and the only Muslim in her American class. She goes off on a vacation to Qatar during spring break after she accidentally gets her activist friends in trouble. There, she meets Adam, a boy with multiple sclerosis trying to leave behind a decent legacy of his mother for his younger sister. The two meet and then ensues a remarkable string of ordinary yet quite extra-ordinary events.
S.K. Ali is an Indian-Canadian author and winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for her debut novel Saints and Misfits. She is a teacher and writer and has written for middle-graders, young adults, and even written picture books. She currently lives in Toronto and has created the hashtag #MuslimShelfSpace to shine a light on books written by Muslim authors.
Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Does My Head Look Big In This? is a contemporary novel written by Australian author Randa Abdel-Fattah. Set in Australia, the novel is about Amal, a 16-year-old girl who has decided to wear the hijab. And the reactions she’s getting from everyone around her-school friends, teachers, siblings, even her parents-aren’t exactly what she’d been expecting. But Amal is determined to stick to her hijab and continue wearing it. Will she be able to overcome the constant name-calling and racism she’s about to face and stay steadfast on her journey of the hijab?
Randa Abdel-Fattah is a Palestinian/Egyptian-Australian and one of the first Muslim authors to emerge from the country. Holder of a double degree in arts and law from the University of Melbourne, Randa is a prominent part of the Muslim community. She has appeared on many television shows and media broadcasts and is an excellent speaker and advocate for Muslim and women’s rights.
The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
The Unquiet Dead is a crime fiction novel that tackles redemption, loss, and the cost of justice. Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty are detectives working with predominantly minority sensitive cases. However, Esa is adamant on working on the peculiar death of Christopher Drayton and Rachel is confused. Her confusion furthers when they find out secrets surrounding the true identity of Christopher Drayton and his accidental death. Esa and Rachel embark on an intricately entwined circle of questions and dubious answers and even more questions surrounding the war criminal Christopher Drayton and discover many life-changing things along the way.
Ausma Zehanat Khan’s dazzling debut novel The Unquiet Dead was the recipient of ‘best first novel’ accolades by Arthur Ellis Awards and Barry Awards. The Canadian is also a holder of many degrees and a doctorate and has worked as an editor, lawyer, and professor. Ausma is also a fantasy writer, and her fantasy debut novel has also received much praise.
Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
A modern day Muslim Pride and Prejudice retelling, this contemporary romance novel follows the story of Ayesha, a young woman with a spectacular dream of writing poetry. Alas, to pay off her debts to her uncle, Ayesha has resorted to working as a school teacher, and has to constantly deal with a crazy family that keeps comparing her with her younger cousin Hafsa. Ayesha soon meets Khalid, a smart and handsome, yet conservative and judgmental, man whom she is unfortunately quite attracted to. Add in a surprise engagement between Hafsa and Khalid, and Ayesha is left with a confused heart and an even more confused mind.
Uzma Jalaluddin, Canadian, writes for the Toronto Star. Her debut novel, Ayesha at Last, was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writers Prize, longlisted for the Stephen Leacock Humour Award and Cosmopoliton UK named the novel their 2019 choice of the year. Film rights for the novel were also bought in 2018 by a major production company. Uzma, along with Ausma Zehanat Khan, and S.K. Ali, are all close friends and part of a group they call the Sisterhood of the Pen.
Of course, the representation that we’ve been given is absolutely phenomenal, but we still need more. So if these five books give you any amount of inspiration, maybe you can also write a book that will blow the world away.
Asiya is a writer and journalist based in Brisbane, Australia.