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5 Must Read Books Written by Muslim Women

5 Must Read Books Written by Muslim Women

Finding books with a decent representation of Muslim women without a biased lens is hard in the Western literature sphere. Thankfully, more and more Muslim authors this generation are writing beautiful novels with nuanced portrayals of what it means to be a Muslim woman, and the Muslim experience. 

Whether you want a book to read during lunch, on the beach, or anywhere else to escape reality, here are five books you can read that are written by Muslim women authors. 

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Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa⁣ ⁣ When was the last time you read a book that moved you and what was it?⁣ ⁣ Mornings in Jenin was mine, I read it a few weeks ago just in time for Leeds Lit Club convo with Susan Abulhawa herself—shoutout to @sofia_reading and team! I knew from others’ reviews that it was very much a heartwrenching book, so I picked up the book with that thought in mind. I just didn’t think the aftertaste would be for days! So painful. Even writing this review is tough for me.⁣ But I’ll probably do a reread in a couple of years. ⁣ The story centres around the Abulheja family who lived in Ein Hod, forcedly removed out of their home and lived in Jenin as refugees. The daughter Amal who was born in the refugee camp become the main protagonist as we follow her life journey in the refugee camp, the boarding school, and when she moved to the US and built a family herself. Too many tragedies, too many deaths. I wouldn’t wanna spoil it for anyone, so please read it for yourself; especially if you’re into family sagas set in Palestine, this one is definitely not to be missed.⁣ ⁣ I was immediately immersed into this story for several reasons. The writing style that teases the future in the twists of the past and present reminded me of Arlene J. Chai’s Eating Fire and Drinking Water. And the way Abulhawa included bits and pieces of actual news to illustrate how real people’s lives are reduced to numbers and statistics on the media added the depths of despair for readers like me who had never gone through what Palestinians had. Abulhawa also challenged me to see the young Zionist soldiers beneath their skins—that they’re just regular teenagers stuck in their uniformed duty (not saying I agree with them). Another aspect that I was analysing over and over again in my mind was the distant loving mother daughter relationship within the two generations of the Abulhejas. During the discussion, Abulhawa mentioned that the portrayal was completely unintentional. Got me thinking about psychoanalysis and how writing is one way to heal your trauma. ⁣ ⁣ (continued in the comments)

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Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulawa 

Genre: Historical fiction. 

Trigger warning: war violence 

Narrated from the viewpoint of a displaced Palestinian woman, this story highlights the brutal inhumanity that comes with being a Palestinian and the strength of Palestinian women. Combining plot points about family troubles, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and displacement, Mornings in Jenin doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of being Palestinian and the struggles of identity, culture, and national pride.

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi 

Genre: Autobiographical 

Trigger warning: violence 

You’ve probably been recommended this book more than once, and here I am doing it again. That’s probably because The Complete Persepolis is one of the most original novels ever drawn and written. The coming of age book follows the true story of the author’s life in Iran pre-Islamic revolution, during it, and the aftermath. It’s a story that illuminates the courage, agency, and resilience of Iranian women. 

The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi 

Genre: Historical fiction 

Trigger warning: domestic violence and abuse 

Written from the perspective of Afghan women and girls, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is a novel about women flipping gender roles and taking control of their narrative in a household and environment stacked against them. This novel flips back and forth from present day to past family connections to showcase how women have survived the hand they were dealt amidst violence from outside powers and within their own homes. 

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Book Review • A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza⁣ ⁣ I almost don’t want to review this book, because I know that limiting how this book made me feel, and finding words to emphasize how important this book is for people to read, will take some of the magic that this book has left behind and diminish it. ⁣ ⁣ My reading experience⁣ At some moments, I had to stop and process the events. The raw emotion portrayed through the eyes of children is almost too much. A Place for Us tells the story of a Muslim Indian immigrant family growing up in the US. We first meet the family at the eldest daughter Hadia’s wedding, which the youngest sibling Amar is attending after being cut off from the family for three years. We go back in time to learn what got them to the point of the wedding in this way, and the story continues from there. The writing style is incredible – Mirza distinguishes the voices of the characters and their pain and joy in an incredibly clear way. ⁣ ⁣ Who is it for?⁣ If you want deep character building, complex storylines, and a “fly on the wall” view of a family’s religious and cultural growth, this is the one for you! ⁣ ⁣ This book made me more empathetic, and more aware, of what lies under anger, and what lies behind distance. We could all afford to have a little more empathy today, and this book gave me that. This was the May choice for my IRL book club, and I’m so glad I read it – this one will stick with me. ⁣ ⁣ #SMGlibrary ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ #aplaceforus #southasianreaders #southasianauthor #southasianbookshelf #southasianbookstagram #fatimafarheenmirza #novel #story #chicagobookstagram #chicagobookstagrammer #coffeeandcurrentlyreading #coffeeandbooks

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A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza 

Genre: Adult Fiction 

Trigger warnings: substance abuse, violence 

This book highlights the raw, real, and relatable experiences as Muslim Americans, especially how we relate to and misunderstand our parents and their generation. Although the book may move slow for some people, the small pieces of the story include experiences that significantly contribute to how many Muslim Americans may feel displaced, torn between two cultures, and yearning for a place to belong. 

We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib 

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir 

In this beautifully written memoir, Samra Habib articulates the struggles of what it means to be queer and Muslim and have your identity consistently not validated. Habib writes of her journey from her childhood in Pakistan to becoming a misplaced refugee in Canada. Through her experiences, Habib showcases the intersection of various forms of oppression faced in the East, West, and the internalized oppression many experience within their households regardless of where they reside.

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