Muslim women are a diverse group, differing in many ways. Even the term “Middle East” is too broad a term to describe a culturally diverse area — and a Eurocentric, orientalist term at that.
Stereotypes of Muslim women rooted in Eurocentrism and orientalist tropes have pervaded the news, TV shows, and pop culture. While Muslim women certain have our fair share of challenges with inequality due to a combination of culture, patriarchalism, and religious misinterpretation, the “Muslim woman experience” is not universal. Here are six of our favorite books to read that showcase the diversity of experiences that Muslim women have.
Muslim Girl: A coming of age by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh
Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age by MuslimGirl.com’s founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh is a “a harrowing and candid memoir about coming of age as a Muslim American in the wake of 9/11, during the never-ending war on terror, and through the Trump era of casual racism.”
After years of facing Islamophobia post-9/11, Amani details her journey through adolescence. She founded her own website, MuslimGirl.com, which became the largest website for Muslim women in the west, in order to help Muslim women reclaim the narrative. Her memoir shows is a timely and powerful reminder of the power of stories, and that yes, Muslim women do talk back.
Her book is a New York Times best-seller and available internationally, so it’s a great choice if you are looking for the best books to read on vacation.
This Is What America Looks Like, by Ilhan Omar
Named a best political book The Atlantic, Representative Ilhan Omar’s book narrates her journey from refugee to Congressional representative.
Young Ilhan Omar was just a child — only eight years old — when the war in Somalia started. Her mother died when she was just a child, and she was being raised by her grandfather and father. After armed gunmen attacked their compound, the family fled and ultimately ended up in a refugee camp in Kenya, where life was a constant struggle. After four years, the family was granted refugee status, arriving in Arlington, Virginia.
Having missed years of schooling while at the refugee camp, Ilhan arrived in America speaking only Somali and behind in her education. She was faced with many challenges — including the stereotypes she faced being a Muslim, an immigrant and a refugee. These stereotypes still follow her to this day.
Despite this, she went on to attend college, and was elected to Congress with a record-breaking voter turnout. This Is What America Looks Like is the story of Ilhan Omar, but also the story of one woman’s faith in the promise of America, and her dream for the American people.
Nine Parts of Desire, by Geraldine Brooks
This book is written by a non-Muslim woman, but it’s still worth a read, although we wholly believe in Muslim women telling our own stories.
The author, Geraldine Brooks, was a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal for many years. She covered the Middle East — a very broad and non-monolithic region — for six years. This book is a compilation of the stories she collected during those years. In it, she highlights some of the controversies that shape the lives of Muslim women, such as politics, culture, religion, and other forces like family, sects, and social status, and how religion has been used and exploited to justify the oppression of women.
Brooks explores the way history and politics shaped the oppression of women and the policing of women’s clothing. For example, now the hijab is mandated in Iran, but there was once a time when women in Iran would have their hijabs yanked off by soldiers, as the Shah preferred a “modern” look for the country at that time. Brooks interviews several powerful Muslim women for the book, including Queen Noor of Jordan, and one of the daughters of Ayatollah Khomeini.
The book is written in an easily accessible manner so that both Muslims and non-Muslims alike can engage with the text. It provides a glimpse into the history of the conditions that Muslim women have had to live through at various points in time in various countries.
If you’re looking for advice on how to find the best books to read, always check the book reviews and read the insights by other readers. Inspirational reading can help encourage a student who feels they want to give up in life or their studies. It may also inspire them about a topic they want to write about if they cannot find relevant ideas. If you need help on any topics, seek help from UK assignment help for students offered by AssignmentBro. You will get help on assignments like accounting, law, MBA, arts, and many more.
We Have Always Been Here By Samra Habib
The title of this book pays homage to those who have hide who they are within the Muslim community — whether it be because of the sect they belonged to, or because of their sexuality. This is the situation Samra found herself in, while growing up in Pakistan. Her family belonged to the Muslim’s Ahmadi sect, and other Muslim sects believed the Ahamdis were a blasphemous sect. As a result, they constantly faced death threats, and her parents taught her never to reveal her sect.
In other words, although she existed, it was like she was non-existent. The family then moved to Canada and being a refugee, her life was never smooth. Samra set out on a journey to explore love, sexuality, faith, and art. This book is a memoir about her challenges, family, and victories.
Samra continued to face challenges of erasure within the Muslim community, as she belongs to the LGBTQ+ Muslim community. LGBTQ+ Muslims are often erased from the Muslim community at large, as many act as if it’s not possible to be LGBTQ+ and Muslim.
This book is a great read anytime, but keep this one in mind when you’re looking for a Pride Month read by a Muslim author.
So Long a Letter By Mariam Ba
This book is short — less than 100 pages long — but reviews mention that there is quite a lot to ponder despite the short length of the book.
In this book, a widow undergoing forty days of mourning following the death of her husband writes a series of long letters to her friend. Five years before her husband’s death, he abandoned her and their children and went to marry a second wife.
In the letters, the widow laments the challenges of the patriarchal Senegalese culture, written at the start of Senegal’s post-colonial period. Reviewer @aishathebibliophile on Instagram notes that “Readers should take care to not conflate cultural ideals with Islamic tenets,” — this is an important reminder when reading any book that discusses both culture and religion.
Cut From the Same Cloth? Edited By Sabeena Akhtar
Cut From the Same Cloth? is an anthology of essays by British Muslim women, meant to have the reader ponder the title. Are all Muslim women the same, just because they share the same faith? A rather silly question, but that’s not how stereotypes of Muslim women are treated, unfortunately — and it’s why they persist.
Authors wrote on a wide range of topics as diverse as the authors themselves. Topics included discrimination and racism faced by Black Muslim women, the often-debated issue of modesty and hijab, love, marriage, and dating, as well as being Muslim and disabled.
Writers were truly diverse in the sense that the essayists came from a broad spectrum of ethnicities, races, and other identifiers.
Read all the books!
As you’ve no doubt seen from the books on this list, Muslim women are in no way a monolithic group. Muslim women are a diverse group, with diverse experiences, even when there are shared or similar themes. It’s worth it to give all of the books on the list a read, as each book offers unique lessons and insights, because each author’s story is unique.
Helen Birk is a diverse and innovative writer who loves to take on different types of writing assignments that range from academic essays to magazine articles. She’s equally diverse in the subjects that she chooses to write in — whether it’s business or it’s technology, she enjoys what she does.