#OwnVoices: 5 of My Favorite Books by Muslim Authors

When was the last time you saw a character that resembled you in a fiction book? Take a minute to think about it. I’m not just talking about a character with a similar personality or interests. I’m talking about a character with similar physical traits. As an Arab Muslim, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I really started seeing people like me featured in fiction. Growing up, I would only ever read books about white people. These were books I enjoyed, but books I could never truly relate to.

In 2018, the hashtag #OwnVoices emerged in the book community, in order to address diversity in fiction head-on. According to Brightly, the #OwnVoices label is a “useful shorthand for books with diverse characters that are written by people who share those identities.”

I’m always looking for books with more authentic Muslim stories, which is why I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites. Check them out below!

  1. 1. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

    This book is special to me for many reasons. Not only was it the first YA book by a Muslim author that I ever picked up, but it was also the book that got me back into reading. An Ember in the Ashes is a fantasy book telling the story of Laia, a slave, and Elias, a soldier. It takes place in a military academy, and although it can be very violent at times, it’s also extremely powerful. This book touches upon so many important themes, and it is also one of the most critically-acclaimed fantasy books in recent years.

  2. 2. Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

    If you’re not into fantasy, I highly recommend Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali. This book is about Janna, a Muslim teenager who has recently been sexually assaulted by someone in her community. S.K. Ali did such a fantastic job of not just tackling rape culture, but how difficult it can be to come forward as a young girl when your rapist is someone with so much power. This book is so moving, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

  3. 3. A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

    Speaking of powerful books, A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi is one of my all-time favorites. This book follows Shirin, a Muslim teenager living in the United States in 2002―right after 9/11. Given that I wasn’t even a year old when 9/11 happened, I’m unable to fully relate to the struggles Shirin faces in this book, but a lot of it is based on the author’s own experiences as a Muslim teenager growing up in post-9/11 America. It also features beautiful writing and a super cute love story, so I highly recommend this book!

  4. 4.  A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

    I read this book over the summer and I loved it. This book goes back and forth between two generations, and it tells the story of Isra, a Palestinian immigrant, and Deya, her daughter. This book is so important. Many minorities are scared to tell their stories because they don't want to reflect negatively on their culture. White people, on the other hand, can tell all kinds of stories, without ever having to worry about perpetuating those stereotypes. I think that just because this book makes people uncomfortable doesn't mean it should be ignored. In fact, I think some of the best books are the ones that make you uncomfortable. All in all, this is such a powerful read.

  5. 5. Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali

    The final book on this list is a lot more lighthearted than the rest. This book is a romance about Zaynab, a Muslim-American teenager who travels to Doha for spring break to stay with her aunt. The relationship in this book was super cute, and it was very exciting to read a Muslim love story because that’s something we so rarely get to see in literature. This book also deals with Islamophobia, but it’s not the whole plot, and I thought the author did a very good job of capturing the experiences of a Muslim teenage girl.

Whether you’re looking for a fantasy, romance, or contemporary novel, I highly recommend all the books on this list. It’s always important to support minority authors, so I hope you enjoy these books!

 

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