Ramadan Mubarak! I honestly can’t believe how quickly this time of year has come around. There’s only one day to go until #RamadanReadathon so I think it’s time I shared my slightly ambitious TBR for the month. I basically wasn’t planning on having this many books to read since I have very specific non-reading related goals for Ramadan, but I thought I’d include all the Muslim-authored books I already own here anyway even if I don’t get around to reading them.
A MAP OF SALT AND STARS BY ZEYN JOUKHADAR
Nour is a young Syrian girl who has lost her father to cancer. Wanting to be close to her relatives, Nour’s mother – a cartographer who makes beautiful hand-painted maps – moves her family back to the city of Homs. Nour’s father was a real storyteller and he told her that the roots of the trees connect to the ground across the world. She knows they left her father in the ground back in America, so she starts telling him the ancient fable of Rawiya, whispering it into the ground so he might hear.
Rawiya left her home dressed as a boy in order to explore the world. She became apprenticed to Al Idrisi, who was a famous cartographer tasked by King Roger II of Sicily to make the first map of the world. Together with Al Idrisi, Rawiya travelled the globe, encountering adventures – including the mythical Roc and a battle in the Valley of Snakes – along the way. It is this story that gives Nour the courage to keep going when she has to leave Homs after it is bombed and faces a long journey as a refugee in search of a new home – a journey that closely mirrors that of Rawiya many centuries before.
When Nour and her sister are forced to part from their mother, she gives them a special map that contains clues that will lead them to safety. The two stories are beautifully told and interwoven, the real interspersed with the magical/imagined so that the overall effect is uplifting – about the strength of the human spirit, the strength of women in particular, the power of a journey, and what it takes to find a home.
I’ve had this book on NetGalley for months and it’s actually one I was really excited about but… I just didn’t get around to reading it before publication. I will definitely be reading it this month though because it’s the first book on my TBR.
SALT HOUSES BY HALA ALYAN
On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia and her children; she also sees travel, and luck. While she chooses to keep her predictions to herself that day, they will all soon come to pass when the family is uprooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967.
Salma is forced to leave her home in Nablus; Alia’s brother gets pulled into a politically militarized world he can’t escape; and Alia and her gentle-spirited husband move to Kuwait City, where they reluctantly build a life with their three children. When Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait in 1990, Alia and her family once again lose their home, their land, and their story as they know it, scattering to Beirut, Paris, Boston, and beyond. Soon Alia’s children begin families of their own, once again navigating the burdens (and blessings) of assimilation in foreign cities.
This is the May – June pick for @TheMuslimShelf book club and another one I’m excited about because it was published a year ago but I haven’t heard much about it. I literally have no idea what to expect and I love that feeling.
A GOD IN EVERY STONE BY KAMILA SHAMSIE
Summer, 1914. Young Englishwoman Vivian Rose Spencer is in an ancient land, about to discover the Temple of Zeus, the call of adventure, and love. Thousands of miles away a twenty-year-old Pathan, Qayyum Gul, is learning about brotherhood and loyalty in the British Indian army. Summer, 1915. Viv has been separated from the man she loves; Qayyum has lost an eye at Ypres. They meet on a train to Peshawar, unaware that a connection is about to be forged between their lives – one that will reveal itself fifteen years later when anti-colonial resistance, an ancient artefact and a mysterious woman will bring them together again.
THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST BY MOHSIN HAMID
At a cafe table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful encounter…
Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by an elite valuation firm. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romance with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.
But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned and his relationship with Erica shifting. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.
I found these two books in the same second-hand bookshop but on two separate occasions. Kamila Shamsie is an author whose prose I first read during last year’s Ramadan Readathon, and she quickly became one of my favourite authors once I read the genius that is Home Fire.
I only read Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West quite recently but I loved his ability to tell that story in such little words. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is just as short and, despite being published eleven years ago, I think it’ll be just as relevant as if it was written today.
And that’s my TBR for Ramadan Readathon! Are you taking part in this challenge? Have you read any of these books? Don’t forget you can share your progress throughout the month on social media using #RamadanReadathon!