What Makes People Come Back to a Blog ?

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Hello guys !

So this post was supposed to go up last week but… if you read last week’s tag post, you know why I went -forcefully- off the grid for a few days. That being said, I’m back and trying to speed schedule posts because Eid is at the end of the week and I’m traveling in a couple of days to my aunt’s house.

Anyway, way to get off topic, Fadwa. When I came back from hiatus I found a few comments from new bloggers asking for advice on how to do the whole blogging thing. Flash news: we’re all winging it. Okay no, more seriously, in my year and a half of blogging, I’ve picked up some tips and tricks that I think could be useful to someone out there. This won’t be the only post of this kind but I don’t know at what rate I will be posting them, it will all depend on inspiration (see, winging it!). But I already have a couple up that I think are somewhat useful:

So, now that that’s said, let’s get on with the post at hand. I want to talk about the things that make us not only follow a blog but also stick to it and keep coming back to read the posts that are put out. This won’t be an all inclusive list and some of these might not work for some people (some of them don’t work for me), but all in all, this is what I’ve seen around. So let’s do it !

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It doesn’t have to be something fancy or complicated, it just needs to be at your image and not too crowded so that people feel comfortable reading your blog (says the girl with the bright pink blog. Le sigh). You can make it as simple or as elaborate as you like but I’d advise starting simple if you’re new to it, just so that you can pick up some skills (which you’re bound to do) and see what you like and don’t like and THEN you can work on making it into what you want it to be. Speaking from experience, wanting to master it all from the first try get VERY frustrating.

Also, don’t be afraid to experiment, switch things around, see what works best for you. Blog designing isn’t an exact science and no one is going to shun you for wanting to play around with your own blog. I know it sounds daunting and that you want to get everything perfect from first try but none of us have, it took me quite a few tries before getting it the way it is now and really loving it and even then, I still make some small changes from time to time.

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I don’t do memes anymore because most of them don’t fit my posting schedule and I’m not interested in the ones that do. That being said I’m very very grateful for them because they jump started my blog quite a bit, they were the best way to meet other bloggers and interact with them as well as to fill in my blog with post while I was still trying to figure out who I wanted to be as a blogger. You can find a few meme directories in the first post linked above.

As for tags, they serve the same purpose, tho I still do them from time to time, not nearly as often as I used to (again, I started losing interest) but they’re still fun to do from time to time and have saved my butt from not posting more times than one, so they’re definitely a nice tool to have.

I must admit that this is a double edged sword because they tend to get boring and repetitive so if that’s all that’s on the blog, people may get tired of it and… not come back, which is counter-productive.

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Don’t be afraid to be yourself, “looks” (read: blog design) can only get you so far and if there’s nothing to back them up, so be as loud as you want to be, as sarcastic as you want to be (believe me, I know) or as quiet, as flowery, as intellectual, as *add adjective that fits you* as you want. Most important is that you. be. yourself. Fangirl all you want, rant all you want, scream all you want, all you need to do is show your likes, dislikes and some traites of your personality, you don’t need to overexpose yourself if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.

I find that my favorite blogs are those that give me a sense of the person writing the posts, and when I read them I can feel that there’s someone behind the screen. This is not as hard as it sounds, most of us do it without realizing it.

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I know that we’re mostly here as reviewers but we all know (and if you’re a newbie, now you will know) they’re the kinds of posts that get the least engagement out of all types and here’s where I give me two cents about it. So try switching it up with other types that make it easier for people to talk to you, maybe some discussions which can range from serious to hilarious, take your pick, or other original content like character interviews that a couple friends of mine do (Ceillie & Sinead) or branching out of books a bit (the Follow Me Through Morocco series I did a while back, which I might pick back up… someday) or other content that I can’t think of right now because I just had a brain fart.

I know that coming up with these kinds of posts at first seems impossible but as you grow more confident in your blog, the ideas just start popping in your brain? I think? Or you can get inspired from other bloggers but definitely don’t copy. That’s a big no no in the community. And just common sense.

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There’s nothing better than that, because it builds a trust with the reader and they know whatever your post that it *is* your opinion, no one else’s and it wasn’t influenced by anyone or anything. And at the end of the day, if people trust you, they’ll keep coming back to you. Simple math. Also, showing genuine interest in what they think and have to say is important, especially when they comment, I know it’s hard when comments pile up (Lord knows I’ve sucked at it lately) BUT it’s essential that when people take the time to leave a thoughtful comment to answer and show equal interest. This also goes for when they voice concerns about your content (which you can read a more detailed post about here).


That’s it until next time.

What are things that make *you* come back to blogs?What are your favorite kinds of posts?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Do Reviewers have a responsibility towards readers?

Responsibility

Hello Guys !

It’s been SO long since I wrote a discussion post that I’m not sure I know how to navigate them anymore. I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. That being said, I’ve been meaning to talk about this particular topic since before I went on a hiatus so here goes nothing.

Over the past few months (year-ish?) and the rise of diverse books (it’s really just a tiny rise to be honest, we NEED more of them, so so much more), we started getting the representation we deserve to see and with that we started seeing how flawed and problematic some books we cherished for very long, as well as books who are still coming out, are so we naturally started calling them out and as reviewers, I think that’s the right thing to do (my post about problematic content). And that’s when I realized that having a platform comes with certain responsibilities. And that I needed to move my bum and live up to that, or at least, try my damn hardest to do so.

I want to say that THIS is my own opinion and if you don’t agree with it, don’t bite my head off for it. I feel like this is what I need to do with my blog and if the way you see things is different, you do you and I do me and let’s let each other be happy with what we’re doing.

That being out of the way, here’s what I think comes with having a voice in the community. I’m not saying I’m influencial, but if a review of mine helps one person, I call that a success. I also want to add that this won’t be about writing style, plotting or characterization as it seems that no one has trouble pointing out when those are not so great. Without further rambling, here are the respoinsibilities I feel like I have:

Responsibility 1

Yes this is a no brainer but I feel like sometimes we’re biased. I’ve been guilty of it, multiple times. But we need to do better. I don’t think my favorite author is exempt from criticism, I don’t think my favorite series is, I don’t believe anyone or anything is. If they mess up, you bet I need and will say it in a review. Does that mean I need to hate it now? NO. We all have those books we’re emotionally attached to for one reason or another BUT that doesn’t mean we’re allowed to pretend the issues don’t exist. Because they do. And people can be potentially hurt by them. So I’d rather feel a bit uncomfortable because my favorite isn’t perfect than sit around and watch people who trust my opinion get hurt. That happened to me before. And I felt betrayed.

I know, we’ve all as reviewers, started this journey for ourselves. Or at least, I did. My bio (which is from over a year ago) says it, I wrote that reviewing the books I read “will primarily be to record my thoughts and be able to come back to them whenever I want to” and although this may be true, my priorities have shifted, yes I record my thoughts, and yes they are *my* thoughts so I can come back to them whenever. but as my following grows (which I’m super happy about sobs) and people add books to their TBRS and pick books up because I’ve read and loved them (this legit makes my day and I’m super humbled by it), I realized that it wasn’t just for me anymore and if people actually care about what I have to say, I should care about whether or not a book does them justice.

Responsibility 2

We’re humans, we’re not perfect, we make mistakes. We’re also not part of every group of people that exists, which means that we’re bound to miss things that to us seem “normal” but that might be offensive to the people it actually is about. So that’s when listening comes in. If a person approaches you about one of your glowing reviews telling you that the book isn’t so glowing don’t be offended, it’s not about you, it’s about them, and about the book hurting them.

So listen to what they have to say, no “but I didn’t read it like”, no “but my friend is X so I know what I’m talking about” because that just doesn’t make sense. *You* as a person who isn’t part of a marginalized group can’t know better than a person who is part of it. Real life experiences >>> Text book definitions. Also, there is no such thing as an opinion when it comes to problematic content, because it’s based on facts. You wouldn’t say “well, in my opinion the earth is flat” so you can’t say “I don’t think this is racist” when you’ve never been subject to racism

There’s also the fact that people of a certain group are not a monolith so again, if someone from said group calls out a book don’t reply with “but I know this person who’s also of the same marginalization who’s read it and didn’t think it was problematic” because we all experience things in different ways so we don’t have a right to invalidate someone’s feelings with someone else’s, they’re both valid and should both be acknowledge in your review.

What I do when I realize I messed up and missed a book’s issue is that I go back to my review, change my rating if I feel like the rating isn’t accurate anymore and add an edit at the top with the date and the issue that was brought to my attention and what’s more important is to link to an #ownvoices review written by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about because no matter how extensive my explanation is, it cannot be as accurate as that person’s.

Responsibility 3

I’m a firm believer of messing up. We are allowed to miss problematic content, we aren’t born with the necessary baggage to spot all that’s hurtful and offensive, privilege as well as not being exposed to said marginalization shields us from it. But I also believe you need to learn from it and not makes the same mistake twice, it is your responsibility to do better for the readers who trust you because otherwise it’s safe and honest to say that you could lose credibility with them. If they keep getting hurt by books *you* recommend, they have a right to protect themselves and stop listening to you. Just like you have a right to do the same if someone keeps ignoring your feelings.

I know there are people I trust a lot and other I trust less, several I had to unfollow just because I just didn’t like the way they handled problematic content. So if a person I really do trust tells me X book could hurt you, maybe it’s better for you to skip it, I do and will more often than not. I don’t want “to form my own opinion” at the expanse of mental exhaustion, it’s just not worth my time and energy.

As much as this is a hobby -and yes at the end of the day, I don’t get a cent from it so it *is* a hobby- I think, us reviewers, have a responsibility, a responsibility to protect marginalized readers, especially teen readers from unnecessary hurt. I’d like to believe that they read my reviews because they trust me and I’d like to keep it that way. You may think what I’m saying is too “over the top” or that I should “just chill” because “books are just books” but we all know they’re more than that to people who are as passionate about them as we are.

So if you review books, please read critically as much as you read for enjoyement. Yes, smile, laugh, cry with the book but don’t forget that there will probably be a person who’ll pick it up because of you so, please, make sure it’s safe for them to read.


That’s it until next time.

What do you think a reviewer’s responsibility is? Do you think we should be careful when reviewing and recommending books?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Ramadan Readathon : My TBR & 20+ Recommendations

Ramadan Readathon

Hello guys !

Ramadan has began a few days back ago and it’s going rather smoothly for me *stomach noises* yes very smoothly. How is it doing for my muslim friends out there?

I’ve never ever done a readathon before just because they either do not appeal to me or the ones that do interest me happen in times where I literally cannot add any amount of stress to my already freaking out self so Ramadan Readathon is the first. AND I AM SO EXCITED. AH !!

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I thought I’d start with the basics in this post. Ramadan is our holy month and the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar, most widely known as a month of fasting (sawm) which is one of the five pillars of Islam, but it’s more than that. It’s a month where muslims abstain from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse from dawn (our morning prayer: Fajr) until Sunset (our dusk prayer: Maghreb), as well as some other things like frivolous entertainement, smoking, gossiping, lying etc…

The main goal here is to strenghten our faith and relationship with God and become a better person, through prayer, reading lots of Quran, doing good, helping those in need among other things. This obviously is mendatory for all muslims unless it’s kids, elderly, during menstruations abd pregnancies, or people who can’t fast for a reason or another. Not going to get into the details, because this alone would need a whole post.

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From the creators:

The purpose of this readathon is to celebrate Muslim authors who have written anything from comics to poetry to fiction. It is a way for people to support marginalised writers and raise awareness about the importance of diversifying our bookshelves. Note: the purpose of this readathon is to celebrate Muslim authors rather than books written about Muslims. Some of the books on these lists aren’t written by Muslims.

Ramadan Readathon

So JOIN US ! From June 1st to June 30th. It’ll be lots of fun. Spread the word so that more people participate, make a TBR, maybe find someone who’s reading the same book and buddy read, write posts, make lists, the possibilities are endless. But mostly read and promote books by Muslim authors because their voices deserve to be heard.

Here you can find the Announcement post, the twitter and the events’ schedule.

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I not only wanted to read book my Muslim authors this month but I wanted to make sure that most of them fit for one of the #DiversityBingo2017 squares and it’s actually a success, and easier than I expected. So here are my books:

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed : I’m honestly so excited about this. All my friends who have read it LOVE it. I started it yesterday and I’m already hooked, the story is compelling although I know that I am set for heartbreak and I AM NOT READY.

Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali : This is honestly one of my most anticipated books of 2017 and probably of my life. I can’t wait to read it. Its spot in my TBR isn’t a sure one because I don’t have and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get it this month. We’ll see.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir : This one is long overdo. I’ve yet to read a Fantasy by a Muslim author (not like there’s a lot of those) and I’m super excited to see if this one lives up to the hype.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi : AAH! First of all, this will be the first MG I’ve read in years and second, not gonna lie, what made me decide to read it this month is seeing the cover of whichwood, the companion novel. SO GORGEOUS.

She Wore Red Trainers by Naima B. Robert : This is probably the oldest one on my TBR, as well as the first book by a Muslim author that I discovered so it’s about time I get to it. Sounds like lots of fluff and cuteness and I’m all for that.

When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-fattah : I… don’t know what to say about this one? Other than the fact that I can’t wait to dive into it and it sounds lowkey heart breaking? I’ll keep you posted on that.

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You can find a bunch in my post about Muslim Representation, which I won’t be re-using in this post. Some of them are not out yet, but I thought I’d use this post as a reference of recommendations.

Middle Grade and Young Adult

Adult

Non-fiction

I actually discovered quite a few books myself while researching for this post, so YAY !!


That’s it until next time.

Are you Participating in the Readathon? What books are on your TBR?

If you have any other recommendations, leave them in the comments.

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Where are the Positive Female Friendships in YA?

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Hello guys !

Here’s the thing, I was a blissfully naive child (I was never that but let’s pretend) who read MG books with friendships taking front center, where girls kick ass together, have sleepovers and watch out for each other. And then I switched to YA, and I want to ask what happened to that? It just disappeared. Since I started reading YA so much and looking at it from a critical eyes, I started noticing this very -unsettling- pattern. Good, sturdy, girl friendships are so very rare in that age group and it’s REALLY weird because I was a teenager not so long ago and I remember my friends being such a big part of my daily life that I couldn’t wrap my head around this “trend” of making friendships either inexistant, superficial or straight up toxic. What’s up with that?

So I started paying closer attention with each and every book, analyzing how those friendships really worked, hoping that things would get better and… I didn’t like what my conclusions were because:

  1. Things didn’t get better.
  2. I don’t really understand why it is so common to rally girls against each other.
  3. I understand now why so many girls think it’s okay to tear each other down.

All of this being said, I did gather a pattern, the things that are common among those books. So in this post, I’ll talk about those, their impact (because, again they aren’t “just books” and they actually influence people especially children and teenagers), then I’ll get into what I want to see and recommendations to finish it off.

I’m obviously not saying all books have horrid friendships in them, but the ones that have them are one too many, and the books that actually do it right should be boosted, so stay until the end for the recommendations.

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Girl-on-girl hate

We’re in 2017, why is this even still a thing? Boom, done. No further arguments needed.

Okay, I’m kidding, come back. This is seriously so harmful especially when there is no basis for it and even worse when the basis is a guy. I’m aware that this is very heteronormative but it’s for a reason, I’ve never seen a book with a same gender romance or with non-binary folks have this pattern in them. Never. Anyway, back to our main subject. 65% of the time girls hate each other because of a guy that they both like, because that’s obviously more important than being a decent human-being. 25% of the time they hate each other just because (one of them is usually Queen-bee of the high school) and 10% it’s because of some ridiculous drama that could be worked out with a two sentence conversation.

I don’t think I need to explain why this is harmful but let’s do it anyway. How can we center useless hate in books for teens (not that it’s okay to do it in books for other age groups) and expect these girls to not pick up a thing or two – don’t argue with me on this, we may not realize it but our subconscious has its own schedule. How can a girl calling another girl a “bitch” among other names, slut shaming and othering ever be okay? When and who decided this would be a good idea? Because I’d like to have a nice chat about responsibility to readers and setting a good example.

In this category, you can also insert the main snowflake who doesn’t have girl friends because she’s special and not like other girls so she doesn’t get along with them. Spare me that nonsense.

Superficial or unexplored friendships

I have two scenarios here. Let’s start with the superficial friendship, the one where the girls bond over boys and practically never talk about anything else, the friendship is only used to explore things related to the romance which 1/ is ridiculous because we have a lot more to talk about and 2/ this furthers the stereotype of shallow girls that have nothing else to do but obsess over guys. Why would you do that? This is such an unrealistic portrayal and it also erases a lot of girl who are either, not interest in guys, or, OR, not interested in anyone really. This is how you perpetuate the false-normalcy of what “teenage girls should be like” at that age. And it’s a low blow.

Now with the unexplored friendship, this one is theoritically a good one. With emphasize on the theory part because we never get to see it. The MC supposedly has this best friend who loves her, supports her and everything but is she ever on page? No, or maybe rarely, even if they go to the same damn school. Which is unbelievable because how can you be friends with someone and they don’t show up for THE ENTIRE BOOK. That friendship is usually there as a page filler, nothing comes of it, it’s like the story is a few seconds late, like “the friend was here”. And I don’t like that. I want deep conversations and sleepovers and girl-days.

Toxic friendships

You know the kind right? Manipulative, makes the MC doubt everything including herself, makes fun of the MC and then says “she can’t take a joke” when she is hurt and so on and so forth. I can go all day. And what’s worse is that it’s never called out as bad or hurtful, the book just goes with the flow as this horrendous person sets the example of a horrendous friendship that should burn in hell, but it somehow tries to makes you think that it’s okay? yeah, no. Again, be careful with the subconscious, we absorb way more than we think we do.

Okay I’m done with the rant, now onto the positive stuff that, even though exists, we need a lot more of.

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There’s only one way it should be, really. The only acceptable way to portray female friendships in books is by it being a healthy, reciprocated love. Girls who lift each other up, see the best in each other, accept each other, flaws and all. Girls who have hours long conversations that can be deep, nonsensical (because we all have those moments) or just light hearted and fluffy. It can even be about boys, it just needs to be *among* other things. Girls who talk about science or art, even both, who go out on spontaneous adventures or just to the grocery store, who can cry on each other’s shoulders and laugh until their stomachs hurt, who can sit in comfortable silence too and can give each other space when needed. Oh, and girls who can call each other out on their questionnable behaviors, that’s important too.

I’m turning soft here but those are the things that actually happen and that need to be portrayed so that girls know what to expect out of a friendship, that they deserve to be treated well, that they can’t settle for less just because they’re scared of being alone if they leave a bad friendship.

Or. I wouldn’t mind it turning into a romance huhu. Being that bestfriends to lovers is my favorite trope and I yet have to see an F/F romance like that.

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As I predicted, I haven’t read nearly enough books for this so I asked some friends for help on twitter and SO MANY came through, so thank you ❤

Title = Goodreads page


That’s it until next time.

What do you think of the lack of Positive Female Friendships in YA?

Do you have any other book recommendations?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Relating to Characters: Is it necessary to Enjoy a Book?

Relating to Characters

Hello guys !

I have a confession, I’ve had a blogging brain fart this week , I spent all of last week trying to think up a discussion topic that I feel inspired to write about (I have quite a few in my notebook but none I really want to talk about right now) until literally yesterday (writing this on Sunday) when I finished a book that I liked significantly less than I expected. It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the word, I just felt… disconnected, so I started wondering whether it was because I didn’t care for the main character, couldn’t relate to him or something else. (Spoiler, it’s something else). Anyway, I thought I’d bring my internal ramblings and debates to the blog, because that’s what it’s for, right?

As I started thinking about this topic and trying to work out how to format it (I still don’t know, going with the flow on this one) I got flashbacks of reviews I read from time to time of people saying “I couldn’t get into it because I couldn’t relate with the MC’s experiences” or “I adored this because it reminded me of when I went through similar things so I felt comforted” There’s nothing wrong with neither statement, I think I’ve made the latter before a few times, I think it’s a matter of how you approach books, the relationship we build with characters as avid readers is very personal.

This post is in no way about how things SHOULD be, it’s more a matter of giving my own perspective and starting a discussion with all of you on how important relating to characters is. Let’s get this started, shall we?

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To me personally, wanting to relate to every character in order to enjoy the book is very limiting and a bit unrealistic, because I can’t expect to relate to EVERY character, not even most characters. Actually, the ones I relate to are very few, so can you see the flaw in that logic if I were to apply it on myself? First of all, Muslim characters are pretty rare, add to that, North African and you get ZERO (No, Morocco isn’t in the Middle East, thank you). I have NEVER fully related with a character. And my identity dictates a lot of how I see and live things. So, I can never find -for example- a romance that resembles something I’ve been through 100%, a family dynamic that’s like mine, career choices and what went into them that reflect my own. That being said, I still relate in *some* aspects.

Secondly, I read to expand my knowledge (for enjoyment as well, duh!) to discover experiences like mine elsewhere, people who may experience the same things and deal with them in completely different ways or people who experience things that are entirely different. People outside my ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion… That helps me understand the world as a whole, not just the bubble I’m living in.

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If you remember, a few months back, I wrote a post about “Reading Books at the Wrong Time” and talked about relating too much, this is something similar to that. To me, relating is either a good thing that gives me all the fuzzies and/or makes me want to scream “YEEEES!”, makes me feel seen and understood or, OR it’s the exact opposite because relating tends to reveal things about yourself, or confront you to things you don’t really want to see in yourself, things you don’t like and would much rather ignore the existence of, or things you just didn’t know were there.

In a way, reading about experiences outside my own feels safer. There are books I read recently that I made me realize some things about myself, and although I adored said books, those are things I’m not 100% ready to face yet. And if I was still in denial, I think I would’ve hated them instead of being drawn to them like I am right now.

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I honestly think that you don’t need to understand a character to enjoy reading about them, you don’t even need to like them. Empathy is the only emotion you need because just like in real life you don’t need to see where a person comes from to co-exist with them, feel for them, communicate with them, or even be friends with them, you don’t necessarily need to know in detail what goes on in the character’s brain to be able to read about them and even love their story. I don’t know, man! That’s just how I see things. Saying that you don’t like a story because you can’t relate could offend some people (not me, but I know it could) because that story might reflect their own experiences and that deligitimizes what they have gone through. Again, my opinion. You might not agree with it and that’s fine.

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Oh yeah, I know about the “the characters were too villain-like for me to enjoy” or some variation of that and I. just. don’t. get it. I think those are the best characters. When well done, they’re fascinating and the most interesting to read about. To know how their brains work, how things click, fold and unfold and what drives them. I love it. I like likeable characters but I like these ones as much if not more. “Like” isn’t then word to be honest. I appreciate them more. And I sure as hell can’t relate with those. Morally grey? Maybe, in some aspects. But not the villains. Never the villains. And I like reading about them all the same.

Anyway, that was my take on relating to characters and I’d be very interested to see what all of you think.


That’s it until next time.

Do you need to relate with characters to enjoy a book?

What makes you like/dislike a character?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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How to Make your Redesign Go Smoothly

blog-talk

Hello guys !

If you’ve been following me for more than three months you know that what my blog is wearing right now is fairly new. While I was working on it, I picked up quite a few tips that were really helpful and made it easier and less stressful for me. So when I got a few questions on my announcement I decided that this was a post that I eventually was going to write. I meant to write it in the month after my redesign, but… other posts got in the way -posts I’m really proud of, just so you know, hehe- and I kept forgetting that this is something I was planning on doing. But fret not, here I am to guide you through your redesign. Or at least, to give you one or two helpful tips.

God knows how stressful changing your entire blog’s look can be. When do I do it? What sources should I use? What layout? What color scheme? How do I go about it? Add to that the fear of messing up a theme that’s been working for so long, most of us shy away from doing anything different. I know I did. The one I had before didn’t really reflect me, it was just something I did to get my blog going and as I learnt new things, I started hating it and even then, I was afraid to change it because I didn’t want it to end up looking worse. But, once I figured some things out, it took a lot of the stress and pressure out of it.

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You know as well as I do that rushed, sloppy work is 90% of the time mediocre. If you give yourself a very short time frame to redesign your whole blog, from A to Z, chances are you’ll get frustrated and won’t be satisfied with the outcome and you’ll have to go back multiple times to fix what you don’t like and what doesn’t work which will take all the fun out of it, it’ll end being a hassle and you’ll hate the new design before you even start using it. This goes hand in hand with doing it when you have plenty of free time. Don’t be like me, don’t do it while you’re preparing for the end of semester exams. I did that, and that added useless stress to days that were already FILLED with it. 100% would not recommend.

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This is probably the biggest one. Make a blog for which the URL would be testyourblogsname.wordpress.com or whatever platform you’re using and make sure to put it on private. You don’t want anyone stumbling upon the ridiculousness that those tests can be sometimes. Anyway, once this idea dawned on me, everything was WAY easier and less stressful because I wasn’t playing around with my actual blog so mistakes didn’t have any impact and I didn’t have to rush and fix them. You can really focus on seeing what works and what doesn’t and take your time to change it. No one will see it. You can also keep it afterwards to see whether posts work with your theme or not.

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What I mean by this is find ONE (1) thing that you love and want to build your blog around, this way you can really focus on it. If you have one too many things, matching them can be forced, if not impossible because a background won’t work for a theme, a layout won’t support some graphics etc… So, is it a background? A layout? A certain type of graphics? Choose one of these that you really love and build the rest around it, you’ll actually enjoy doing that and playing around with colors, fonts and whatnot. I promise. My starting point was -obviously- the background because I fell in love with it and couldn’t NOT use it.

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It’s good to be ambitious and have a pretty good idea of what you want your blog to look like but… if that goes beyond your coding and graphic making skills? You’re set for disappointment. I know 0 things about coding and like 2% of things about graphic making (courtesy of canva) so I kept everything pretty simple and all things around this page are easy to make. But if you actually know what you’re doing, PLEASE GO ALL OUT, I love to look at pretty blogs, and be mesmerized by how the bloggers actually do that, because it’s something I can’t do.

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What I mean here is fonts, color scheme, formatting, etc… I’m not saying that if you don’t do this your blog won’t look good, I know a lot of blogs that don’t do it and are still gorgeous. This is not a matter of how the blog looks, as the title says it, it’s matter of making things easier for you. By using a couple of fonts and a set color scheme, you’ll save time whenever you have to write a post because you won’t lose any trying to decide which ones to use, you’ll be all set to work on the content. Plus, your blog will have a kind of signature look that people will recognize. It’ll help you build a brand too, if you decide on keeping that theme for a long time.

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I remember distinctly being VERY nervous about people seeing my new design and thinking it’s too bright and doesn’t look good, or that it’s not “professional” enough (news flash, I don’t get paid for this, it doesn’t have to look professional). And that’s normal. Because you want people to keep reading your posts and for that to happen they need to like it BUT that can’t put you off making you design into something YOU love, something that represents YOU. If people can match your vibe with your blog’s look, they’ll like it and they’ll keep coming back for more.


That’s it until next time.

Have you ever done a complete redesign? What are some tips and tricks you think are important?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Intersectional Feminism: Different Perspectives + Book recommendations

Life Talk

Hello guys !

This month being Women History Month I thought I’d do something that’s fitting for the occasion, and talk about something that I didn’t know how to approach on the blog until a few days ago when it suddenly dawned on me, seriously, one minute it wasn’t there and just as I was getting ready to sleep, it appeared. Thank you midnight thoughts, you’ve done well this time!

In case you haven’t guessed what the subject is, it’s Feminism. Yes, the big ugly word that a lot us fear but that I came to understand, love and cherish over the past few months. I’m going to talk to you about my own experience, and as you might guess it, it will get pretty personal, but I will introduce other women’s experiences as well, because it’s important to get as many perspectives as possible when talking about things that are subjective and for which the meaning can change from one person to the other. And I want this post to be universal, I want women from different backgrounds to read and nod because they can see themselves in some of these things.

So because of the personal aspect, I don’t know how structured the post will be, if at all. I’ll just ramble away and hope for the best. So before starting off, let’s lay some basis so that we’re all on the same wave length and we’re all talking about the same thing here.

What is Feminism ?

I think we all know what it is but we’ll go step by step. Feminism is a movement -or group of movements, whichever way you want to look at it– campaigning for women’s rights going off the basis that they -we- face oppression because we are perceived as inherently weaker and “less”. Feminism at its core fights for free choice, for women AND non-binary pals to have complete control over their lives, freedom, education, jobs, equal pays, and for them to basically have the same chances as men in all domains and aspects of life. Either it is staying at home or having big careers, getting married or not, having kids or not, it’s up to them and no one else.

In my opinion, for Feminism to be true and thrive, needs to be intersectional. There’s really no other way to do it, because if it’s not it excludes people and if it excludes people, it really isn’t Feminism.

What is Intersectionality ?

Intersectionality is based off the fact that someone’s identity isn’t just one thing. It isn’t just sexuality, or race, or gender, ethnicity, religion, mental or physical health, social class… All of these things come together to form a person’s identity and cannot be separated, they intersect to make a person who they are. Which means that other than sexism, women and non-binary folks can face racism, xenophobia, ableism, transphobia, homophobia and/or any other kind of bigotry. All of this means that your Feminism needs to include:

  • Trans women (I’m looking at you Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie*).
  • Poor women.
  • Disabled women.
  • Muslim women.
  • Black women.
  • Indigenous/Native women.
  • Non-binary pals. This last one I wasn’t aware of until recently and it makes sense, but they get erased a lot so let’s not forget to include them

* If you weren’t aware of what happened, CNA recently spoke on Trans Women and was she said was really harmful and showed how little knowledge she has about Transgender experiences. This isn’t my place to explain but here’s an article and here’s another one on why Feminism should be Trans-inclusive. I’m just very disappointed.

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I grew up a Feminist, even if I never knew it, even if I never put a label on it. Want to know why? Because my mom is one. My mom is my hero and the biggest influence in my life. She probably doesn’t know it either but she really is. She’s the most hardworking woman I’ve ever met, and she still manages to make time for us, to show that she loves us, she does everything to raise us to be great women as well (my sister and I) and to make everything we need available to us. She’s a superhero. And my number one supporter.

She’s always believed in me, let me go my own way, given me my own space, let me pursue whatever dreams and passions without interfering. And I love her for that. She’s always had hopes and expectations for me but never made them obvious, it got to the point -when I wanted to choose my path after high school- where I’d beg her to tell me what she wanted me to do because I was confused and she always refused because my future, my choice.

As I said, I grew up feeling empowered and as if I could conquer the world. I am very ambitious by nature so that felt freeing. Until I started being very aware of my surroundings and of the society I was growing up in. That was a rough disillusion. I was maybe 12? And everyone -even people I don’t know- had an opinion on who I should be, how I should behave, they were trying to fit me into boxes I didn’t belong in, or I belonged in too many. I wasn’t white enough, thin enough, Muslim enough, too smart, too loud, too honest, too ambitious… And for a long time I made myself small and folded inwards to fit.

Here’s the thing, the society I live in –like many others– is sexist, misogynistic, and inclined on colorism. I’m not generalizing of course but if you grow up surrounded by those things, you’re bound to have some internalized and not-so-internalized biases. As soon as I stepped out of the comfort of my house, the male gaze was upon me. I needed to be desirable but not reveal too much, I needed to strive for an education but I couldn’t be more educated than my potential husband, that my ultimate goal needs to be to settle, get married and have kids? What if I don’t want to? What about the people who don’t want to get married? That’s some damaging thinking.

I’m the type of person who wants everything from life and isn’t afraid of going after it. I want a big career, to be successful in it, to be able to help people. I remember going to my sister’s pediatrician with her last year (which used to be mine) and as we chatted away, he asked what I wanted to do as a specialty, my mom answered and said “A surgeon” -which I’m not even sure of. His response? “But you can’t! That’ll be hard on your domestic life, you won’t be a good wife, won’t see much of your kids” Okay. I know that came for a good place, but who told him that’s what I want from life?

Yes, I want to eventually get married. Yes, I want to eventually have kids. But does that means I have to give up big part of who I am, the ambitious one? the one that has big dreams and want to keep working towards them? I think not. Anyway. As I struggled to balance between what society wanted me to be and what I wanted to be, I became more aware of what Feminism is, of the Feminist in me, because until then, I stirred very clear of it.

In mainstream media, especially where I live, Feminism is portrayed to be this wild, out of control movement where women wanted to be provocative, lacked modesty and didn’t fight for anything important so I didn’t identify as that. And I know most feminists don’t either, but I didn’t know that at the time. But when I started reading up and educating myself, I saw more and more of who I am and what I stand up for portrayed in what the essence of Feminism is. And so I reclaimed that label because I want to fight for my rights, the rights of all women and non-binary people. I want us to be freed of not only sexism but all other forms of oppression and bigotry.

Book recommendation: Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World

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Kirsty, book blogger @ Kirsty’s Book Reviews :

I grew up on the Isle of Skye where there was like one mixed race family I knew and the overwhelming majority of people I knew were white. There also wasn’t really anyone I knew growing up who was anything other than straight.

This was probably why when I would get aroused when I was younger by my mum’s underwear catalogues and my friend’s brother’s naked women posters I didn’t realize that this was an early explanation to my sexuality. No one I knew was queer so I didn’t have an example that people were different to just straight or gay, I only ever saw it on tv. As far as I knew I was attracted to boys so I definitely wasn’t gay. Then someone at my school came out as bi, and everyone just said she was a lesbian, but I paid attention and started to think about myself.

At this time I was also becoming much more involved in internet culture and learning about the world outside of my own community. It took me about 4 years after that initial thought before I read about pansexuality and immediately felt like that was me. I found this by my increasing involvement in the tumblr feminist community (which I’m not part of now because it’s so toxic). I really started to think about the world around me and how insular my childhood was. I thought back to the language I used to use and how everyone took it as acceptable because they were all white, able-bodied, straight and cis.

Feminism has really made me think about myself as a person and how I want to teach children as they grow how the world isn’t exactly how they may take it from their small communities. I feel so empowered at times, but I also feel very upset about my own actions when I see minorities talking about bad experiences. It’s such a learning curve and sometimes I feel like because of my background I have so much more to learn than everyone else, but I love learning so it’s ok.

Book recommendation: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Sinead, book blogger @ Huntress of Diverse Books :

Am I a feminist? According to the dictionary definition, yes, I am. But I don’t feel comfortable with that word. What do I associate with the term feminism? White feminists.

People who tell me that this is not the time to discuss other forms of discrimination. People who tell me that we’re only focusing on gender equality at the moment, we’re only discussing sexism. This type of feminism doesn’t only occur abroad. It exists in Germany as well. I am not just marginalized because I am a woman. I’m also a woman of color and I don’t speak nor write my father tongue (yes FATHER tongue) perfectly even thought it’s the main language of the country I live in at the moment. I could use the term intersectional feminist. Some people use it as a general term that means they fight against all forms of discrimination. Since the word feminism is part of this term, I feel like the term insinuates that feminism is the combining factor, the main cause, the priority.

I do identify as an intersectional feminist and my definition centers on being against sexism and for gender equality, while taking intersections of other forms of discrimination and marginalisations into account. However, if I’m talking about my activism in general, which includes fighting against all forms of discrimination, I don’t use the term ‘intersectional feminist’ as my label. It isn’t the all-encompassing word that I’m looking for. If it works for you, that’s great. I’m feeling rather comfortable with the term ‘social justice activist’ at the moment. Maybe I’ll find a term that resonates with me 100 % one day – I haven’t found it yet, but one day, I might.

Book recommendation: Saree by Su Dharmapala

Kaeley, book blogger @ Spoilers May Apply:

The idea of agency and freedom of choice and expression is something Western cultures are very familiar and intimate with. But for all of that fierceness and freedom, it leaves very little room for women to have freedom of choice and expression. Feminists seemed to have earned a bad rap sheet. And because of that some women feel like feminism isn’t for them for various reasons. But even if you feel like that, it still will fight for your rights and respect. It will still support you and try to make the world a better place for you and every person, male, female and everyone in between, who comes after you.

I think feminism for me, and hopefully for everyone, is very liberating. To me, feminism means I can be whoever I want to be and do whatever I want to do; I can wear what I want to wear and say what I want to say. Feminism means I’m valued for my personality, intellect, and actions rather than what my body can or can’t do for others. That is what feminism, true feminism is. Feminism values everyone, breaks down barriers and allows everyone to be who they want to be; whether that’s masculine, feminine or something in between or entirely different. It’s not about who your siblings, parents, friends, significant other(s), culture or society expect you to be. Feminism is being yourself. Feminism is freedom.

Book recommendation: Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

Maya, book blogger @ Maya Hearts Books :

I’m a queer teenager from Spain. I believe in feminism and I need to, because even though I’m pretty privileged, I want to, I feel like I MUST fight for every single one of my sisters and dismantle patriarchy so we can all, both women, non-binary people and men, live our own lives peacefully, being who we want to be.

I want my male friends to be able to say how they feel and my female and non-binary friends to be considered equal to men. I want my fellow LGBT+ people to live and love as the rest. I want every single woman of color to have the same opportunities I have. I want a world where disabled people can live a normal life. Everyone in developing countries, I want them to live life as well as they would in first world countries. I want sex workers to be treated fairly. And only feminism can take us there.

The only true form of feminism is intersectional. We can only move forward if we all work hand in hand, and every hope of success we put in white feminists is futile.

Book recommendation: Nononsense Feminism: Alive and Kicking by Nikki van der Gaag.

Puput, book blogger @ Sparkling Letters :

Feminism to me has always been a controversial topic, mainly because my understanding of it was limited, as well as the influence of my religion. Growing up, my understanding of Islam was always that a man should be the leader. I was afraid that feminism means being superior to men and it might go against what my religion has taught me. But a few years after, I learned that feminism doesn’t mean that one gender has to have more power than the other. Being a feminist doesn’t mean women has to be superior to men. To me, it’s about receiving what we, as human, already deserve. Starting from simple things like education, the right to be ourselves, to be success, to have a career, and most importantly, to choose for ourselves. And that doesn’t mean that we have to push men aside in the process.

I owe my hobby (reading, obviously) to a feminist from my country. Back when we were still under Dutch colonialization women weren’t allowed to go to school. They have to stay home and help the family until they were married off, and then it was up to the husband. There was this one woman, her name was Kartini. She was born into an aristocratic Javanese family and her father was a Regency Chief of Jepara, a region in Central Java. She only attended school until she was 12 years old but secretly she learned to speak Dutch, an unusual accomplishment for Javanese women back then.

During her time at home, Kartini continued to educate herself by reading books, newspaper, and European magazines. They fed her interest in European feminist thinking. A few years later she was married to a fellow noble. She was angry at first, but it turned out her husband shared her passion for education and feminism and supported her dream to build a school for women. That was the first time women were allowed to go to school to learn to read. Without Kartini’s merit, we women probably wouldn’t know how to read.

Back to my point above, being a feminist doesn’t mean we have to be superior to men and push them away. It means there has to be respect for each others regardless of the gender. It takes cooperation and understanding. After all, Kartini successfully did what she did with the help of her husband, but I’m not saying that she wouldn’t be able to success on her own. I’m sure she would be either way, and so would every women in this world.

Book recommendation: Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis (TW: Rape, Sexual Assault, Murder)

Janani, book blogger @ The Shrinkette & on Twitter

I only became actively involved in social justice conversations while living in the States. I’ve attended protests, had conversations with friends who share my ideologies, been in environments where feminism is the default, and generally lived in a feminist bubble in my real life. So, when I moved back in with my parents, and naturally started having these conversation with them. With my friends from college. With my closest friends from school that I grew up with. And my bubble shattered like a Christmas bauble. The transition is…frustrating.

I am jarred by the disconnect between the people I’ve known my whole life and the conversations I’m having online. The gaps are infuriating. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering how and why this is, and among several things, a lot has to do with my own expectations. I start these conversations with people expecting them to automatically be in tune with my ideologies and line of thinking. I’ve spent a lot of time fighting, feeling infuriated, and crashing into waves of depression. My passionate rants are met with “the world is harsh and unfair, this is how people are, you’ll just have to accept it” (from my parents) or “what about when ________” from friends (casual misogyny). This frustrates me. It scares me. I don’t want to accept it. The idea that I will go all my life yelling about needing systemic change and bringing down the patriarchy- whether it’s in publishing or elsewhere, without any serious changes actually taking place- haunts me. It makes me question whether all the grief I take from people online and offline is worth it.

So I’ve been thinking about what I could do instead. It’s making me realize my participation in social justice and actions as a feminist need not be on a wide platform. I need to adapt my intentions in accordance with my environment, while keeping my values. If I need to bring about change, ranting at people IRL like making twitter threads or fighting with internet trolls is not only screwing with my mental health. So, I need to start small. To have more 101 conversations. To use relatable examples. Channel some of those feminist values into doing things for the community, instead of waiting to join in the next protest. Taking joy in the small things- like how my sister has been reading some of my books and beginning to grasp the workings of the patriarchy and its ramifications.

Instead of throwing jargon into people’s faces, break it down using relatable stories. I’ll recommend more books by marginalized writers to people who ask for recommendations without making it about their/the characters’ marginalisations. And I’ll take comfort in my feminist bubble online. I’ll write about it. I’ll do the twitter threads and the educating and the learning and the boosting and the ranting. I’m sure it’ll be a long, painful, arduous process, but I’ve come to realize that nothing about this movement was ever meant to be easy.

Book recommendation: Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell Hooks

Jordyn, book blogger @ Jordz the Bibliophile

I guess that one of the reasons that intersectional feminism means so much to be is the fact that I finally feel included. When people talked about sexual inequality, they mentioned that women earned 77 cents to every dollar a man earned, or how likely they were to face harassment. But those statistics were for white women, not for me. When I found out that black women earned 64 cents, Hispanic women less than that, Native American women less than that, it felt like a slap in the face. It felt like the world really didn’t care about women of color like me.

Learning about intersectional feminism just made me feel like there were people out there that felt what I felt, that really could relate to what it was like to grow up as a non-white woman.

Julia Ember, author of Unicorn Tracks and Upcoming The Seafarer’s Kiss

To me, feminism has always been about bolstering the dreams and aspirations of people who are held down by the patriarchy. This absolutely includes women, but it’s so much more than that. Even in 2017, it’s still overwhelmingly the case that the highest paid jobs and positions of political power are held by straight white men. I think in 2017, feminism has changed necessarily to supporting rights for all marginalized people, not just cis women.

Feminism also has to go beyond a throwaway statement of equality. It’s great that so many companies have policies against discrimination – but without actively trying to change the balance, it’s easy for them just to stick to the status quo, then hide behind the shield of “we chose the best applicant.” I think with today’s feminism, we have to support looking beyond obvious biases, into actively promoting and encouraging marginalized people. Passive feminism isn’t good enough. Yes, that may mean that companies have to “pass up” male candidates. But when I graduated university, in 2011, I saw a marked difference between the number of men who got jobs straight out of study and the number of women who did. A lot of the men who got jobs at big banks and corporations had lower GPAs and less work experience than female and POC friends who struggled. They were not better qualified, but their status as white cisgender men played into recruiters expectations of what good candidates looked like.

In the book world, which I am most familiar with, this means we have to go beyond just “accepting work by women, POC, LGBTQIA people” into actively promoting, buying and soliciting submissions for it.

Lila, book blogger @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets :

Imagine this: A mother and child, living in a household in which the mother is married to a man who abuses her. She has been working up to leaving for a while now. Then something happens one day and it is the last straw. She knows she can not raise her daughter like this and files for divorce. However, in the process of getting a divorce, the woman’s soon to be ex-husband steals the house and all of her money out from under her, leaving her and her child destitute and homeless.

This is my mother’s story and I am her daughter. I want to share something with you about intersectional feminism and the people that everyone so often forgets: the poor and homeless. Women cannot affect and change communities and the world if they do not have the money, the education, the opportunity, or (and I mean this quite literally) the life. Poverty disproportionately affects women and children around the world. Women are pushed into poverty everyday due to wage gaps and societal standards and then trapped in poverty by sexism, racism, and classism.

And maybe you think this isn’t an issue in America, one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Then let me give you a statistic that’ll blow your mind: “The United States has the largest number of homeless women and children among the industrialized nations. Seventy million women and their dependent children are living in or on the brink of poverty.” (Wikipedia, “Feminization of Poverty”)

So what can this community, the literary community and in particular the subgroup of the YA literary community, do to help us? Talk to us. Tell our stories. Most of the time digging your way out of homelessness and poverty isn’t a rags to riches or rags to Harvard story. Its grinding work moving from beng poor or homeless to living in a decent house—not a big house, but a house. Write about us, how we spend hours on buses just to get groceries, go to the doctor, school or work. Write about how our houses might be a little messier because they’re smaller and we don’t have a maid. Tell people how we survived. There is triumph and strength just in that.

I have never read a YA book that has a poor or homeless female heroine. Not one. I only know of one book (Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series) that has a poor/homeless hero. If no one tells our stories, how will they know what is happening to us? If no one tells our stories, who will combat the negative myths and stereotypes surrounding poverty and homelessness? Telling stories of heroes/heroines who are poor or homeless, is empowering.

It’s not that we don’t have a voice, it’s that no one is listening. We need someone to tell our stories to a larger audience; make them feel and hear us. Make them see us. Please dont read this as just another post. See this as a catalyst an opportunity to give a voice to those of us who have one, but so often feel no one is listening.


That’s it until next time.

Are you a Feminist? Were you aware of Intersectionality?

Do you have recommendations of book that have Feminism either as an underlying or dominant theme?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Problematic books: What are they and How to Approach them?

bookish-talkfg

Hello guys !

This post has been brewing in my brain for a few weeks now. If you don’t follow me on Twitter and haven’t noticed the shift in my blog’s focus lately, I am a self-proclaimed diversity advocate (or try to be as much as I can). It’s pretty recent and I have never been happier with my reading than I am now. I’ll give you a backstory on how this happened.

When I first started blogging, I wasn’t aware of the importance of representation in books, I didn’t even know it was a thing that existed and that we need more of. Then a few months in, posts started popping up in my WP reader and my Twitter timeline about diversity, diverse books, #Ownvoices books and how important all of these things are. So, as I started reading about this, I realized that I read all the same books, with the same characters, written by people who have, more or less, the same experiences (on a wider scale) and it hit me. I, by definition, I’m a diverse bookblogger, so why wasn’t I boosting voices like mine? Voices that aren’t heard enough. Voices that aren’t nearly as loud as they ought to be.

In july, I wrote this post called “My Diverse Reading -or Lack there of” where I basically pledged to reading more diversely. From then, I started adding books that I wouldn’t have read otherwise to my TBR. I started with one or two a month, until where I’m at now where I naturally reach out for them, I don’t even need to think about it.

With the talk about representation, came the talk about *accurate* representation, because a lot of books do it wrong. A lot more than you realize. Some we’ve all read and loved. That’s how problematic books were born.

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A problematic book is a book that does the minority/ies it includes wrong. It could be things that can very easily be overlooked just like it could be blatant, screaming bigotry. In addition to that, those things are never called out or challenged as wrong and hurtful.

For the purpose of this post, we’ll call the diverse character Div and she’s a brown Muslim girl.

Tokenism

This is when a book includes characters from minorities. But not really, they’re like an afterthought. What I mean is that  Div is there to check the box for diversity in a non-existent checklist, or to follow the trend (fyi, diversity is NOT a trend, if you think it is, you should read up). Div has no dept, or no real show of her identity in her behaviors and mannerisms. Other than the fact that the text says “Div is a Muslim” nothing proves that she really is. The easiest way to recognize it is to try and replace Div with a non-Muslim character (PoC or Indigenous by a white character, disabled by an able-bodied, etc…) if that changes nothing to her words and actions, that’s a bad sign. It should ring some bells.

Plot device

In my opinion, this is a very easy one to recognize because the character is killed off in most cases. You ask me: How a character can possibly be a plot device? It’s when said character helps further the MC’s quest and not by being a badass companion. No. Div either dies to serve as a motivation and a slap in the face to the main character or she has something major happen to her that inspires the MC to be a better person, do better, and have a better life (re: Me Before You). This is not okay because something -literally anything- else could be a motivation, why not have something from the MC’s experiences be life changing? And leave Div alone to thrive and kick butt.

The use of slurs

Slurs are called slurs for a reason and they’re not for you to use. Especially if you’re not part of the minority the slur is directed at. Even if the word has been reclaimed by those people. They can use it. You can’t. The thing is, they’re not a monolith so if a person has accepted the word, another might still get -righteously- offended by it. And even if they use it for themselves, you using it can still be offensive. So the best approach is to not use them at all. No N word, no Q word, no F word, no R word, no slur word. Not ever.

Things specific to certain groups:

This is definitely not an exhaustive list, just some examples to get you started.

Characters of Color/Indigenous characters:

  • Cultural appropriation. And by that I mean writing a book inspired by a certain culture where you’re choosing and picking what you like and completely distorting it (Re: Rebel of the Sands). Like say, having a creature be called Jin when it’s nothing like Jins. Or, face and body tattoos inspire from different indigenous tribes that are normally charged with cultural or even religious meaning but that, in the book, are used very wrong (Re: Nevernight).
  • The all so popular “Div is Asian”. Asia is a continent. Is she Chinese? Japanese? Korean? Indian? Pakistani? Give me a country, not a damn continent.
  • The use of “savage” to describe a people that’s -more often that not- inspired by Indigenous people. Those same people are usually antagonized and portrayed as the bad guys who go around slaughtering everyone (Re: The continent). All the while, the white savior trope is well and thriving. Please no, enough of that nonsense.
  • Also, saying Div looks exotic or describing her using food is no good. She’s not a spice, she’s not food, she’s not a forest, she’s not exotic. That’s just cringey, ridiculous and shows lack of vocabulary. Here’s a helpful link with adjectives to describe skin color.
  • Let’s say Div is bi/multiracial don’t use half-X, half-Y. Or worse, using percentage. Ever. She’s a full person and is fully part of both -or all- ethnicities, not half anything.
  • “Div is pretty for a brown girl”. Yikes. Just no. Div is pretty. Period.
  • Color blindness. Unless the character is born literally color blind. They *do* see color, whether you like it or not. So using that in a book to make a character of color’s struggles illegitimate or even cancel them is just bad. Really bad.

Mentally or Physically disabled characters:

  • “Div suffers from X”. She doesn’t “suffer” from anything. You can say “Div has X” or “Div is a character with X”. Both are better alternatives.
  • A very popular, very widely used practice is using the name of actual disabilities as hyperboles to get a point across, or for dramatic effect. Saying Div is a psycho or that she’s blind, deaf, hysterical, schizophrenic, bipolar, OCD, and the list goes on, when she actually isn’t. Something that we shouldn’t normalize anymore.
  • Saying -or even implying- that any kind of disability ends a person’s life is very harmful. And that if they don’t endanger themselves by defying said disability they are not living life to the fullest. Can you see the flaw in that kind of thinking?
  • Making someone’s disability about someone else’s life. Having them act differently, showing how it is a burden. All of it is wrong. ALL. OF. IT.
  • When the disabled person has some kind of superpower that renders the disability irrelevant and like it’s not there. This just shows laziness when it comes to properly researching so the book is “working around it”. Having superpowers is fine, it’s great even, just make them unrelated to the disability.

Characters from the LGBTQIA+ community:

  • •”For a gay guy, Div’s brother was pretty straight” This implies that gay people have to behave a certain way, say certain words to fit in the box you have constructed for them. But they do not. Sexuality has nothing to do with behavior.
  • Implying that whatever sexuality a character is is just a phase. Because it’s not. They can be questioning their sexuality but none of it is a phase, don’t be that guy that says “it’ll pass”.
  • Using the wrong pronouns for a character because you “choose” to call them depending on the genitals they were born with. Especially when it comes to Transgender, non-Binary and Genderfluid folks. Respect the pronouns they’re comfortable with.
  • Aro/Ace erasure is real and thriving, don’t fuel it. Aro is Aromantic-spectrum, so if you say that no human-being can live without a romantic partner, you’re dehumanizing them. Don’t. Ace is Asexual-spectrum,  and if you say that not having/wanting to have sex is abnormal, you’re harming them. Don’t.
  • Saying that a bisexual girl isn’t really bisexual if she’s dating a boy and same goes for a bisexual guy who is dating a girl is biphobic. Period. They’re bisexual for a reason, dating “the default” doesn’t make it any less true.
  • Sexuality or gender being a plot-twist or a spoiler. Yikes. If that’s the case, then something is wrong because it shouldn’t be. A person’s sexuality or gender is nobody’s business so even if it’s kept secret until the middle of the book, that doesn’t make it a “plot-twist”.

I am not talking about problematic Muslim representation because I go into it in this post about the Importance of Muslim Representation in Books.

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Talk about the problematic elements:

We’re not asking you to hate it all of a sudden, we all have problematic favorites. As a reviewer, you just need to talk about how it’s problematic. Does it have racist content? Transphobic? Islamophobic? Ableist? Anti-semitist? The worst thing to do in cases like these is to ignore it or pretend like you haven’t seen or heard anything. You have a responsibility towards people who trust your reviews to tell them if a book can potentially hurt them. And please don’t say “it’s just a book”, we all know they’re more than that. And I’m sorry to break it to you, but one sentence in a 600 words review won’t cut it either and if you don’t really know what to say I have a solution…

Boost marginalized voices

Link to reviews that go into detail about how that book was problematic, especially if they’re #Ownvoices (Marginalized folks talking about their own marginalization). That’s really important. Your platform can be really helpful in making their voices louder. As I said link to the reviews, retweet them, talk about them. Any way is good to get the message across. And what’s really really important is, never ever, talk over them…

Be an Ally

Which goes hand in hand with what I said last. Being an ally is mostly boosting voices and listening. Educating yourself and helping in educating others. All over social media, people from minorities get harassed and bullied for speaking up so stand up for them if you can. And educating people, repeating the same things over and over again can be very exhausting so if it’s something they’ve educated you about before, jump in and educate, they will be grateful for it. One thing to never do when someone says they’ve been hurt by something is to say “but X told me that it’s okay, *they* weren’t hurt”. Good for X, but that changes nothing and doesn’t make the hurt any less present.

Don’t recommend the book

I know this might be hard but as long as problematic books get recommended and make the top of bestseller list, they’ll keep on being produced. What does that tell the publishers? It tells them that that’s the content that sells, that’s what readers want, and they’ll keep on giving it. While if we take a stand and show how we cannot support them, it will stop it cold. We need to care about real people more than fictional people, we need to show empathy. Because if you’re privileged enough to never be hurt by books, know that others aren’t as lucky and that you need to be there for them.

If you’re an author, do your research

Do your homework, friends. If you’re determined to write about an identity that isn’t yours, research it really well. Look online, get books from the library, talk to people, be sure to get the experiences as close to reality as possible. And once your work is ready, invest in Sensitivity readers, you won’t regret it. They will be your representation editors and help you spot things you might have missed and unpack any potentially internalized biases that might show in your work. This is better than the alternative. Which is hurting real people.

This was my -very long- two cents about problematic books, a little guide that I hope might help some get the hang of it. I know it can seem daunting, believe me, I know. I’m still learning and have a long way to go. And I’m eager to learn too. Because accurate representation matters. And we need it.


That’s it until next time.

Do you read diversely? Do you want to read more diverse books?

What do you do when confronted to problematic books?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Choosing your People Right

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Hello guys !

You know what a new Life Talk post means right? It means that I had something happen lately that made me take a step back and reflect on life for a bit. Don’t worry, nothing personal, just things that have been happening in the world, thing I have been hearing, etc… But what really sparked this discussion topic and made me go “That’s it! Now is the time to discuss this.” is reading YOU’RE WELCOME UNIVERSE by Whitney Gardner. The book puts emphasize on friendship and shows a comparison between what a healthy and a toxic friendship is and that kind of made me look at all the friendship I had in my 20 years and I honestly feel good where I’m at right now. So I’m sharing my wisdom (ish)

I’m a pretty social person which means that I know and hang out with a lot of people but I only consider a handful my friends, the rest are more like… acquaintances. I know them, enjoy their company, spend fun times with them but wouldn’t trust them with personal things. That being said, I haven’t always been that way. I was a very naïve girl when it came to trusting and opening up to people and I even considered myself lucky whenever someone wanted to be my friend which means that I’ve had my fair share of heartbreak and disappointment. The upside to that is that now I have killer instincts when it comes to people bullshiting me to their benefit or people having a negative impact on my life in general.

All of this being said, let’s jump in:

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They’re nowhere to be seen when you need them.

You’ve had a rough day? You need help? You need someone to just listen to you? Well, they’re conveniently busy, have problems of their own that they don’t fail to remind you of or some varient of that. Sometimes, they’d even pretend to be there for you but by the end of the conversation you’d realize that the focus of it shifted to them without you even realizing it. Yeah, I’d hate to break it to you -no, not really- but that’s not good.

They’re always expecting you to listen to them

Yeah, ironically, they expect of you the very thing they don’t give you. Time.  They’re self-centered and they not only expect but demand of you that you hear them out. They probably even manipulate you with “You’re my friend”, “That’s what friends are suppose to do”, “I thought I could count on you” or anything that would make you feel guilty for not being the “worthy” friend they “deserve”. Listen closely, because I know it’s hard to recognize this behavior, especially when it’s someone you love but ask yourself whether this person returns all they’re asking for. If your answer is no, it’s time to make some changes.

They think their bigotry is an opinion

This is more of something I recently started paying attention to, especially while being more involved in the book twitter community. Some people would say really offensive maybe even racist, ableist, Islamophobic, homophobic, transphobic… things and expect you to respect that because it’s their “opinion” and they’ll make you think that you’re the one in fault here because you are not respecting it. Here’s the thing, that’s not an opinion. Blue is my favorite color is an opinion. I like sushis is an opinion. Hating on a religion, an ethnicity, a sexuality is not. That’s bigotry and you don’t have to put up with it. Actually, you have to stay as far away from it as you can.

They have a negative outlook on things

There are some people who have a hard time after bad experiences, because of mental health issues and so on. People who can’t help it and those are not the people I’m talking about here. I mean here the one that are quick to judge, fast to trash talk, don’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt. The way to recognize this kind of behavior is essentially by the way you’re feeling when hanging out with these people, they’re often criticizing you -not the constructive, healthy kind- making you feel bad about who you are, what you say, what you do, they’re never happy for your small and big victories and so on and so forth. Listen to what your body is telling you, if having them around stresses you out and leaves you feeling drained and unhappy, it’s time to cut your loses.

You’re always doing things THEY want to do

You know, when you want to have Italian for lunch but they impose thai. Or if you want to go on a weekend getaway to a wood cabin and they take you to the beach because “they know better”. They’re generally all small things that accumulate overtime so that you find yourself never enjoying yourself, never doing what you actually want to do. This may seem like nothing but looking at the bigger picture, why do you have to be the one to always sacrifice? Once in a while is okay, but all the damn time? You deserve better. You know it. I know it. The neighbor’s dog knows it. So, act on it.

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I won’t make this one as long, because it is basically the opposite of what’s above. But I’ll cover some basis anyway.

Your relationship is about reciprocity

You don’t have to do all the work just like they don’t do it all. You find a middle ground that work for the both of you. Today is a beach day and you’re having thai food for lunch while next weekend you’re booking a cabin and getting italian food. Your friendship is based on love, trust, respect (!!!) and understanding. In the long run, only relationship that have solid basis can last. Relationships where you are not scared of being judged, talked over or disrespected. Because they uplift you and you do the same.

They’re open to change

I’m not saying that you should strive to change your friends because you shouldn’t, you should love and accept them for what they are. But. But let’s have as an example a friend who has some internalized biases, maybe racism. You shouldn’t be scared to call them out on it and they shouldn’t be offended by it, because at the end of the day you only want them to be the best version of themselves they can be. They work on it and improve themselves. And you do too. As I said, reciprocity.

They boost and motivate you

We all have those days when waking up in the morning is just hard, those days when things get overwhelming, goals seem unachievable some people can make that worse but your friends should help ease it. Even if they’re just words, sometimes the right ones can go a long way. I am not saying that they are a miraculous remedy to the storms that may be taking over your brain, I’m just saying that when you are at your lowest you can’t have people around you who make it worse for you.

I think I am done. This was my two cents on how to choose your entourage. Toxic friendships/ relationships in general are more common that we think which makes it hard to recognize them sometimes, because some bad behaviors are just normalized and “It’s okay” is overused. Well I’m telling you that you don’t have to settle for any less than you deserve, and you deserve better than people who stick with you whenever they can get something out of it and disappear once that’s done.

And I know that letting go can seem hard but it’s not. It’s worse for you and your health to be living in a toxic environment and trust me, you’ll feel better after you cleanse your life from the people that don’t belong in it and don’t bring any positivity to it. Once you start it becomes easier. It only takes that first step. Do it.


That’s it until next time.

Did you ever have to deal with this type of relationship? Was it easy for you to recognize them?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Why don’t I see myself? Muslim Representation in Books

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Hello guys!

So… I’m a Muslim.  I know I’ve said it in a couple of posts before but I’ve never really talked about it, and that was a while ago. For the new-comers, hello! I’m Fadwa and I’m a Muslim Moroccan girl –  Arab-Amazighi. That being said, I am not writing this whole post just to introduce myself, fret not, it has another purpose, which is clear from the title, I want to talk about Muslim representation in books.

I’ve had this topic on the back of my mind for quite some while, it is something I knew I wanted to talk about, I just didn’t know when, or how. But considering the shit show that the world has turned into lately (more than usual, mind you), with the Muslim Ban and the terrorist attack on a mosque in Quebec, I thought it was time to speak up, to tell my own story and not let media define me and my religion. Not gonna lie, even thousands of miles away, this last week was rough, I felt exhausted and terrified but most of all useless, because I felt like I needed to do more for my community, and my fellow Muslims directly affected by the things that have been happening. That’s where this post comes in.

I’ve been a reader ever since I could remember, but do you know the number of books that I read in my 20 years of existence that have good Muslim representation that are NOT solely focused on religion? Three. Yeah, you read that right, and I’ve read hundreds of books. To be honest, before last year, I didn’t seek them out because the media portrays us in such a negative way that I thought books are just the extension of that and the few that I had come across (all not #Ownvoices mind you, because before getting involved in the diverse community I didn’t know that was a thing) only confirmed my theory and made me stay away even more from books with Muslim protagonists.

Growing up, I wish I had a book -even just one- for which I could say “THAT’S ME!”, in which I could see myself, my family, my friends, my daily life. That would’ve mattered, that would’ve helped in shaping me as an adult. And looking back, now that I am aware of the importance of seeing one’s self in the books one reads, I can see how that impacted me as a little girl who spent most of her time buried in books. Reading books that didn’t represent me made me feel like, on a larger scale, who I was and how I identified didn’t matter enough, like I had to hide who I was in order to fit in, and that is just sad. I know that I wasn’t alone in feeling that way and that’s even sadder. But I don’t want little girls now to feel that way. We have the responsibility to give them the books they need and deserve.

Just like with many other minorities, people know about Muslims what they see on tv, hear on the radio, what they read on the internet, or gossips they hear from their friends or neighbors. What with Islamophobia climbing up at dangerous rates, all of us need to work harder than ever to deconstruct those stereotypes that have been pinned on us for a very long time because we can’t afford staying silent when those acts of hatred threaten our lives, when people stop just talking and start acting on their bigotry. We are 100% scared but we are fighting back. And I think books have such a huge part in that.

Books are the way people get educated, books are the source of all knowledge, so if we get good positive representation in books and we get a lot of accurate books about us, our voices will eventually get louder than bigotry, and they will finally be heard. That is why we need more Muslim publishing imprints, more Muslim publishers, authors, protagonists, bloggers, librarians and so on and so forth. Because there aren’t nearly enough Muslims in the book industry to represent us the right way.

Before getting into bookish Muslim things, I need to break some stereotypes:

  • We are not terrorists. I just feel like we are repeating ourselves here. ISLAM is a peaceful religion. And terrorism isn’t an Islam thing, it’s a hateful people thing and there are plenty of terrorist acts perpetrated by non-Muslims, it’s just that the media doesn’t call it what it is. I wish I didn’t feel the urge to apologize every time there is a terrorist attack. But I do.
  • We are not a monolith. Islam is a very diverse religion, we are a people from different ethnicities, sexualities, genders, socio-economic backgrounds etc…
  • Muslim women are not oppressed. Some cultures do oppress women, but they just happen to follow Islam. Islam as a religion values women a lot. If a woman wears a Hijab it’s because she wants to, not because her father/brother/husband made her do it so stop trying to “save her”.
  • We are not backward thinking. We believe in Allah, yes. But we also believe in science, progress, equality, freedom of speech and belief, and many many other things.
  • Forced marriage isn’t part of Islam. Again, some cultures do that, but they just happen to be Muslims. Arranged marriage is, which happens with consent from both parts and both can say no and call it off at any time.
  • Each one of us has a different, unique relationship with their faith. The Quran (our holy book) can be interpreted in various ways which means that beyond some pilar things in Islam, other parts of it differ from one person to the other and it doesn’t necessary mean either one is better.

Now that I think I covered the common misconceptions, let’s move on to books, because that’s why you’re here, right?  Here are a few things I need more/less off when it comes to Muslim representation.

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Things that need to disappear

  • Picking and choosing. How do you choose what you want to use from a religion and dispose of the rest? Explain the logic to me, please and thank you.
  • Calling our beliefs mythology. Repeat after me. JINS ARE NOT MYTHOLOGICAL CREATURES. You’re making a joke out of yourself by doing that and showing your very real, very obvious lack of research. Don’t do that.
  • Books where the Muslim boy becomes a terrorist. Pretty self-explanatory, I don’t need to elaborate on that.
  • Books where the Muslim girl needs saving. And ends up being saved from oppression by -typically- a white non-Muslim person. Just, no.
  • Any kind of book that looks at Islam with a negative lens. We have plenty of that everywhere, we don’t need it in our books too.

Things we need more of

  • MORE #OWNVOICES BOOKS. Let us tell our own stories. We live them so we are the best people to tell them. Our narratives are so rich and diverse, you’ll never read the same story twice.
  • Muslim protagonists who slay dragons and save kingdoms (while taking breaks for prayer times, obviously!)
  • More diverse family dynamics. The popular thing is for the family to be very conservative and while that is the case for a lot of people (and I don’t have a problem with that), it is not for me and a lot of other people. I need to see that reflected in the books I read.
  • Muslim girls who have crushes, go out, travel, have big ambitious careers because those are the girls we are and that is the image that the world needs to see for it to realize that we really are fine and we don’t need any saving.
  • Muslim kids that get to figure out themselves, their sexualities and everything else, kids who get to make mistakes because it is okay to be lost and find yourself in the middle of your own chaos.

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Title = Goodreads Page

This list focuses on YA but has non-YA books as well.

Books you can read now

22521951Written in the StarsAisha Saeed

Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late

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Sofia Khan is Not Obliged – Ayisha Malik

“Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.’ Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. ‘Are your parents quite disappointed?’
Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.
As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love . . . ?

20898019Ms. MarvelG. Willow Wilson

Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!

 

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She wore Red trainers – Naïma B. Robert

When Ali first meets Amirah, he notices everything about her—her hijab, her long eyelashes and her red trainers—in the time it takes to have one look, before lowering his gaze. And, although Ali is still coming to terms with the loss of his mother and exploring his identity as a Muslim, and although Amirah has sworn never to get married, they can’t stop thinking about each other. Can Ali and Amirah ever have a halal “happily ever after”?

 

17345748And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini

In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.

Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.

Does my Head look big in this? – Randa Abdel-Fattah79876

When sixteen-year-old Amal decides to wear the hijab full-time, her entire world changes, all because of a piece of cloth…
Sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full- time and everyone has a reaction. Her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else.
Can she handle the taunts of “towel head,” the prejudice of her classmates, and still attract the cutest boy in school? Brilliantly funny and poignant, Randa Abdel-Fattah’s debut novel will strike a chord in all teenage readers, no matter what their beliefs.
 

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The story of Maha – Sumayya lee

The child of a forbidden marriage, Maha grows up happily in Cape Town until her world changes forever when her parents are killed at a political rally. At the age of eight, Maha is reclaimed by her loving but staid Indian grandparents and taken to live in Durban. Growing up in the claustrophobia of the suburbs what she dubs Slumurbia Maha reveals a love for the outrageous as she clashes with the conventions of her community. Always a free spirit, she soon learns how to weave around the strict boundaries of Muslim life and as a rebellious teenager, nothing holds her back from experiencing first love, a bit of partying and a tantalising romance (all between prayers, of course). But when it counts the most, rules must be obeyed and as she heads towards her twentieth birthday, there is no way Maha can avoid Marriage to a Suitable Boy. With refreshing energy, Maha treats us to the ups and downs of her passionate (though sometimes quite vulnerable) young heart, and a life in which she’s not quite in charge.

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God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems – Ishara Deen

LIKE NANCY DREW, BUT NOT…
Craving a taste of teenage life, Asiya Haque defies her parents to go for a walk (really, it was just a walk!) in the woods with Michael, her kind-of-friend/crush/the guy with the sweetest smile she’s ever seen. Her tiny transgression goes completely off track when they stumble on a dead body. Michael covers for Asiya, then goes missing himself.
Despite what the police say, Asiya is almost sure Michael is innocent. But how will she, the sheltered girl with the strictest parents ever, prove anything? With Michael gone, a rabid police officer in desperate need of some sensitivity training, and the murderer out there, how much will Asiya risk to do what she believes is right?

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The Languages of Miracles – Rajia Hassib

Samir and Nagla Al-Menshawy appear to have attained the American dream. After immigrating to the United States from Egypt, Samir successfully works his way through a residency and launches his own medical practice as Nagla tends to their firstborn, Hosaam, in the cramped quarters of a small apartment. Soon the growing family moves into a big house in the manicured New Jersey suburb of Summerset, where their three children eventually attend school with Natalie Bradstreet, the daughter of their neighbors and best friends. More than a decade later, the family’s seemingly stable life is suddenly upended when a devastating turn of events leaves Hosaam and Natalie dead and turns the Al-Menshawys into outcasts in their own town.
Narrated a year after Hosaam and Natalie’s deaths, Rajia Hassib’s heartfelt novel follows the Al-Menshawys during the five days leading up to the memorial service that the Bradstreets have organized to mark the one-year anniversary of their daughter’s death. While Nagla strives to understand her role in the tragedy and Samir desperately seeks reconciliation with the community, Khaled, their surviving son, finds himself living in the shadow of his troubled brother. Struggling under the guilt and pressure of being the good son, Khaled turns to the city in hopes of finding happiness away from the painful memories home conjures. Yet he is repeatedly pulled back home to his grandmother, Ehsan, who arrives from Egypt armed with incense, prayers, and an unyielding determination to stop the unraveling of her daughter’s family. In Ehsan, Khaled finds either a true hope of salvation or the embodiment of everything he must flee if he is ever to find himself.

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Painted Hands – Jennifer Zobair

Muslim bad girl Zainab Mir has just landed a job working for a post-feminist, Republican Senate candidate. Her best friend Amra Abbas is about to make partner at a top Boston law firm. Together they’ve thwarted proposal-slinging aunties, cultural expectations, and the occasional bigot to succeed in their careers. What they didn’t count on? Unlikely men and geopolitical firestorms.
When a handsome childhood friend reappears, Amra makes choices that Zainab considers so 1950s—choices that involve the perfect Banarasi silk dress and a four-bedroom house in the suburbs. After hiding her long work hours during their courtship, Amra struggles to balance her demanding job and her unexpectedly traditional new husband.
Zainab has her own problems. She generates controversy in the Muslim community with a suggestive magazine spread and friendship with a gay reporter. Her rising profile also inflames neocons like Chase Holland, the talk radio host who attacks her religion publicly but privately falls for her hard. When the political fallout from a terrorist attempt jeopardizes Zainab’s job and protests surrounding a woman-led Muslim prayer service lead to violence, Amra and Zainab must decide what they’re willing to risk for their principles, their friendship, and love.

Books to look forward to

29346880The Gauntlet – Karuna Riazi (March 28th 2017)

A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.
When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.
Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?

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That Thing we call a heart – Sheba Karim (May 9th 2017)

Shabnam Qureshi is a funny, imaginative Pakistani-American teen attending a tony private school in suburban New Jersey. When her feisty best friend, Farah, starts wearing the headscarf without even consulting her, it begins to unravel their friendship. After hooking up with the most racist boy in school and telling a huge lie about a tragedy that happened to her family during the Partition of India in 1947, Shabnam is ready for high school to end. She faces a summer of boredom and regret, but she has a plan: Get through the summer. Get to college. Don’t look back. Begin anew.
Everything changes when she meets Jamie, who scores her a job at his aunt’s pie shack, and meets her there every afternoon. Shabnam begins to see Jamie and herself like the rose and the nightingale of classic Urdu poetry, which, according to her father, is the ultimate language of desire. Jamie finds Shabnam fascinating—her curls, her culture, her awkwardness. Shabnam finds herself falling in love, but Farah finds Jamie worrying.
With Farah’s help, Shabnam uncovers the truth about Jamie, about herself, and what really happened during Partition. As she rebuilds her friendship with Farah and grows closer to her parents, Shabnam learns powerful lessons about the importance of love, in all of its forms.

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Amina’s voice – Hena Khan (March 14th 2017)

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.

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The Authentics – Abdi Nazemian (August 8th 2017)

Daria Esfandyar is Iranian-American and proud of her heritage, unlike some of the “Nose Jobs” in the clique led by her former best friend, Heidi Javadi. Daria and her friends call themselves the Authentics, because they pride themselves on always keeping it real.
But in the course of researching a school project, Daria learns something shocking about her past, which launches her on a journey of self-discovery. It seems everyone is keeping secrets. And it’s getting harder to know who she even is any longer.
With infighting among the Authentics, her mother planning an over-the-top sweet sixteen party, and a romance that should be totally off limits, Daria doesn’t have time for this identity crisis. As everything in her life is spinning out of control—can she figure out how to stay true to herself?

30688435Exit West – Mohsin Hamid (March 7th 2017)

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.
 

The City of Brass – S.A Chakraborty (November 2017)

When Nahri, a young con artist in eighteenth century Cairo, accidentally summons a powerful djinn warrior to her side, she finds herself drawn into the political machinations of the royal court of Daevabad, the ancient, magical city of brass. Descendant of a powerful family thought to be destroyed, blessed with the gift of healing, Nahri soon realizes her very presence threatens to reignite a centuries-old religious war between the feuding djinn tribes. Hoping to keep her head, she forms an alliance with a fiery prince who dreams of revolutionizing his father’s corrupt reign. But she soon learns that working with the enemy—even to make peace—can have deadly consequences.

Saints and Misfits – S. K. Ali (June 13th 2017)

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?
Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.
And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.
While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?  

This Promise I will Keep – Aisha Saeed (Sometime in 2017)

In it, a Pakistani teenager enters indentured servitude to pay her family’s debts, and must choose between pursuing an education and freedom or the chance to save her village from a dangerous threat.

Mirage – Somaya Daud (November 6th 2017)

YA fantasy/SF trilogy inspired by the author’s Moroccan background, in which a poor girl from an isolated moon must become the body double to the cruel imperial princess, and learns that life in the royal palace is far more dangerous and complicated than she imagined. Publication of the first book is planned for fall 2017.


That’s it until next time.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

If you have any other recommendations, leave them in the comments.

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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