Books are more than “Just Books”

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Hello guys !

I’ve been a reader since… as long as I can remember. I truly can’t pinpoint when I learnt how to read. My mom is the reason I love the stories held inside books so much, she used to read to me every night, probably even before I could understand what she was saying haha, until one day I picked up the book from her hands and started reading for myself. Since then, I can’t remember a time -besides my 2 years long slump- when I wasn’t reading a book. Continue reading

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#TheReadingQuest Wrap-up post

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Hello guys!

#TheReadingQuest is a kickass video game inspired reading challenge created by Aentee @ Read at Midnight than run from August 13th to September 10th and today marks the official end of this amazing kick-ass reading challenge since yesterday was the last day. And I’m kinda proud of myself for posting this on time haha, it’s prescheduled since today is my first day back to classes and rotations *shudders*. Continue reading

Muslim representation I want more of

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Hello guys !

A few months back I did a post about Muslim representation in books titled Why don’t I see Myself? which I loved writing but since then I’ve got a better, more concrete idea of what I want our representation to look like and this post is mostly going to be a follow up of that one where I go more into detail about some of the things I talked about last time as well as maybe, potentially, add some new things.

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Teens in the YA community: Experiences + Recommendations

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Hello guys !

So today, I’m back again with another collab post where I’m not gonna be talking much for a change but giving the mic to other people who are younger than me but they sure as hell are more awesome and brilliant. When I first joined the community I was 18, an older teen, but still a teen all the same. I didn’t speak up, I didn’t even interact but I was there all the same so I saw things, things that weren’t always pleasant. Now I am 20 year old, barely an adult and see the same pattern still.

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#TheReadingQuest Sign-up post

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Hello guys !

I’ve never ever done a monthly challenge on here (I believe) because for 1/ I don’t like stressing over my reading (which I do anyway) and 2/ They come at the worst time possible for me, especially Aentee’s challenges. Since I started blogging she’s made amazing and in my opinion the best reading challenges so I died a little bit inside everytime I couldn’t take part in them. UNTIL NOW. Continue reading

Reviewing Books Outside your Lane

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Hello guys !

As more and more people pick up diverse books, more of us are reviewing them. And besides the obvious characters, plot, writing, pacing, worldbulding (when it’s SFF), there’s the added element of representation, because when we say diverse books, we say diverse characters, which means minorities are represented, and well… we want those to be good and accurate. But “reviewing” representation can be complicated, especially when the book is ownvoices (a book representing a marginalization the author is part of, which you can learn more about here, on the creator’s page) and even more when we as reviewers are not part of the minority.

What I’ve noticed (and also have been guilty of before) is that we sometimes get carried away and nitpick representation that actually is accurate and personal to the author and people who live the same circumstances, and some reviews can fall right into offensive territory because of the lack of sensitivity. This is not me saying that we shouldn’t be critical of ownvoices books, I just think that the marginalizations should be left to ownvoices reviewers to dissect, which I’ll explain the why and how of a little further down the post.

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Content Warnings are Necessary

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Hello guys !

If you’ve been following me for a while you’ve probably noticed that the past few of months I started adding content warnings (or trigger warnings) to my reviews and that for many reasons, which I will discuss later but the point is, as the discussion around the importance of these warnings grows and I become more aware and educated when it comes to mental health issues (a mix of school + my mutuals on twitter) I started realising how necessary they are not only for others but for me as well because I figured out that I have been triggered by books before and that wasn’t fun which means that I could have used them a few years back and still appreciate the heads up a lot right now. Continue reading

Why is Diversity Important ?

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Hello guys !

A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about how drastically my reading habits have changed over this last year and it hit me that around this time last year is when I decided I had to make a conscious effort to read more diverse books, and I wrote a post about My Diverse Reading – Or Lack There Of (please don’t read it, it’s awful haha) and I was impressed with myself and really proud of the changes I have made to my reading and how that changed me as a person and made me see things about myself I was subconsciously ignoring.

I actually wrote that post exactly a year ago -and I swear it is purely coincidental that I’m writing this now- and had even set a little TBR for myself to start off of. I only read 3/10 from that TBR –More Happy than Not, When Michael Met Mina and Written in the Stars– all of which I adored (all 5 stars I believe). I know that might seem like a small number but since then the number of diverse books I read in a month has been increasing until I started reading them exclusively in January 2017. Now every book I read has some kind of marginalisation in it and I find that my enjoyment of the books I read has increased a lot.

In the last year, I went from being intimidated by these books (because I knew I wasn’t doing right by them) to reading them, to screaming at the top of my lungs about them and it’s been quite the journey. One I loved being on even if some of it was hard, which I didn’t expect. Anyway, enough ramblings ! All of this to say that that’s what inspired this post, my journey from reading no diverse books at all a year ago, to reading them exclusively right now. This will be a basics as well as appreciation post for Diverse Books because they are important to me and to thousands of other people.

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I remember I had included some kind of definition in that post from a year ago but you know, I was a noob and even though it was pretty good, it was lacking in some ways. So here’s the updated and somehow more condensed version:

Diverse books are books of which the MAIN CHARACTER (yes not side characters, spare me with that nonesense) is part of one marginalized group or more. May it be race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, physical disability, learning disability, mental illness… If the main character is part of a minority group then the book is diverse.

The definition is a bit more complicated than this when you start taking into account the author’s marginalizations (or lack thereof) but for the sake of simplicity, this is it.

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That’s how the world is

The world is such a rich place, in cultures, in religions, in genders and sexualities, in experiences that are specific to those marginalizations. And we cannot forget about intersectionalities, I’m one example of them. I am part of more than one group and those shape my life significantly and make my experiences different from those of people who are part of other groups, only share one group with me, or are part of no group at all.

Once you actually broaden your vision of the world and try to look at things beyond what’s seen as the norm, you see that there’s a lot more to the world than the able-bodied allocishet white person with no mental illnesses, the rest of us exist too, a non negligible number of us, and we deserve to be seen as well. The sad thing is, I never knew I had a choice in reading beyond that until I was shown otherwise and even that I had a lot of internalized bigotry to work through and deconstruct to actually be able to see that it is okay to feel represented by a book, that it is more than okay, it is great and I as well as many others need more of it.

Just to give you an example of how that impacted me growing up, I was a Young brown Muslim kid who wrote exclusively in the “norm” because she didn’t think she had a right to write outside of that, a right to see herself in books, a right to be happy about that. It is actually sad that I only realized all of that at 19 years old, but it’s better late than never.

Erasure is real

If we are to compare the numbers of books written by/about white people to the ones written by/about people of color (ALL POCS combined) the number for the latter is ridiculously small. Same goes for allosexual/alloromantic vs. asexual/aromantic, straight vs non-straight (gay, bi, pan…), cisgender vs. transgender, able bodied vs. disabled, and the list goes on. Every minority is crushed under the weight of what’s seen as normal and that goes beyond books as well. People from all minorities are erased, overlooked, oppressed and pressured to assimilate, and what happens when you think you’re alone in this situation (re: when you lack representation) ?

  1. You think there’s something wrong with you and keep trying to fix it (which was the case for me).
  2. You never stand up for yourself because you don’t think you have a right to/ because you’re abnormal. (Guess what? me.)
  3. You fold in on yourself and try to hide all parts of you that are different from what makes other people comfortable, and pretend those parts of you don’t exist (also me)

This is what I meant by internalized bigotry, when you keep being erased and told that there’s something wrong with you, you end up believing it, and unbelieving it is hard. Incredibly hard. And THIS is why we need more diversity, we need to not have to justify our existences, we need them to be normalized, and books play a big role in doing that.

Diverse stories/authors are as good as the rest

Better in my opinion. Hear me out. There’s just so much you can do with a trope when the main characters are pretty much the same, as I said, marginalizations and intersections play a big role in shaping one’s world so that would make any given book trope different. ANY one of them. I double dare you to prove me wrong *grins*. They just offer new perspectives, perspectives that can be unknown to a lot if not brought to light by media, and in our case, books.

There’s also the issue of creating spaces for marginalized authors because we cannot deny that publishining is dominated by non-marginalized writers and no this is not a case of “taking away from them” just making MORE space, so that marginalized authors can get their stories out there. The more stories are put out there, the more they are read and the more spaces are created because publishers realize that there IS a market for our stories (yes, hi, hello, we’re here!).

I also want to put out there that they do not have to write ownvoices stories for their stories to matter, and even their ownvoices stories can’t cater to everyone. I think that as long as they proceed with care and with extensive research (yes, even when the story is ownvoices). And that for various reasons among which is the fact that some people aren’t ready to share about themselves as well as when the author isn’t out/ doesn’t want to be outed when it comes to gender and/or sexuality so they don’t feel comfortable labelling their work as ownvoices and that’s fine too. As I said, as long as it is done with care and doesn’t butcher any marginalization, there’s not problem to it.

We deserve representation

Do you know how many books I read that represent all of me, not parts of me, not me having to pick and choose which part I want to see but ALL of me, all my intersections? NONE. Zero. Not one book. Hopefully, one is coming my way soon but even one is not enough. ONE. OOOONE. I shouldn’t have to choose what part of me I want to read about because when I do that, the representation isn’t as close to me as it could be. As an example, a queer muslim’s experiences will not be the same as an allocishet muslim’s or as a queer non-muslim’s, they’re entertwined. So what we need more of are:

  • Characters of all skin colors
  • Native characters, indigenous characters, latinx, asians (East, South East, West…), africans, middle easterns… as well as multiracial characters.
  • Trans characters, bi characters, pan characters, aro/ace characters, non-binary characters, etc…
  • Muslim characters, jewish characters, hindu characters, etc…
  • Characters with mental and physical disabilities
  • Fat characters

But most of all, intersectionality. Characters with multiple marginalizations are close to my heart because more often than not, that’s how we are, multiple pieces of our identities come together to make us who we are.

So pals, this is why diversity is important. This is why I’ll forever be grateful to this community for helping me discover I would’ve never picked up otherwise, books that today, mean the world to me.


That’s it until next time.

Share your story, why do diverse books matter to YOU? What books you feel represent you?

What are your favorite diverse books?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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Ramadan Readathon : My TBR & 20+ Recommendations

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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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