Hello everyone, welcome to the first edition ever of The Diversity Corner! ♥
You might remember my post about my stance as diverse book blogger and the introduction of my feature. I’m a bit nervous but HERE I AM, with its first edition ♥ Today I’ll be talking about Muslim representation. I chose this topic because this is the one topic that is so close to my heart. I’ve been living and learning it ever since I was a baby, so this is the topic that I’m most comfortable talking about. I promise you, I won’t be preachy! I won’t sell or promote my religion to you. I just want to talk about its representation in book–or rather, the lack there of 😂
But before we get there, let’s start with the first two sections : diversity news & updates and diverse book bloggers spotlight ♥
Diversity news & update is basically an update about diversity related news that I could find around the blogosphere or the publishing industry.
MUSLIM BAN AND THE RESPONSES
Ever since the Muslim ban policy, there’s been a lot of riot going on. I’m not gonna talk about politics though, because what do I know? I don’t even live in US. But one thing that came out of this trouble is that writers all over the world are getting more eager to write their stories! Trump’s restriction gave them the push to write and promote diverse books. If you want to know their story ideas, go click on this tag –> #writeyourresistance.
If you’re involved in book Twitter, you’ve probably seen the debates about it. If you’re not, well, let me catch you up. I forgot to save the evidence but here’s a brief recap : a few weeks ago there’s an article saying that sensitivity reader is… well, useless. This person who wrote the article also said that she hates that it’s becoming a trend in the publishing industry. (PS. A sensitivity reader reviews a manuscript for internalized bias and negatively charged language. A sensitivity reader is there to help writers avoid mistakes). It brought up the question: why wouldn’t people want a sensitivity reader? People consult a medical experts when they write about illness or medical procedures, so why shouldn’t they consult a cultural expert when they’re writing about a particular culture?
EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING MOVIE TRAILER
If you didn’t know, EE by Nicola Yoon is going to be made into a movie. I know a lot of people love the book but it’s been brought to attention that the book is extremely problematic. It’s ableist. I haven’t read it, but I’ve read a lot of reviews that mentioned the same thing. I’m not discouraging you from reading the book or watching the movie, but it wouldn’t hurt for you to read these reviews written by reviewers who share the same condition as the main character 🙂
(STOP) ROMANTICIZING SELF HARM (AND MENTAL ILLNESS IN GENERAL)
Trigger Warning : Self Harm
A few days ago someone recreated the cover of Carve the Mark by painting it on her forearm so basically it was a picture of a painted blue arm with golden slits dripping golden blood. That image is triggering for people who’s attempted to harm themselves & people with suicidal thoughts and tendencies. A lot of people commented and said that the photo was hurtful and ask the person to take it down. She put trigger warning on the caption but refused to take the picture down. She said it was just art and she has the freedom to show her talents. A lot of people rushed to her defense and said a lot of things but some of the most offensive things they said were that trigger warning is useless and people who are easily triggered and/or people with MI shouldn’t even be here (re instagram).
There are so many issues we need to talk about here.
- Self-harm is not art. Sarah @ Written Word Worlds wrote a post about why we shouldn’t romanticize self harm and she explains things better than I ever would.
- Trigger warning is not useless. It’s to protect people from seeing stuffs that will trigger them. I don’t have any triggers and I’m so, so thankful for that, but that doesn’t mean everyone is the same. I know that it’s impossible to put TW on every triggers because there are a lot of possibly triggering stuffs that we don’t know, BUT as a starter, more common triggers like self-harm, suicide, rape, sexual abuse, etc need to be put under warning. You lost nothing by putting trigger warning. Aimal wrote a post about trigger warning in her blog and I recommend you to check it out 🙂 Oh, it is useless to put trigger warning on instagram because people see the picture before they read the caption.
- The lack of empathy. People, please… just because people are different from you doesn’t mean their opinion is invalid.
In this section, I’m going to introduce some incredible diverse book bloggers along with some of their most notable posts. I’ll also try to match it with the theme, i.e today the theme is about Muslim, then I will introduce you some of my favorite Muslim bloggers 🙂
FADWA @ WORD WONDERS
Fadwa is the first Muslim blogger I knew and we’ve been blogging best friends ever since! ♥ she’s such a smart blogger who writes lots of good and eye opening posts. A few weeks ago Fadwa also wrote a post about muslim representation and it was so relatable. I even asked her to proof read this post to make sure it’s accurate and not offensive hahaha! She also just launched a sensitivity reading service so definitely consider her if you want to write about Moroccan and/or Muslim characters! 🙂 Some of Fadwa’s most notable post :
- #DIVERSITYBINGO2017: MY TBR AND RECOMMENDATIONS
- READING A BOOK AT THE WRONG TIME OF YOUR LIFE
- TO SOME, ACCESS TO BOOKS IS A LUXURY
NUZAIFA @ WORD CONTESSA
I haven’t interacted with Nuzaifa as much as I’d like to but I’ve been following her twitter for quite a while. She tweets and retweets a lot of good stuffs about Islam and diversity in general. I just recently found her blog and it’s incredible! Not only it’s gorgeous, she also posts amazing contents ♦ Some of her most notable post :
Do you know how many times I read books with Muslim characters in it? I don’t know… maybe 5, at best. And not all of them are good representation. I know, it’s sad 😦
For years I accepted the fact that most books will only portray White and non-Muslim characters and mostly set in US. When I was thinking of writing my own book in English, I wasn’t sure if I should write about a Muslim character living in Indonesia because I’ve never seen one like it. Will people read that book? Will it sell? But lately, I’ve seen a lot of authors portray Muslim characters and it gave me the confidence that our stories matter too ♥
When it comes to Islam representations, there are a lot issues that need to be addressed.
The Common Misconceptions
MUSLIM PEOPLE ARE NOT TERRORISTS.
Sure, there are a lot of terrorists who claimed to do what they did in the name of Islam but the truth is, terrorists have no religion. Every religion is peaceful, Islam included. Those people just use our religion to justify their vile purposes. There are a lot of shootings done by non-Muslim people but we don’t label THEIR religion as terrorists, so why should there be a double standard when it comes to Islam? People have to stop overgeneralizing.
MUSLIM PEOPLE AREN’T BACKWARD SOCIETY EITHER. How we live depends on where we live and the cultures in it. The problem is, a lot of non-Muslim people often confuse Islamic culture and culture in general.
Let’s take arranged/forced marriage for example. Western and more liberal countries might think that the practice of arranged marriage limits our freedom and that we need saving from it. The truth is, we don’t always do. Some people love to have an arranged marriage because most parents want the best for their kids, therefore, they’re gonna look for the best husband or wife candidates for their kids. Plus it’s easier because the kids have their parents’ blessing already and parents’ blessing are really important for us. But then again, arranged marriage isn’t mandatory. My father is a conservative and religious man but he doesn’t practice arranged marriage. He met my mom in university, dated for a few years, and finally got married. He also allows me to date guys and choose my own boyfriend or future husband.
Another example is the use of burqa and chadar, or basically the face-veiling portion. Islam advised both men and women to dress modestly and cover their body parts. But there’s no rule that says we have to cover our face, so it means that face-veiling portion isn’t mandatory. Some cultures strongly require that, especially the countries in Central Asia, but my country doesn’t. A lot of people wear hijab like I do, but we don’t cover our faces.
That being said, some traditions are more of a cultural thing than a religious thing. Some cultures might practice certain traditions and they just happen to be Muslims.
ISLAM IS MOST DEFINITELY NOT MONOLITH.
Muslim people come from different countries, different ethnicity, and different cultures. Those differences make Islam a very diverse religion, which means that our religious identity intersects with race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and ethnicity. Even among the same race or ethnicity, every Muslim person has their own level of faith. We interpret the Quran differently and we each have personal and unique relationship with our God.
I can’t stress this enough but MUSLIM PEOPLE ARE NOT ONE DIMENSIONAL. Just like people in general. A person could wear hijab and still does bad things, even neglects her obligation to perform prayer. A person who wears provocative clothes might be even more religious than you think, who knows, they might spend their time praying, reading the Quran, and doing other good things. We never know. But one thing is for sure, our relationship with our religion affects how we think, feel, act, and it affects how we make a decision. It’s our guidance in life.
That’s why stories with Muslim characters should reflect that. It has to reflect how our religion affects our behavior. It’s not enough to say that a character is Muslim, wears hijab, and probably has conservative, extra protective parents like some books portray us to be. Not all of muslim girls wear hijab, not all of us have conservative parents, because once again, everyone has different level of relationship with their faith.
More often than not I read books portraying some overly conservative parents whose kids want to rebel against them. We do not want to rebel against our parents. My parents and I disagree a lot, but that doesn’t mean I want to rebel against my parents. We don’t all want to be a wild child. We need more characters like Sam in Magnus Chase. She’s open minded and wants to go out there saving the world but she also listens to her grand parents. She goes to Mosque with them and she agrees to be in an arranged marriage because she knows her grand parents want the best for her. Plus her betrothed is a really amazing guy 😛
Now that we covered some important misconceptions, it’s time to talk about what we need to see more in books involving Muslim characters ♥
What I Want to See More in Books
- Main characters who turn to Allah in the face of problems. In contemporary books, we often see our MCs face multiple problems at the same time : school problem, misunderstanding with friends, lover’s quarrel, siblings fight, etc. You know what I do when I face those problems other than trying to solve them? I pray. I ask Allah for guidance and to give me strength. A lot of my fellow Muslim friends do the same. I want to see a protagonist does this in books 🙂
- Romantic relationship between Muslim characters. Contrary to the popular stereotypical belief, some of us do date. Like I said above, not all cultures forbid us from dating. But generally, a relationship between Muslim people is different from what we see in contemporary books. Most of Muslim couple don’t kiss in public, or even at all. But then again, everything depends on the person itself. I’d loooove to read books that portray this.
- The relationship between Islam and sexuality. I’m not gonna go into this but one thing is for sure, sexuality is a bit of a taboo topic when it comes to our religion. That’s why it’s sooo rarely discussed! I want to see Muslim people figure out their sexuality, their struggle, the dynamic with their family, how they come to term with it and all that. It’s such an important story to tell. There’s only one book in which I read about the relationship between religion and sexuality and that was Noteworthy by Riley Redgate. It wasn’t about Islam though. That’s why I want to see this portrayal in books.
- Science fiction and fantasy books with Muslim protagonists. I want to see the characters take break to pray between their quests. I want to see them ask for Allah’s blessing before doing something dangerous. It’ll be so interesting and relatable! 🙂
Well, now that we’ve talked about the misconceptions and what I want to see more in books, it’s time for book recommendations! Below are books 1) involving Muslim characters, 2) about Islam, and/or 3) written by Muslim authors. It’ll be a mix of books you could read now and books that haven’t been published. I haven’t read all of them but I’ve read the summary or reviews by other Muslim bloggers 🙂
(I’m not providing any description because this post is long enough already. Click the links to be directed to Goodreads/Amazon/TBD)
♦ Sophia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik (Goodreads • Amazon • The Book Depository) ♦ The Story of Maha by Sumayya Lee (Goodreads • Amazon) ♦ God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems by Ishara Deen (Goodreads • Amazon) ♦ Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (Goodreads • Amazon • The Book Depository) ♦
♦ The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi (Goodreads • Amazon • The Book Depository) ♦ Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan (Goodreads • Amazon • The Book Depository) ♦ The Thing We Call A Heart by Sheba Karim (Goodreads • Amazon • The Book Depository) ♦ Sains and Misfits by S. K. Ali (Goodreads • Amazon • The Book Depository) ♦
Other recommendation posts from other bloggers ♥
- Books with Muslim protagonists part 1 and part 2 by Two Book Thieves
- 6 YA Books About Muslims NOT Being Terrorists by Becca @ Becca & Books
- 8 Sci-Fi Books featuring Muslim characters to add to your TBR list! by Sarah @ Brenhines Books
- Top Ten Books By/With Muslims by Angel @ Avid Reader
- YA Novels with Muslim Characters by Zaheerah Khalik
In this last section, I will show you some diverse books that will be released in the following month. Since this is February, I’m gonna make a list of March diverse releases that I’m most excited for ♥ I’ve read some books on this list and I will provide my thoughts for every book. Oh and if you have more recommendations, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or link me to your post 😀
YOU’RE WELCOME UNIVERSE BY WHITNEY GARDNER
Release date : March 7th
When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.
Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.
Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.
Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.
THOUGHTS : I received this book from publisher via Netgalley in exchange for honest review but believe me when I say this book is incredible! ♥ It’s about a Deaf, Indian girl with two lesbian moms who are equally Deaf. Also since it’s about art, there are a lot of illustrations inside the book and they’re all so gorgeous 😀
QUEENS OF GEEK BY JEN WILDE
Release date : March 14th
When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.
Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Jason Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.
While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.
Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.
THOUGHTS : I requested this from Netgalley but never heard back so I guess I got declined? 😦 I’m sad but anyway it’ll come out in about 2 weeks and I’m ready to preorder! I’ve heard a lot of great things about this book, mostly the fact that it’s so dorky and has accurate bisexual representation. Who else is excited? 😀
A CROWN OF WISHES BY ROSHANI CHOKSHI
Release date : March 28th
Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.
Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.
Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.
THOUGHTS : I don’t know if you remember this but I’m not a fan of The Star Touched Queen. I thought it was just a beautiful book with no real plot and weak characters. BUT, I’m still incredibly excited for the sequel because 1) Gauri will be a much better and stronger protagonist than Maya, 2) I believe Roshani Chokshi’s writing will improve, and 3) I’ve heard so many positive reviews even from reviewers who didn’t enjoy TSTQ.
- What do you think about all the things that happen concerning diversity in the bookish community? (re: diverse books, sensitivity reading, problematic books, trigger warning, etc)
- What do you think about Muslim representation in books? Do you find a lot of books with (accurate) Muslim rep? Did my discussion clear the misconception and help you understand more about Islam and Muslim people in general?
- What is your favorite book with Muslim protagonist? Are you interested to read the books on my recommendation list?
- Who else are excited for March diverse releases? 😀 Because I AM! So many great books coming out soon ♥
Well that concludes the first edition of The Diversity Corner! 😀 I have to admit, it’s the longest and most complicated post I ever wrote 🙈 it took me 5 days and so much energy to finish this post so I really hope it’s worth the effort ♥ NOW LET’S TALK! Go answer my questions, go ask your own questions, or we can discuss anything!
Anyway, what do you think about this feature? Did you find it helpful? Is there anything you think I should add (or delete)? The next diversity corner will be up on March 25th and I’m looking for advice to improve 🙂
Last but not least, I’m kindly asking for you to share this post. Share it on your twitter, tumblr, facebook, repin this to your pinterest account, and so on. I never ask you to do this but this post is important to me so it means a lot if you spread the word about it ♥
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