Audio book: The Bad Muslim Discount

by Syed M. Masood
Read by: Pej Vahdat & Hend Ayoub
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There was some swearing and references to sex. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

Anvar Faris was a child in Karachi, Pakistan, but when unrest started to affect his city, his parents decided to immigrate to the US. They landed in the San Francisco area, where Anvar met the love of his life (Zuha, at least I’m hoping I spelled that right), and realized that no matter how much his mother tried, he was not going to be the kind of Muslim that she wanted him to be.

Safwa grew up in war-torn Baghdad, with a conservative father who was taken and tortured by the US soldiers. She fled, leaving her ailing brother to die alone, something her father could not forgive. They ended up in Afghanistan, where they meet a opportunistic young man who gets Safwa and her father passports to Mexico, and from there they come to the US, ending up in San Francsico.

This book is less about the plot — though there is some tension between Safwa and her father and the young man (whose name I don’t think I could spell, having only heard the audio) and Anvar and Zuha help, in the end. It’s much more an exploration of how people live their religion (or don’t) and the reasons behind what they do and why the do it. Safwa’s father is strict and abusive, but how much of that is his beliefs and how much of that is the abuse he suffered at the hands of the US? The young man is angry and manipulative, and how much of that is his religion, or is it the circumstances of growing up in war-torn Afghanistan? Anvar is lax in his religion, but how much of that is laziness and how much of that is a serious questioning of religion His other brother is strictly faithful, but how much of that is because he believes and how much of that is putting on appearances? It’s an interesting exploration.

It’s also a good look at the variety that Islam has. I think too often, especially here in the US, we tend to paint Muslims as all one thing, when in reality (um, much like every other religion) there is a spectrum.

At any rate, the writing is good, and the narration was thoroughly enjoyable. I liked this one a lot.

You Know Me Well

youknowmewellby Nina LaCour and David Levithan
First sentence: “Right now, my parents think I’m sleeping on the couch at my best friend Ryan’s house, safely tucked into a suburban silence.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: June 7, 2016
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s illusions to sex (but none actual), some underage drinking, and lots of f-bombs. It’ll be in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other in Calculus all year, but it isn’t until a June night at the beginning of Pride week in downtown San Francisco that they actually see each other. Mark is suffering from heartbreak: he’s been in love with his best friend for years, but his best friend isn’t really comfortable coming out as gay. Kate is supposed to be meeting this girl, the cousin of her best friend, but her anxiety takes over and she’s bolted. Between the two of them, maybe they can figure out their lives, their future, and which direction to go from here.

The thing that impressed me most about this was that it was less about the romance — although there was romance — and more about how Kate and Mark developed their friendship. It was about them needing a change from their lives and finding something new in a new person, something that allowed them to become More than they already were. It was about them being there for each other, not romantically, but as a good friend. And it was about jealousy that we all feel when our friends do something new or something different without us, about how sometimes that’s the hardest part of growing.

I liked how it felt seamless between Kate and Mark’s parts; that characters who showed up in one part felt authentic in the other, how LaCour and Levithan balanced their character’s stories. And, as a cis-gender straight person, I was able to find things to relate to. Life really is universal.

Quite good.