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#RamadanReads: Changing the Conversation about Muslims, One Book at a Time

By Ayesha Mattu & Nura Maznavi

"Open book" by DeviantArt user shyfoxling

If representation is homogenous, then it is inaccurate. Yet, Muslims are daily portrayed and perceived as a monolith—in spite of there being 1.6 billion Muslims spread out over 56 countries, dozens of ethnic groups, and a multitude of legal and cultural practices. 

Similar to our intention behind our two anthologies (Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, and Intimacy and Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women), the national #RamadanReads campaign aka “book buying revolution” is meant to smash the Muslim monolith, and to celebrate and support the diverse and divergent stories and storytellers in our community.

Here are six selections of books from orthodox to secular authors that will captivate, challenge, and surprise you:

Painted Hands: A Novel by Jennifer ZobairPainted Hands: A Novel by Jennifer Zobair

Jennifer Zobair’s debut fiction novel Painted Hands is an engaging and provocative novel about friendship and the love lives of American Muslim Women. Can two ambitious Muslim women juggle two cultures, high powered careers, and unexpected love interests—including a right-wing talk radio host—to have it all?




Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life by Melody MoezziHaldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life
by Melody Moezzi

Haldol & Hyacinths is an evocative, funny memoir by Iranian-American writer Melody Moezzi, that helps open up a critical conversation around mental health in the Muslim community. 




Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson Alif the Unseen
by G. Willow Wilson 

A New York Times notable book of the year, G. Willow Wilson’s debut novel Alif the Unseen is a gripping tale about a computer hacker in hot pursuit by forces seen and unseen after he discovers a secret book of the jinn.




The Green Sea of Heaven: Fifty Ghazals from the Diwan of Hafiz by Elizabeth T. Gray & Daryush ShayeganThe Green Sea of Heaven: Fifty Ghazals from the Diwan of Hafiz
by Elizabeth T. Gray & Daryush Shayegan

Far too many translations of the mystic poets of Islam are by people who don’t know the original language. Gray rectifies this with her thorough knowledge of Persian and the Persian poetic tradition to present a gorgeous book on the preeminent poet of love, Persian Sufism, and one of the great poets of world literature: Hafiz.


Do Muslim Women Need Saving? By Lila Abu-Lughod Do Muslim Women Need Saving?
 by Lila Abu-Lughod 

Columbia University social scientist Abu-Lughod deconstructs the idea of saving oppressed Muslim women and takes a sobering look at the issues that Westerners almost exclusively focus on—including honor crimes, arranged marriages, the burqa, and veiling. In clear, lucid prose, she invites the reader to look more deeply at their own perceptions versus the realities of Muslim women. Anyone seriously interested in Muslim women’s rights needs to read this book.


Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam by Dawn-Marie Gibson & Jamillah KarimWomen of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam
by Dawn-Marie Gibson & Jamillah Karim

The authors examine how women have interpreted and navigated the Nation of Islam’s (NOI) gender ideologies and practices, illuminating the experiences of African-American, Latina, and Native American Muslim women within the NOI, and their changing roles over time. A fascinating look at an expression of Islam sensitive to American cultural messages about race and gender, but also to gender and race ideals in the Islamic tradition, from the civil rights movement to the present day.



Ayesha Mattu & Nura Maznavi author photo by Eve RiveraAyesha Mattu is a writer and international development consultant. She lives in San Francisco.

Nura Maznavi is a civil rights attorney, writer, and Fulbright scholar. She lives in Chicago.