By Amanda Leduc
Welcome to the 2023 FOLD Challenge! This year, we’re starting our year off with debuts–debut books from Muslim authors, to be specific. The recommended reads for this month cover a wide range of genres from poetry and short fiction through to novels and non-fiction. We’ve even popped in some bonus content to keep you reading with this challenge in mind later in the year.
Happy reading, everyone!
1) Her First Palestinian and Other Stories, by Saeed Teebi
Elegant, surprising stories about Palestinian immigrants in Canada navigating their identities in circumstances that push them to the emotional brink.
Saeed Teebi’s intense, engrossing stories plunge into the lives of characters grappling with their experiences as Palestinian immigrants to Canada. A doctor teaches his girlfriend about his country, only for her to fall into a consuming obsession with the Middle East conflict. A math professor risks his family’s destruction by slandering the king of a despotic, oil-rich country. A university student invents an imaginary girlfriend to fit in with his callous, womanizing roommates. A lawyer takes on the impossible mission of becoming a body smuggler. A lonely widower travels to Russia in search of a movie starlet he met in his youth in historical Jaffa. A refugee who escaped violent circumstances rebels against the kindness of his sponsor. These taut and compelling stories engage the immigrant experience and reflect the Palestinian diaspora with grace and insight.
In Sanna Wani’s poems, each verse is ode and elegy. The body is the page, time is a friend, and every voice, a soul. Sharply political and frequently magical, these often-intimate poems reach for everything from Hayao Miyazaki’s 1997 film Princess Mononoke to German Orientalist scholarship on early Islam. From concrete to confessional, exegesis to erasure, the Missinnihe river in Canada to the Zabarwan mountains in Kashmir, My Grief, the Sun undoes genre, listens carefully to the planet’s breathing, addresses an endless and ineffable you, and promises enough joy and sorrow to keep growing.
In a commanding and energetic collection of poetry and nonfiction essays, writer Furqan Mohamed (she/her) breathes life into themes surrounding community, Canadian identity, Somali heritage, racism, colonialism, and family. Mohamed is incredibly sure-footed in her self-exploration, and gracious enough to let readers bear witness in her latest publication, A Small Homecoming.
4) The Shaytan Bride, by Sumaiya Matin (Available on Audible Canada)
The true story of how one Muslim woman shaped her own fate and escaped her forced wedding.
Sumaiya Matin was never sure if the story of the Shaytan Bride was truth or myth. When she moved at age six from Dhaka, Bangladesh, to Thunder Bay, Ontario, recollections of this devilish bride followed her. At first, the Shaytan Bride seemed to be the monster of fairy tales, a woman possessed or seduced by a jinni. But everything changes during a family trip to Bangladesh, and in the weeks leading to Sumaiya’s own forced wedding, she discovers that the story – and the bride herself – are much closer than they seem.
The Shaytan Bride is the true coming-of-age story of a girl navigating desire and faith. Through her journey into adulthood, she battles herself and her circumstances to differentiate between destiny and free will. Sumaiya Matin’s life in love and violence is a testament to one woman’s strength as she faces the complicated fallout of her decisions.
Available May 2, 2023
Moving, insightful, linked stories about the determination of Somali immigrants — despite duty, discrimination, and an ever-dissolving link to a war-torn homeland.
In the insular rooms of The Private Apartments, a cleaning lady marries her employer’s nephew and then abandons him. A woman accepts an opulent gold bangle from one man yet weds another. A depressed young mother finds unlikely support in her community housing complex. A new bride attends weddings to escape her abusive marriage. A failed nurse is sent to relatives in Dubai after a nervous breakdown.
Beginning in 1991, the year the Somali Civil War started, these eight articulate stories dwell in the domestic sphere — marriages, friendships, families — in high-rises and low-income neighbourhoods from Rome to Toronto. Resilient, resolved women do what it takes to thrive in new cities, while feeling estranged from a conflict-ridden homeland and grappling with the privilege of having the resources to facilitate such an escape. Recurring characters are delicate threads that eloquently showcase the intricate linkages of human experience and the ways in which Somalis, even as a diaspora, are indelibly connected.