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Review: Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M Masood

Title: Bad Muslim Discount

Author: Syed M Masood

Year Published: 2021

Category: Adult Fiction
Pages: 368
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map) Pakistan, Iraq, and USA (CA)

Summary (from Amazon): It is 1995, and Anvar Faris is a restless, rebellious, and sharp-tongued boy doing his best to grow up in Karachi, Pakistan. As fundamentalism takes root within the social order and the zealots next door attempt to make Islam great again, his family decides, not quite unanimously, to start life over in California. Ironically, Anvar's deeply devout mother and his model-Muslim brother adjust easily to life in America, while his fun-loving father can't find anyone he relates to. For his part, Anvar fully commits to being a bad Muslim.

At the same time, thousands of miles away, Safwa, a young girl living in war-torn Baghdad with her grief-stricken, conservative father will find a very different and far more dangerous path to America. When Anvar and Safwa's worlds collide as two remarkable, strong-willed adults, their contradictory, intertwined fates will rock their community, and families, to their core.

The Bad Muslim Discount is an irreverent, poignant, and often hysterically funny debut novel by an amazing new voice. With deep insight, warmth, and an irreverent sense of humor, Syed M. Masood examines universal questions of identity, faith (or lack thereof), and belonging through the lens of Muslim Americans.

  I thought this was going to be a boy-meets-girl romance, but it really isn't and that's ok, I just had to readjust my brain. The chapters alternate narrators between Anvar and Safwa, which is a style that I like because we get to hear two stories that will eventually collide. I think the reader gets a fuller picture when there are multiple narrators.

Underneath the sometimes-humor that goes along with the chapters narrated by Anvar, this book actually tackles bigger questions such as what does it mean to be a "good" or "bad" Muslim (or, really, a person of any faith), how does that affect one's relationships with family and friends and community, and what do we owe other human beings, particularly those who need our help.

Safwa's chapters are tenser and more difficult to read as she navigates being a woman who is controlled by her father and other men in her life. While these characters are Muslim, her story is universal and reflects the life of so many women who suffer emotional and physical abuse. Immigration, the "Muslim ban," and other political issues also arise in her chapters. It is clear that the author was working on this book during the Trump years.

I truly cared about what happened to these characters, hated the villains, appreciated how some of us use humor to get through life, and reflected (again) on how women who are abused go to extraordinary lengths to escape. This is a thoughtful book that was well worth reading.

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Diversity--Middle Eastern and South Asian characters and South Asian author
  • Literary Escapes--Iraq, Pakistan

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