Mini Author Q&A ft Kasim Ali

Kasim Ali’s Good Intentions is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated debuts of the year. A sincere and eye-opening exploration of love, responsibility and being true to yourself beneath the heavy gaze of family and community obligations and expectations.

4th Estate, HarperCollins (March, 2022)

A heart-wrenching and beautifully told debut novel about love, family obligation and finding your way.

Nur and Yasmina are in love
They’ve been together for four happy years
But Nur’s parents don’t know that Yasmina exists

As Nur’s family counts down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, Nur is watching the clock more closely than most: he has made a pact with himself, and with his girlfriend, Yasmina, that at midnight he will finally tell his Pakistani parents the truth. That he has spent years hiding his personal life from them to preserve his image as the golden child. That he has built a life with a woman he loves and she is Black.

Nur wants to be the good son his parents ask him to be, and the good boyfriend Yasmina needs him to be. But as everything he holds dear is challenged, he is forced to ask, is love really a choice for a second-generation immigrant son like him?

Deftly exploring family obligation and racial prejudice alongside the flush of first love, Good Intentions is a captivating and powerful modern love story that announces a thrilling new voice in British fiction.

What inspired you to start writing Good Intentions?

I was inspired by three separate things: a moment in my childhood where my mother had seen me walking with a Black girl after school and told me I ‘shouldn’t hang out with girls like that’ and realising, years later, she meant Black girls; watching Master of None and being frustrated that the only Muslim narratives I was seeing were ones in which Muslims had to shed Islam and religion to ‘belong’ in a Western world; watching The Big Sick and wanting to see an interracial relationship that had two non-white people in it. These three moments, spread over my life, coalesced into the writing of this book.

What did you find most challenging when writing this story?

The act of writing something I’ve never been in: I have never dated a Black woman. I know Black women, have listened to their stories about dating, have been privy to the intimate details of relationships like this, but I have never been in one. I wanted to write a story that felt authentic and sincere and genuine. I can only hope I’ve succeeded.

There are so many powerful scenes in Good Intentions that help us really understand Nur and Yasmina. Do you have any (non-spoilery) scenes you really enjoyed writing?

I loved writing the second chapter, where Nur and Yasmina meet one another at a university party. It was really funputting myself into that moment and feeling the push-and-pull of certain characters. When reading it back, I always see it in my mind as a one-shot camera take in a film or TV show (let’s hope I can make that happen at some point!).

What is one book you can’t wait to read in 2022?

I’ll give you two: Mohsin Hamid’s The Last White Man, because I’ll read anything Mohsin writes; and Brother Alive by Zain Khalid, a debut from America, which tells the story of three boys who have been adopted by an imam in Staten Island. It’s been described as ‘rigorously intelligent, wholly sensitive, and quietly rebellious’ by Robert Jones Jr.

Last but not least, your must-have when writing, and why?

I can pretty much write anywhere; the other day, I wrote a 6,000 word story on a very loud train with a crying baby and a person who wouldn’t stop narrating the train journey on their phone. The only thing I really need is inspiration – whenever that hits, I’m writing. Frustrating when it hits in the middle of a work day and I’m in a Zoom meeting.

Kasim Ali works at Penguin Random House, and has previously been shortlisted for Hachette’s Mo Siewcherran Prize and longlisted for the 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize, and has contributed to The Good Journal. He comes from Birmingham and lives in London. His debut novel Good Intentions published March 2022.

Order your copy of Good Intentions at (and help support local Indies!), or Waterstones.

You can find Kasim Ali on Twitter and Instagram.

MVP’s Most Anticipated Books (part one)

Inspired by all the very exciting 2022 lists floating around, we’ve pulled together some of our most anticipated books by Muslim creatives coming out this year. Get your bank cards/Apple Pay/PayPal/piggy banks ready, people.

These are books publishing in the first half of the year – be sure to keep an eye out for a part two!

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh by Sufiya Ahmed

Sufiya Ahmed’s Princess Sophia Duleep Singh (My Story) explores the life of princess and suffragette, Sophia Duleep Singh. A prominent figure of the women’s rights’ movement and the god-daughter of Queen Victoria, you would think she would be more of a household name. But, sadly, her story seems to have been buried like those of endless other prominent, powerful British people of colour who sacrificed everything to better our lives. Kudos to the brilliant Sufiya Ahmed in bringing such an important story to today’s young readers, and in such a gripping and encompassing fictionalised tale. You won’t be surprised to find that this was MVP’s January Book of the Month!

Scholastic Children’s Books, 6th Jan. Grab a copy here.

Salaam, With Love by Sara Sharaf Beg

A heartfelt and humorous YA contemporary starring a Muslimah MC, set in NYC during Ramadan and exploring family, faith and first love? Take our money, now.

And. That. Cover. We’d recognise the charming art style of our fave, Aaliya Jaleel, anywhere.

Random House USA Inc, 4th Jan. Grab a copy here.

You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen

This has to be one of our favourite covers of all time. Three Black Muslimah’s represented on the cover of a YA contemporary? 2022 has already delivered. We’re so looking forward to this story of identity, strength and sisterhood from Laila Sabreen. Stunning cover art by Alex Cabal.

Inkyard Press, 8th Jan. Grab a copy here.

This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi

Our queen Tahereh Mafi has swooped in to save 2022 with a brand new YA fantasy! Just look at that stunning cover. Not to mention the Waterstones edition that comes with an irresistible sprayed edge . . .

Already a Sunday Times bestseller and TikTok sensation, we have to say the hype is well deserved!

Farshore, 3rd February. Grab a copy here.

Love Marriage by Monica Ali

The highly anticipated new title by bestselling, Booker Prize-shortlisted author Monica Ali. Readers have waited a decade for a new book from Monica Ali and she’s delivered a humour-filled and heart-warming exploration of what truly makes a love marriage.

Talking about stunning Waterstones editions, can we take a moment to appreciate this multi-coloured sprayed edge? We promise we aren’t sponsored by WTS, we just love a good sprayed edge.

Little, Brown Book Group, 3rd February. Grab a copy here.

Good Intentions by Kasim Ali

This. Book. The writing, the characters, the humour, the talent. We fell for Nur and Yasmina within a few chapters. The complex topic of prejudice and colourism within our communities is often disregarded in the face of more overt racism from elsewhere *gestures at everything*, and Kasim Ali has done such a brilliant job exploring this in this heart-wrenching debut. Definitely one to watch. (Edit: Kasim has since been dubbed the male equivalent of Sally Rooney and we gotta agree.)

HarperCollins, 3rd March. Grab a copy here.

The Balloon Thief by Aneesa Marufu

The old adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ really doesn’t apply here, because LOOK AT IT. A Black hijabi on the cover of a highly anticipated middle-grade fantasy!? We are so excited for this beaut and can’t wait to dive right in. We may have a cheeky early proof of this one sitting aside . . . (*evil cackle*)

Chicken House, 3rd March. Grab a copy here.

Squire by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh

Featuring the work of one of our favourite Muslim illustrators, Sara Alfageeh, Squire is an all-consuming and fast-paced adventure. A story of strength despite size and expectation, fighting for what’s right and not only accepting, but finding pride, in who you are. We devoured this in a single sitting and immediately wanted more – an incredible, action-filled story, Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas make a great duo.

HarperCollins, 17th March. Grab a copy here.

Sofia Khan and the Baby Blues by Ayisha Malik

Despite the slightly blue title, we can’t wait to reconnect with our girl Sofia Khan and see what she’s been up to! We’re sure she’s been just as busy as the incredible Ayisha Malik who actually has two books coming out this year. (The Movement is out the second half of the year, so won’t appear on this list, but keep an eye out for a part two!)

Better still, this title is part of The Reading Agency’s Quick Reads campaign – a campaign that aims to provide accessible, short stories by bestselling authors to tackle reading poverty and illiteracy. A wonderful initiative!

Headline, 14th April. Grab a copy here.

Rumaysa: Ever After by Radiya Hafiza

The highly anticipated follow-up to one of our favourite books of 2021 – and, let’s be honest, All Time – Rumaysa: A Fairytale. We can’t wait for more hijabi fairy tale magic and adventure. It’s exactly what 2022 needs.

Pan Macmillan, 28th April. Grab a copy here.

Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

If you’re a fan of Scrabble or the Netflix hit Queen’s Gambit, you’ll love. Not to mention that there’s also a murder mystery when our MC “is forced to investigate the mysterious death of her best friend a year after the fact when her Instagram comes back to life with cryptic posts and messages.” You’re welcome.

Salaam Reads, 19th April. Grab a copy here.

A Show for Two by Tashie Bhuiyan

A Show for Two is a heartfelt, hate-to-love romance and exploration of first love, mental health and complex family dynamics. The author describes this as her love letter to New York City.

It’s also a romcom inspired by the time Tom Holland went undercover at the author’s high school!? (Yes, the Tom Holland. As in Zendaya’s boyfriend? Spider-Man? Him.) Are you shitting me? Hand it over.

Inkyard Press, 10th May. Grab a copy here.

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

Inspired by stories from One Thousand and One Nights, The Stardust Thief weaves the gripping tale of a legendary smuggler, a cowardly prince and a dangerous quest across the desert to find a magical lamp.

One word: yes.

Little, Brown Book Group, 19th May. Grab a copy here.

Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed

Jawad Ali was just fourteen when a teacher saw him wearing a cosplay jetpack and mistook it for a bomb. A mistake that got Jawad arrested, labelled a terrorist – ‘Bomb Boy’ – and eventually killed. But who was the young boy behind the headlines?

Inspired by real-life events, this is a timely and heart- wrenching exploration of privilege, silent complicity and, really, the effed up everyday stereotypes, abuse and Islamophobia Muslims have to deal with, and how it can have very real consequences. Samira Ahmed is never afraid to ask the difficult questions and we are grateful for it.

Little, Brown Book Group, 10th May. Grab a copy here.

Talking About A Revolution by Yassmin Abdel-Magied

A collection of essays from the brilliant Yassmin Abdel-Magied on everything from the importance of having hobbies just for fun (not every day capitalism and side hustles), her struggle at leaving one home, family and life back in Australia and trying to build another in London.

With a running theme of revolution, we are more than ready for an inspiring boost of motivation. Vive la révolution.

Random House Australia, 31st May. Grab a copy here.

These Impossible Things by Salma El-Wardany

A story of womanhood, sisterhood and faith – we can’t want to go on this journey with these three friends. Salma El-Wardany is an absolute powerhouse and we’re thrilled to see her joining the publishing game!

Orion Publishing, 9th June. Grab a copy here.

A Flash of Fireflies by Aisha Bushby

Aisha Bushby is back with another stunning children’s book about finding your place in the world. While exploring complex and nuanced topics of friendship and identity, Aisha Bushby’s stories carry a dash of magic in every word.

HarperCollins, 9th June. Grab a copy here.

A Mermaid Girl by Sara Rafi and Olivia Asser

A picture book about a young girl who wears a burkini for the first time and feels like a powerful, magical mermaid – until others begin to make her feel different. A story about strength, wonder and the freedom that comes with completely owning who you are!

Penguin USA, 28th June. Grab a copy here.

MVP Book of the Year 2021

To kick off the new year, we wanted to spotlight a 2021 title that stood out amongst the rest. This was a challenging task because 2021 has been an exceptional year for Muslim creators — with The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed being shortlisted for both the Costa Novel Award and the Booker Prize, followed by the celebration of exceptional work by young Muslim creators at the Young Muslim Writers Awards on 31st December, Islam Channel.

Choosing just one title was impossible. Instead, we’ve decided to pick two: one children’s title and one adult title. It’s only fair!

So, without further ado…

MVP Children’s Title of the Year, 2021

published by Knights Of, 2021

Mayhem Mission by Burhana Islam (with illustrations by Farah Khandaker) has to be one of our favourite children’s books of 2021. Full of humour, fun illustrations and a loveable but mischievous main character, it had all the ingredients to be the perfect antidote to what has been a few tough years. With a brilliant children’s non-fiction title (AMAZING MUSLIM’S WHO CHANGED THE WORLD – Puffin, 2020) and now a debut middle-grade fiction title under her belt, we can’t wait to see what Burhana Islam does next!

MVP Adult Title of the Year, 2021

published by Arrow (Penguin UK), 2021

The Mismatch by Sara Jafari is a fresh and compelling coming-of-age story about first love and heartbreak, family and faith, and a journey of self-discovery whilst navigating the pressures of two worlds. This unforgettable tale, with its deeply relatable and complex characters, centres the cross-generational experience of a mother and daughter, and focuses on the tribulations of Soraya, a young British-Iranian woman, as she tries to make sense of her life and relationships.

Mini Author Q&A ft Saadia Faruqi

Yusuf Azeem is Not a Hero explores this from the perspective of a passionate, intelligent and warm young Muslim boy weighed down by the expectations of the world. It’s a heart-wrenching and eye-opening exploration of identity, grief and discovering who you are in a world quick to label you, and finding the strength to be happy anyway.

Yusuf Azeem has spent all his life in the small town of Frey, Texas—and nearly that long waiting for the chance to participate in the regional robotics competition, which he just knows he can win.

Only, this year is going to be more difficult than he thought. Because this year is the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an anniversary that has everyone in his Muslim community on edge.

With “Never Forget” banners everywhere and a hostile group of townspeople protesting the new mosque, Yusuf realizes that the country’s anger from two decades ago hasn’t gone away. Can he hold onto his joy—and his friendships—in the face of heartache and prejudice?

Published 14th October 2021 with Harper360

What part of the story did you find most challenging to write?

Overall, this was a very challenging book to write. September 11 is a very important topic, and the need to do justice to it — and the stories of Muslims everywhere — was foremost in my mind. The most challenging to write were the journal entries, since the aim was to translate the interviews I conducted into a format that would be interesting for readers and still come across as fiction.

What part of the story did you enjoy writing most? What’s one thing you hope readers take away from Yusuf’s story?

I loved the interactions between the characters: Yusuf and his friends, but also Yusuf and his little sister, whom he adores. Plus, the descriptions of the robotics competition was very fun to write.

What’s one thing you hope readers take away from Yusuf’s story?

I want readers to understand that historical events shape our world in ways that resonate today, and that in order to understand the present, we must analyze the past. I also want readers to understand that September 11 had serious and long lasting effects on the Muslim community around the world, even though this isn’t really taught in schools or talked about in the media.

Are there are any similarities between you and any of the characters in Yusuf Azeem is Not a Hero, and did this make it less or more challenging to write?

Not me personally, but I thought about my son a lot while I was writing Yusuf’s character. He’s 15 years old now, and in the past has often suffered in school because of his identity. It didn’t really make it any more or less challenging as a writer, though, because I’m usually inspired by one or more real people when I write my books.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? And a children’s writer, more specifically?

I always loved writing stories, but never thought in my youth that this could be my profession. Many Muslim and South Asian parents don’t encourage their children to pursue the arts, and that definitely happened to me as well. As an adult I decided to try this path to see if I could be a success.

Are there any tips you would give to Muslim writers trying to tell their stories in the Western world?

My tips for all writers are the same: read a lot of books similar to the ones you want to write, and write regularly. Make it a habit to write in a journal no matter how busy you are, because you need that practice. For Muslim writers in particular I’d say, write your truth, no matter what anyone else says. You don’t have to stick to any one narrative that will please a single audience, whether it’s Muslim or non-Muslim. Authenticity and passion are key to writing success.

And last but not least, what is your must-have snack when writing?

I don’t really like to eat or drink when I’m writing. It not only distracts me, but also makes a mess on my laptop!

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” co-written with Laura Shovan (a Sydney Taylor Notable 2021), and “A Thousand Questions” (a South Asia Book Award Honor 2021). Her new book “Yusuf Azeem Is Not A Hero” details the experiences of the Muslim American community twenty years after 9/11. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She lives in Houston, TX with her husband and children. 

Order your copy of Yusuf Azeem is Not a Hero at (and help support local Indies!), or Waterstones.

You can find Saadia Faruqi on Twitter and Instagram.

Thank you for reading! Please do follow our blog to stay up to date with our posts and content.

Mini Author Q&A ft Ayisha Malik

A beautiful story with an equally stunning package, Ayisha weaves a story of sisterhood, which, paired with Erika Meza’s beautiful artwork makes for an unforgettable read.

Publishing 5th August 2021 with Little Tiger, illustrated by Erika Meza

Erika’s illustrations paired with your writing makes for such an wonderful read. How did you find working on such a heavily illustrated project?

I actually wrote the story before Erika drew the illustrations and so it’d be more appropriate to ask Erika how she felt about working with my words! I was so delighted with her work though; the way she brought the girls to life and just her vision for the treehouses and forest is quite breath-taking.

Do you have any sisters/siblings, and how did that influence this story in particular?

Yes, I have an older sister, but really it was understanding the dynamic between a group of girls who are very close, but also different, that fed into the story. And, of course, that you have no choice in who your family is, but you do have a choice in how you foster those relationships.

What’s one thing you hope readers take away from Seven Sisters? What were you trying to tell with this story?

I want readers to feel hopeful and warm – and that any child that reads the book can find something of themselves in one, if not more, of the characters. That they understand there should be a place and home for everyone, no matter how different people might be.

Which sister would you say you are most like?

From a practical point of view, I suppose I am more like Zayna, who’s a writer, than anyone else. Although whenever one writes, I think there is often a part of the writer in each character they create. I can be moody like Esher, eccentric like Saffah, sometimes even quiet like Ayla.

You have been a part of publishing for many years, first on the inside – working with books as a publicist and editor – and, for a while now, as an author. What do you think about Muslim representation, or representation in general in the books we publish in the UK? Has it improved?

We’ve come a long way since I started work at (the then) Random House in 2008. The conversations around how Muslim characters are created and portrayed, coupled with the fact that there are a growing number of Muslim writers, shows me that though change can be slow, things do change. And that is a great thing. 

You’ve got an amazing portfolio, and this is your first (solo) children’s title (if I’m not mistaken), how did you find the writing process? Do you plan on writing more children’s?

That’s very kind of you to say. I’ve previously written a retelling of Austen’s MANSFIELD PARK for 9-12 year olds. I have to say there was a magic in writing for children that is sometimes missing when writing for adults. I also felt I could indulge in the fantasy world of SEVEN SISTERS and just have fun. It also taught me a lot about the rhythm and beat of sentences, and I hope that I might be able to translate some of that playfulness of language in my adult fiction. Possibly for future children’s titles, if the opportunity arises.

What is your must-have snack when writing?

Everything. In theory. Nutella, mini-rolls, chocolate fingers. . . Bags of Kettle crisps. . . But, alas, if I ate everything I wanted when writing then I’d have some issues in life. Coffee is a must though. I never start a writing day without coffee.

Ayisha Malik is a British Muslim, lifelong Londoner, and lover of books. She read English Literature and went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing. She has spent various spells photocopying, volunteering, being a publicist at Random House, and managing editor at Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. Her novels include, ‘Sofia Khan is Not Obliged’ and ‘The Other Half of Happiness’. She is also the ghost writer for GBBO winner, Nadiya Hussain and has contributed to the anthology, ‘A Change is Gonna Come. ‘Ayisha was one of WH Smith’s Fresh Talent picks, Winter 2016. ‘Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged’ is her debut novel.

Order your copy of Seven Sisters at (and help support local Indies!), or Waterstones.

You can find Ayisha Malik on Twitter.

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