Monday, 28 June 2010

Read the World

Salaam readers, one and all!

I hope you have your library cards ready!
All aboard to 'Read the World'!
Our first stop is sunny (!) England/ UK. From non-fiction looking at modern British society to biographies, from literature classics to urban fiction, we've got a delicious section of quality reading for you.
I will list the book titles here - feel free to print it and take it with you to the library - then, every day, I will introduce, discuss and ask questions about one of the books. Please do comment and rate them - don't be afraid of saying you hated a book, just tell us why!

Boy - Tales of childhood by Roald Dahl

We'll start off with some light humour from the master of children's storytelling, Roald Dahl.

Many of you will have read Roald Dahl's classic books for children such as The BFG, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory etc.
But I'd like you to try this one. It is the story of his life as a young boy in a time that has all but disappeared. The stories are also very funny.

Let me know what you think of it.
I particularly like the story involving a mouse, a jar of sweets and certain grubby-fingered old lady!

Extra reading
While you are at it, get 'Going Solo', Dahl's account of his days in the RAF in Africa.

Other titles for this week

'Ilm quest

40 Hadith of Imam an-Nawawi (take your time with this Islamic classic - how many of the ahadith do you recognise?)

Food for thought

Guantanamo Boy - Anna Perera
An award-winning account of a British teenager sent to the infamous Guantanamo
(older readers might like 'Enemy Combatant' by Moazzam Begg)

Pig Heart Boy - Malorie Blackman
A tense and controversial page-turner about life and death and the values we hold dear.
(older readers might like to try her Noughts and Crosses series)

Animal Farm - George Orwell
A deceptively simple fable about a group of farm animals that stage a revolution and establish a new egalitarian order based on 'Animalism'. But are some animals more equal than others?
('1984' is also a chilling read for older readers)

From Somalia, with love by Na'ima (yes, ok, by me!) A story about a young Somali girl getting to grips with her identity in the wake of her dad's return from Somalia.

Zahra's First Term at the Khadija Academy by Sufiya Ahmed. A great story for younger readers about a British Muslim girl who is sent to an Islamic boarding school while her parents work abroad - and is determined to get herself expelled! I liked this one :)

Society today (non-fiction)

Bad Food Britain - Joanna Blythman
A fantastic expose of the British diet - and how it's affecting our society. How typically British is YOUR diet?
Feeling brave? Read Toxic Childhood by Sue Palmer - it'll have you looking at the Nintendo DS in a brand new way!


Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
A moving story about a spoilt young girl's emotional growth and the healing ways of nature.

Lord of the Flies - William Golding
This established classic asks the question: what happens when humans are left to their own devices? Are we instrinically good or intrinsically evil? Or both?

Flambards - K.M Peyton
Ok, so this is KIND OF a love story but its portrayal of the English upper classes on the brink of the technological revolution makes up for it. A page turner that the girls love!

Any book by Charles Dickens, including Great Expectations, Bleak House and Oliver Twist. Then check out the film of Oliver Twist by Roman Polanski - a classic!

Any Shakespeare (I know, I know, but had to include it for the bolder readers out there), especially Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Taming of the Shrew and Merchant of Venice. Then we can talk about whether Shakespeare was a racist, a chauvinist and an anti-Semite!

Snippets, questions, suggestions and reviews will be up daily so please do check back. And let us know which books you took out in the end and whether you discovered some gems of your own...

Monday, 21 June 2010

28th June 2010 - dust off those library cards!

Hope you're ready!

Faraz, Farhana and Ramadan...


A few days before Ramadan, the twins' funky niqabi aunt, Auntie Naj, takes them out to run some errands. But there's a bit more than designer milkshakes on the menu...

“So, how do you prepare for Ramadan?”
Faraz and Farhana looked at each other and then at their aunt, puzzled.
“But what do you mean, Auntie?” asked Faraz. “What’s to prepare? Ok, I’m prepared to go hungry, if that’s what you mean…”
“Unlike last year, y’mean?” Farhana couldn’t resist having a dig at her brother’s pathetic show of fasting the year before.
Faraz gave her a dirty look. “Yeah, unlike last year! And don’t start with me! I know about you and Shazia down the chip shop!”
Farhana blushed.
“That was different!” she protested hotly. “Shazia wasn’t praying at the time! And anyway, I … I…”
Faraz burst out laughing. “Save it for the judge, mate! You were just as rubbish as me, just admit it!”
Farhana giggled sheepishly.
“Well, none of that this year you two, alright?” Their aunt looked at them sternly, only the slightest hint of a smile about her lips.
“Ok, let’s take a few steps back here,” said Auntie Najma. “I want you to tell me about Ramadan. What it’s all about, what it’s for.”
The twins looked at each other and rolled their eyes – what was this, madressah? – then shrugged their shoulders and rattled off everything they knew about Ramadan, the month of mercy: no food or drink from sunrise to sunset, one of the pillars of Islam, devils chained up, time to do good deeds, forgiveness for the one who fasts the whole month.
“Ok, good, so you know the basics,” said Auntie Najma. “I expect you’re well pleased with yourselves! But what does Ramadan mean to you? What do you want to get out of it?”
The two fell silent. They weren’t used to being asked about their own views on religious matters. As a young Muslim, you did what you were supposed to do, what your parents told you, no questions.
“Auntie,” said Faraz at last, “Ramzan is just something that you do: everyone does. It’s about family and food, big iftars and going mosque on Eid. It’s just the norm.”
“But what I mean is, what do you want to achieve by the end of Ramadan? What do you hope to gain?”
They were silent for a moment. Farhana spoke up first.
“I guess I’d like to prove to myself that I can actually fast the whole month… I’ve never done the whole month before.”
Faraz nodded in agreement.
“I suppose it’s a challenge, really. Coz it’s hard, innit? The question is: can you handle it?”
Farhana added, “And it’s not just the fasting, is it? It’s the other stuff, the stuff you know you shouldn’t be doing in the first place… messing about.”
“Trying to better yourself, as a person, as a Muslim.”
“Trying to live up to your ideals…”
Auntie Najma smiled at them both. “Now that’s what I’m talking about! We have to remember how fortunate we are to see another Ramadan. It’s like we’ve been given another chance to repent, to better ourselves, to get some serious blessings from Allah. We’ve got a chance to make this month really special… I can’t wait!”
She fished around in her bag.
“Look, here’s a book I’ve been reading, just to remind myself, y’know?”
She showed them the book: ‘Ramadan in the Qur’an and Sunnah’.
Farhana’s eyes lit up, as they always did when she saw a book she hadn’t read.
“D’you think I could borrow that, Auntie?”
“Of course – but only if you let Faraz have a read too…”
“You’d better let me have it first, Auntie, or I’ll never get a look-in once it disappears into Farhana’s room!”
They all laughed and Auntie Najma handed him the book.
Then the milkshakes came and there was no time for talk. None of them had remembered that they hadn’t even eaten lunch!

Friday, 11 June 2010

28th June 2010 - get ready!


The Muslim teen reading list will be launched here, on this site on the 28th of June 2010 insha Allah.
Dust your library cards off and get ready to read, read, read!



Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Faraz the artist

Excerpt from 'Boy vs. Girl', due out July 2010

Faraz sat hunched over the large sheet of grainy paper.
All around him, the sounds of the unruly Year 11s ebbed and flowed: papers shuffling, chairs scraping, doors slamming, whispered arguments, sly curses and promises to meet after school, either for a tryst or a fight. He was hardly aware of his hard chair and the scarred desk, etched with messages from students long gone. In the background, he could hear the soft voice of Mr McCarthy, the art teacher, trying to maintain order and command respect in a class of hard-boiled teens, all eager to protest, argue, trip him up, if only verbally. But Faraz was hardly conscious of the chaos.
His mind was focused. He was in the zone. This was where he felt safe, like he could do something right…

“No, Faraz, no! That’s wrong! Do it again!” Imam Shakir’s voice echoed in his subconscious and he heard again the titters of the other kids, all careful not to laugh out loud in case the imam called on them next. Or turned the stick on them.
Faraz, six years old, took a deep breath.
“B-b-b-b-bismillahir-r-r-r-r-r-rahmanir-r-r-r-r-r-r-raheem-m-m,” he stammered, tears stinging his eyes.
Imam Shakir shook his head in frustration.
“You don’t practise, Faraz! You lazy boy!” He picked up the little stick he kept on the bench at the front of the room. “Put your hand out!”
Faraz swallowed hard as the imam made his way towards him through the rows of children. The room swam before him: the pea green walls, the single strip of neon light, the blackboard with undecipherable Arabic and Urdu letters, the benches stacked along the sides of the rooms, his sister, Farhana’s face, miserable, ashamed for him, the carpet beneath his feet green, the colour of Jannah, Paradise.

Then the imam was in front of him, a resigned look on his face, his stick raised. Faraz’s fingers trembled but he dared not pull them away, knowing he would get an extra beating.
The stick whistled through the air and landed with a thwack on his upturned palm and fingers. Heat seared his skin, more tears, dropping down his face this time, adding to his shame.
The other children were subdued now, feeling his pain. They had all felt the imam’s stick at one time or another.
“Practise your surahs, you lazy boy!” the imam shouted, furious at having to interrupt his lesson to deal with the boy again. He would just have to work harder at controlling his tongue, that was all. He would speak to his father after Friday prayers.

Faraz knew what it felt like not to belong. He had never made much progress with Imam Shakir at madressah and had dropped out as soon as he was allowed to. He had tried to fulfil his father’s sporting dreams by being the cricketer his father had been but he couldn’t bat or bowl to save his life. He had tried with football but with two left feet, football stardom was not an option. He had tried hard to fit in at school but he had always been too shy, too sensitive, too pretty for the other boys who had made it their mission in life to mess up his face as best they could.

But in the art room, he didn’t need to try and fit in – he belonged there. He understood how colours worked, how to coax feeling out of a lump of clay, how to make a paintbrush sing. This was his sanctuary.