Diversity Spotlight Thursday: Books With Asian Muslim Protagonists

Today, I’m back with another Diversity Spotlight Thursday, this one focusing on Asian Muslim characters. I wanted to spotlight books with Asian American characters because May is Asian American Heritage Month* in the U.S., and my dear friend Shenwei is hosting a bingo challenge for this (titled #AsianLitBingo) that brought it to my attention. (The announcement post is here.) As I am not participating in the challenge itself, the very least I could do was spotlight books that others could read. 

I narrowed the broad category of “Asian American characters” down to Asian Muslim characters, because otherwise, there are so, so many books I could feature. For a ton of book recommendations with Asian American protagonists, check out this masterlist.

If you missed my first Diversity Bingo Spotlight post and want to find out why I’m participating in this and discover three books featuring pansexual characters, you can check it out here.

*(As Shenwei pointed out in their post, May is officially Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, but I’m using this post to specifically spotlight Asian Americans in literature. Please don’t forget about Pacific Islanders this month (and all months), and look for books featuring them as well.)

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Aimal at Bookshelves and Paperbacks to promote diverse books: participators list one book they’ve read and enjoyed, one already released book on their TBR, and one diverse book that has not yet been released. For more information, check out the announcement post.

Clicking on the titles will lead you to the Goodreads page of the book. Without further ado, here are three books featuring Asian Muslim characters! 

1. A diverse book I read and enjoyed

29346880The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.

Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?

This was a fantastic, engrossing middle grade story that I highly recommend you check out, regardless of if you normally read MG. As someone who does not reach for that very often, I found it worked wonderfully as a MG, but also had great appeal for regular readers of YA. It was magical and fun and adorable and fast-paced and… I wholeheartedly recommend it.

2. An already-released diverse book on my TBR

22521951Written In The Stars by Aisha Saeed

This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?

Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

I have heard absolutely wonderful things about this book, and I just bought it this past month, so I’m hopefully going to be getting to it soon. It looks right up my alley, and I hope I’ll love it. Plus, that cover – How could I not feature it here? It’s absolutely gorgeous, and I hope the book is as well.

3. A diverse book that has not yet been released

31123249Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali

Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

I am so excited for Saints and Misfits to release, as I love everything about it: the synopsis, the cover, and what I’ve seen of and heard about it so far. A hijabi girl on the cover of a YA is something we rarely see, and I’m beyond happy for what this book will do for hijabi readers. It looks like an incredible story, and I cannot wait to experience it for myself.

There we go: three books with Asian Muslim protagonists! There are more out there for you to find, and hopefully many more coming in the future, but I hope these three helped add to your TBR. Make sure to pick up a book (or multiple!) with an Asian American or Pacific Islander main character this month. I know I sure will, and I hope I love them.

Have you read a book with an Asian Muslim character? What was it? What books with Asian Muslim characters are on your TBR? Are any of them the same as on my list? If you participated in DST, link me to your post – I’d love to check it out.

Thanks for reading!



27 thoughts on “Diversity Spotlight Thursday: Books With Asian Muslim Protagonists

  1. Being a Muslim myself, I’m so surprised I haven’t heard of these books at all! But I surely going to check them out now.
    Also, read books by Elf Shafak
    , namely Bastard of Istanbul and 40 Rules of Love. The protagonists are Turkish-muslims and it is so so so beautifully written that’s it’s just amazing! It’s all about love and yet it’s not a love story! You get what I mean? Aaah I’m out of words lol


  2. Oh I really want to read The Gauntlet! And I reeeeally want Saints and Misfits and I think (I need to go check) I requested it on Edelweiss so eeep, hopefully I’ll get to read it someday. I’d be very curious to know what you think of Written in the Stars! I’m relatively certain it’s #ownvoices, but at the same time I was a little saddened that all the cultural aspects of Pakistan seemed to be really negative? Like the adults and the arranged marriage were villains? But it definitely has a gorgeous cover! I recently read Out of Heart which has a muslim #ownvoices protagonist, and I’m reading And I Darken right now! And I also loooove Ms. Marvel comics. 😍 Win for Muslim superheroes!!


    1. The Gauntlet was SO GOOD. I just got Saints and Misfits a few days ago, and I am so excited. I have my fingers crossed for you to get approved for it! And hmm, that’s interesting – it is ownvoices, so I won’t be critiquing that aspect, but I am curious to see what I think. Have you read When Dimple Met Rishi? That’s an arranged marriage that’s positive! I DNFed And I Darken *cries* but I hope you’re liking it. And ohhhhh I NEED to read Ms. Marvel soon. 🙂


  3. Written in the Stars is on my TBR list, and I’m super pumped to read it. Thanks for such an awesome post!

    I’m new to blogging and book reviewing, and am very impressed by your blog. I was wondering if you had any tips for newbie bloggers and book reviewers.

    If you have the time, please check out my blog @breenysbooks. I’d love any feedback. Have a wonderful day.


    1. Thanks for your kind words! I’m excited to read Written in the Stars too, hopefully I get to it soon. If you scroll through my blog (especially in the blogging category), you’ll find many, many posts with blogging tips – maybe a few of those could help? If you have specific questions, feel free to email me at bookishnessandtea @ gmail . com. Good luck with your blogging journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved The Gauntlet for the same reasons you did, and the food descriptions made me want to look up the recipes and attempt to make them. I have also heard amazing things about Written in the Stars as well!


  5. I’ve added Written In The Stars on my TBR for a while now because it SOUNDS SO good. My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece deals with Islamaphobia, and even though it’s MG, I LOVED it to bits. Checking out the other books now – they sound awesome!


  6. I think you will enjoy Written in the Stars. I read it for #AsianLitBingo and I loved it. It’s amazingly written and takes you on an emotional journey!

    I’ve got Sunbolt on my TBR since it was on sale a few days ago. I’m planning to read it for Ramadan Readathon. I haven’t checked out the reviews but the author is Muslim.


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