SALAAM, WITH LOVE

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Dua Sheikh grew up surrounded by her parents’ Pakistani culture although they are the only desi family in the area. An only child, she is also keenly aware that her parents also wish there was more of a Muslim community in their small town. After being invited to spend Ramadan at the Queens home of one of her paternal uncles, her parents are thrilled. But Dua worries about how she’ll fit in with her cousins, who seem much more connected to their religion than she is and have been immersed in a community of Muslim peers. At first, a lot of her fears seem valid: Her cousin Mahnoor is standoffish, and even her 4-year-old cousin is eagerly memorizing sections of the Qur’an while she struggles to study and memorize surahs. But after discovering that two of her cousins are in Sheikh, Rattle, and Roll, a Muslim rock band, and that the band’s drummer is the cute and thoughtful Hassan, Dua wonders if she is finally finding the connections she’s lacked at home. The treatment of an instance of horrific Islamophobic violence halfway through the book feels underdeveloped and will leave readers with questions, but Beg’s novel is a warm and inviting story about a girl exploring her relationship to her cultural and religious heritage.

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