Posted in contemporary, review, young adult

Girls With Sharp Sticks – Suzanne Young

“You are perfection personified,” she continues, “and we must ask that you act like it.”

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Blurb:”The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardians, the all-girl boarding school offers an array of studies and activities, from “Growing a Beautiful and Prosperous Garden” to “Art Appreciation” and “Interior Design.” The girls learn to be the best society has to offer. Absent is the difficult math coursework, or the unnecessary sciences or current events. They are obedient young ladies, free from arrogance or defiance. Until Mena starts to realize that their carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears.”

[AD – GIFTED]

Trigger Warnings: Violence, emotional abuse, gore.

Innovations Academy requires girls to work towards being the perfect sponsorship investment upon their graduation. Their diets are strict (no additives in their own meals but they must learn how to cook a hearty flavourful meal for a future husband), dating is strictly forbidden, no access to the internet because their future sponsor/husband will give them all the relevant news information they need. They’re not allowed to leave the property except for the very rare trips to the town where their movements are carefully monitored.

The protagonist, Philomena, is coming to the end of her time at the academy but feels her opinions of the teachings she’s been given start to waver after bumping into a boy called Jackson at a gas station. He’s completely different to what she’s been trained to believe boys and men act like and suddenly everything is under a magnifying glass. For the majority of this book, Philomena was difficult for me to get behind because she didn’t have much personality. However, I think this is more the fault of the situation she’s in than her exclusively as a character because once she starts to pick apart what’s really going on she becomes a much more well-rounded character and I was rooting for her by the end.

It’s a very quiet, slow book but when it hits that climax I was unable to process what was happening. The inner workings of this place are something I never saw coming and it was refreshing to read a YA book of this ilk that had something completely different in that big reveal.

There’s some LGBT representation as two of the girls are in a secret lesbian relationship and while this is mentioned briefly, it’s more of a sideline thing to show some girls doing the opposite of what they’re being told and it would have been nice to see this get played out more.

My favourite scene in the book was when the girls get their hands on a women’s magazine and start reading an article about how to work out if you’re good at oral sex or not. It was a little bit of exposure to a world they didn’t know existed and it was so funny.

Girls With Sharp Sticks shows the importance of friendship, the power of literature and taking back what was once taken from you.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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Posted in Audiobook Of The Month

Audiobook Of The Month | On The Come Up

 

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This month brings the newest book from best-selling author Angie Thomas to the top of my “need to read list.” Following the incredible continued success of her debut The Hate U Give, I’ve been impatiently waiting for whatever she would come out with next.

On The Come Up is an set within the same town of Garden Height as The Hate U Give and while there are many nods to it, this story is its own entity. The reader is introduced to Bri: a teenage girl who is trying to break onto the rap scene. Given all the expectations already placed on her because of her race, music is the one aspect of her life that Bri feels she can fully control.

Angie Thomas just has an incredible way of bringing characters to life on the page and I feel that this reading experience is only enhanced by the brilliant narration from Bahni Turpin – it’s like I’m listening to Bri directly tell her story.

At the time of writing this post I am 53% through.

Have you read On The Come Up? What did you think?
What audiobooks are you loving at the moment>

 

 

Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

A Conversation With K.M.Robinson

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When I was first introduced to K.M.Robinson she was a social media guru teaching classes on the best ways for authors to utilize online platforms, along with growing her photography portfolio. Since then she has not only become a dear friend of mine, but gone on to grow an empire of books. As she continues to grow her fanbase, her knew Aladdin retelling marks the 23rd addition to her catalogue. I had the pleasure of getting to sit down and talk with her about books, advice for aspiring authors, and all things fairy tale.

For those who aren’t familiar with you and your books. Tell us about you!

I’m K.M. Robinson, author of retellings, dystopians, sci fi, fantasy, mermaid, cyberpunk, and steampunk novels. I’m also a social media marketing strategist who teaches entrepreneurs to to build profitable brands through smart social media strategy, and a professional photographer. I’m super friendly on social media and have created an incredible tribe of fans that I like to traumatize with my books. They’ve actually made support groups to get through some of them. It’s pretty awesome!

Your “trademark” has become writing fairy tale retellings. What is is about this genre that keeps you writing within it?

There are so many stories to tell and so many ways to write them. I’ve already written certain characters, but I still have two/three/four more ideas for different versions of their stories with other characters involved. All I have  to do is wonder what would happen if I dropped a certain character in a different setting and suddenly we have a brand new series. It’s an incredibly wide world with so much wiggle room. I can’t get enough! I also really like learning the “true” stories of these characters; the parts history forgot to tell us or flat out lied about.

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3.) You also shoot your own photography for/design your own covers. Was this a conscious decision or happy accident? 

I was a photographer first and many of my photo series inspired my writing, so it’s always something on my list of priorities when discussing contracts with publishers. I’ve taken a lot of time to study the industry and really know what sells for covers and what doesn’t. So when other authors/publishers started asking me to design for them as well, it was a natural transition. I really love being able to do most of my own covers because I can bring my stories to life in a way others wouldn’t be able to.

You’re very active on social media especially with instagram livestreams. Do you feel that social media is a significant tool aspiring writers need to make use of?

Absolutely. Social media is the best way to marker yourself and your products as a brand/business owner. It’s something all entrepreneurs (and that’s what an author is) need to learn as early as possible: Studying the algorithms, knowing what the platforms value to make such we get as much as a reach as possible, learning how to engage with people on the platforms, and studying how to create valuable content is essential. A lot of people see it as work but it’s such a fun way to connect with people and make new fans/friends. I adore studying social media and learning how to work with it. I’ve made so many new fans and great business connections just from being friendly and chatting with people – it’s great.

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Out of the many books you’ve written, is there a particular that’s your favourite?

My debut Golden, and my second book Jaded are definitely my favourite. I’v also really fallen in love with Sugarcoated. Strong leading ladies, assassination attempts, really cute guys. I love them!

What are some of your favourite fairy tale retellings?

The very first retelling that really stuck with me was The True Stories Of The Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka. It’s a picture book I read back in elementary school that told the story of how the Big Bad Wolf wasn’t actually bad and the little pigs were less than awesome. 

The idea that we might not actually know the true story-or the full story- really intrigued me. What if other stories were told like that? What if the villains weren’t actually villains? What if the heroes/victors lied? The “what if” questions led me to start looking for the second side to every story and really left this burning passion for me to discover more about the fairy tales I knew and loved. They’re directly responsible for me writing Golden, my Goldilocks and the Three Bears retelling. The rest is history. 

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Tell us about your new book!

Lions And Lamps is a steampunk Aladdin retelling. It pulls a lot more from the original Aladdin story (which was Chinese) rather than the version Disney did. My Aladdin lives with his mother after his father was murdered last year. His evil uncle, Kacper, is now trying to drive a wedge between Aladdin and his mother because he wants to look good in front of his sister-in-law now that his brother is dead. 

Cyra was an orphan who was taken in by the Governor seven years ago and trained to steal an airship in a competition that only he had advanced knowledge of. Last year, Cyra stole the airship and won, but this year she’s sneaking into the competition against the Governor’s wishes. 

When Aladdin and Cyra meet, sparks fly but not in a good way. There’s a lot of betrayal and back stabbing and a genie with an agenda. 

I’m so excited that its now out in the world, traumatizing my readers once more. Wait, did I say that out loud? Oops. 

All of K.M.Robinson’s books are available on E-book and from Amazon. She’s also hosting a sale of covers she’s designed for author use which is on until Tuesday 16th April and more information about that can be found here here.

K.M.Robinson can be found at:

 

Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

Every Heart A Doorway – Seanan McGuire

“Hope means you keep on holding to things that won’t ever be so again, and so you bleed an inch at a time until there’s nothing left.”

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Blurb:”Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.”

Nancy is one of many children who have opened up doors and found themselves in another world. After being spat out out of a universe in which death surrounds her, she is now expected to return to life as normal and forget everything she uncovered. Sadly, it’s not that easy and her parents ship her off to the Wayward Home for Children; which is basically a sanatorium for girls in similar situations.

Every Heart A Doorway has incredible set up and the information being delivered through dialogue not only prevents heavy exposition dumps, but gives room for readers to feel out this new place along with the protagonist. As children start to turn up dead I was just hooked on all the possible ways this story could go. It does have very gory moments that feel played up very much for shock value until the threads start to tie together and the relevance of the horror emerges.

This book gave me serious Coraline and Miss Peregrine vibes because every girl in the home is adapting to the “real world” again after coming back from a door, and it had this creepy air of mystery and dark magic to it.

The only grievance I really had was that the story is too short. It feels almost like a short story than a full length book and it reached its peak just as it ended. I would have liked more time to flesh out the surrounding characters and learn more about them as the ones that were given backstories were super interesting.

Every Heart A Doorway is equal parts creepy and intriguing but will keep you in its clutches until the final page.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

I Got A Library Card (Again)

“Libaries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism.” – Neil Gaiman

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So I’ve recently undergone a really big life change. I have now moved out of my parents’ house (for good this time) and moved back to my favourite city. I’m now permanently surrounded about my favourite people in the world, and I’ve started a new job in an industry that makes me a paid writer! Naturally, everything is overwhelming having to tick things off multiple lists and when it came to sorting out what various services I need to register with, the first one that popped to my mind was “libraries.”

I fell back in love with libraries a few years ago when financial pressures meant that I had to cut back on many things that were considered a luxury, and sadly one of those was buying books. I just adore the feeling of being handed that little card that is essentially the key to endless worlds and magic.

Expanding technology means that libraries services now extend to E-Books and E-Audiobooks which is simply mind-blowing to me that now a tiny app can give me access to different formats of books available across all the libraries in my area. E-Audiobooks are sure to come in handy as my switch to full time work means that I won’t have much time to kick back and physically read much anymore. But I love that these new developments also mean I don’t have to worry about rushing to the library before it closes to make sure I return my loans on time. I can just take out my phone, scroll along and pick my next read. Maybe this way I will also avoid those pesky book sales and not end up rebuying the same amount of books that I just donated to charity!

Do you have a library card?

If so, what’s your favourite things about libraries? And have you found any gems recently?

Posted in poetry, review

Date & Time – Phil Kaye

“every moment trips
over its own announcement
again and again and again
until it just hangs there
in the center
of the room as if what you had
to say had no
gravity at all.”

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Blurb:”Phil Kaye’s debut collection is a stunning tribute to growing up, and all of the challenges and celebrations of the passing of time, as jagged as it may be. Kaye takes the reader on a journey from a complex but iridescent childhood, drawing them into adolescence, and finally on to adulthood. There are first kisses, lost friendships, hair blowing in the wind while driving the vastness of an empty road, and the author positioned in the middle, trying to make sense of it all.”

I discovered Phil Kaye, like coincidentally all my favourite poets, through the Button Poetry Youtube channel. Continuing to blossom on the American poetry scene, Phil Kaye now presents his debut collection to the public.

Date & Time focuses on… well exactly what it says in the title. The concept of time is explored with Phil Kaye sharing small moments from his life in a non-linear sense. This is because while time passes by chronologically, we, as humans, are constantly looking back on significant moments in our lives or looking forward to the future with fear and uncertainty in our hearts.

This is also shown through the clever arrangement of the the book as it is split into three parts: End, Beginning, and Middle. I really loved taking this idea as the essential idea of this debut and it feels like the perfect fit given the many poems I’ve seen Phil Kaye perform in the online spaces. The “end” opens the reader to a life lived, waiting for that moment to fade away while taking time to notice in passing the events and relationships that ended long before this one.  The “beginning” depicts Phil Kaye’s early life and the childlike wonder and hope that feels all consuming before adulthood snatches them away. The “middle” represents the fork in the road: we know where we have been, but not exactly where we are going just yet.

My favourite poems from Date & Time are as follows:

“Internet Speaks Back To The Author, 2018” looks at what has been physically lost from loves to forgotten memories, and shines a light on loneliness and how the internet can reinforce that feeling.

“Repetition” is one of my all time favourite poems from Phil Kaye. It focuses on how repeating certain actions or words can cause them to lose their meaning: how if you are always up to see the sunrise then it just becomes morning, or saying “i love you” too much it becomes a hello or goodbye in a rush to somewhere else.

“My Grandmother’s Ballroom” depicts a family member’s mind as a ballroom full of people representing their memories and how they all fall apart as illness strips the mind apart.

“Yellow Bouquet” is about a boy in an arcade turning the money he’s made from the machines into a collection of rubbish with no value, but it makes him unable to wait to grow up.

Date & Time is a strong debut from Phil Kaye and I cannot wait to see where he goes next.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

Posted in adaptations, discussion

Book To Movie Talk | The Miseducation Of Cameron Post

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*This post contains spoilers*

The first time I heard about The Miseducation Of Cameron Post was on Twitter the day after it won the highest honour – the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize- at Sundance Festival. The person who had posted about the announcement tagged on their own declaration of “why is nobody talking about the fact that a YA adapation with a female/female relationship in just won the biggest award at this massive film festival?” And rightfully so: why exactly was no one talking about it? This lead to discussions in the online book community about the differences in how YA stories with Queer female relationships are marketed in comparision to Queer male relationships. When the film finally had the rights bought off the back of its big win, I eagerly picked up the book – of the same name- by Emily M. Danforth and started to read. Sadly, the limited showings meant there wasn’t one in the vicinity and so I was left waiting for a DVD release. Imagine my surprise when I logged on to my Netflix account to see it staring right back at me.

The Miseducation Of Cameron Post follows a girl  called Cameron who is sent to a christian gay conversion institution after being caught having a sexual moment with her female best friend, Coley Taylor.

The book is told in linear and spends over 300 pages delving into Cameron’s family life and how her relationship with Coley starts to blossom. Over half of the book is done before Cameron even steps foot into the center whereas the movie is entirely set in this place, using flashbacks to filter in the backstory the viewer needs. I absolutely understand why this conscious decision was made. Films have time constraints and with a 500 page book being turned into a 90 minute film, of course amendments will happen. I ended up loving both the book and its adaptation for different reasons. I like the angle of the movie and how it leaves a lot of things open to interpretation; instead focusing mainly on the moment Cameron and Coley got caught as a return point throughout. It feels a lot more present. I also love the book for the depth of backstory given and how readers grow to love and care for Cameron that when she ends up being sent away it feels like the reader is experiencing the betrayal too.

The only real issue that I had with this film comes down to the framing that, coincidentally, I just praised. Cameron links her parents death to  her first kiss with Coley and punishes herself a lot for it as religion plays a part in her daily life. Cameron is given a lot more sexually and Coley doesn’t want anything in return which builds up a cycle of constant rejection the protagonist feels, there’s Cameron’s boyfriend Jamie; all of which don’t play a part in the movie. Cameron becomes more of someone who thinks the system is rubbish than something who takes the process seriously. I just felt that a lot of what makes her such a well-rounded, detailed character was lost in that translation.

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While I went into this experience slightly biased as I pictured Cameron as Chloe Grace Moretz, she does an amazing job of holding the film together. Every scene she’s in has the viewer hanging on her every word and movement and the emotional scenes had my heart just aching. I’ve seen a few of Chloe’s films and this is definitely one of her best performances. The surrounding cast is also perfect. Sasha Lane as Jane Fonda and Forrest Goodluck as Adam were just wonderful at bringing the side actors to life; to created that outlet for Cameron to talk to someone who was on her side without fear of repercussions and their friendship felt natural; like one of those destined to last for years to come. A personal favourite for me with Erin played by Emily Skegg. I adored Erin in the books and it was impossible not to feel for Emily’s potrayal of this character so desperate not to admit that she’s struggling.

The bitter pill to swallow with this story is the realisation that gay conversation places still exist. It makes the particularly graphic book scene with Mark (which is very toned down in the film) have even more weight to it than just a fictional character viewers have grown attached to, A lot of the film is centered more in what isn’t said than what is; creating a depth of its own.

Aside for characters, the cinematography is gorgeous and the lingering frames allow plenty of time of time for viewers to feel familiar with the surroundings. The screenplay is so well crafted that scenes just flow into each other perfectly and when the film reaches its conclusion, there’s a sense that something really special has been put out into the world.

The Miseducation Of Cameron Post is a gem I will continue thinking about for a long time.

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Posted in contemporary, lgbt, review, young adult

The Love And Lies Of Rukhsana Ali – Sabina Khan

“My dream was to one day work at NASA. I knew it was a long shot, but I liked a challenge.”

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Blurb: “Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer. But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart.”

Trigger warnings: homophobia, physical and emotional abuse, rape and sexual assault.

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali is a book that I clicked with instantly. I can’t exactly pinpoint the thread that had me turning page after page with no sign of stopping. Sabina Khan does a fantastic job of explaining Rukhsana’s life and dropping the reader into an incredibly important period: the all-too familiar final school year before college. Rukhsana is already facing a tremendous amount of pressure and as a Muslim daughter of Bengali parents, she’s also battling the expectations that she should be married off as soon as possible. Despite the fact that she has just secured a scholarship at her dream school and also she’s a lesbian. It was wonderful to go through this story with an already established gay relationship and the scenes with Rukhsana and Ariana were so heart-warming to read as they were just so comfortable in each other’s company; the love felt real.

I expected a turn to happen in this book when Rukhsana’s parents finally found out about the relationship but I didn’t expect them to go to the extremes they did. I gasped, cried, and recoiled at many of the scenes that unfolded as a result of a parent’s desperate attempts to control their child. This shift provided the stark reminder that, while society is becoming more liberal and accepting, there are still places in the world where being gay can result in death, and that there is an older generation clinging to their religious beliefs so tightly that they are willing to let their children suffer greatly as a consequence.

An unexpected aspect was the Grandma’s role in the story. She is one of the few people accepting of Rukhsana’s love life because she has experienced times in her own life where she was beaten down and forced into a box. Her narrative, through both dialogue and diary pages, shows what can happen when someone chooses to conform to what is expected of them. It’s almost a lose-lose situation. This part of the narrative is where it gets quite dark and triggering which is why I’ve applied the aforementioned warnings at the start of this review.

The Love And Lies of Rukhsana Ali is a story about fighting for who you love, and who you want to be, and I will be thinking about it for a long time.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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Posted in Audiobook Of The Month

Audiobook Of The Month | The Disasters

After reading the many blog posts from an array of wonderful reviewers sharing their anticipated reads for the year, I stumbled across The Disasters by M.K.England which is a Young Adult Sci-Fi novel comprising of a diverse cast from Muslim characters, to Asian characters and British Characters, to gay and bisexuals all wrapped up in the domain of space.

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I’ve mentioned many a time before that Sci-fi is a genre that I often struggle with, but the concept of this group of teens being the only survivors from a terrorist attack on a space academy, and then being framed for the crime, was enough to make me want to dive in.

For the most part, The Disasters is within the realms of what I can handle. The protagonist, Nax, is from Earth and so is the team he acquires, so there are lots of pop culture references such as Harry Potter. While I really appreciated this because it doesn’t make the story too dense, I have found that it’s hard to distinguish where in the universe they are because their current location on this brand new planet feels too much like Earth. In fact, I sometimes forget that they’re not until one of the characters starts to talk about how they miss their family on Earth.

The tagline for this book also got me excited: “Space is hard. Grab a helmet” sounds like the reader is about to endure extreme, nail-biting space battles. Sadly, that is not the case and instead it’s just a lot of the characters sitting around until everything blows over. At a quite short audiobook (8 hours), I can’t imagine that much of what is seemingly promised is going to come to fruition.

At the time of writing this post I am 56% in.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

What audiobooks are you listening to at the moment?

Posted in Non-Fiction

It’s Not About The Burqa – Edited by Mariam Khan

“We are not asking for permission any more. We are taking up space. We’ve listened to a lot of people talking about who Muslim women are without actually hearing Muslim women. So now, we are speaking. And now, it’s your turn to listen.”

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Blurb: “In 2016, Mariam Khan read that David Cameron had linked the radicalization of Muslim men to the ‘traditional submissiveness’ of Muslim women. Mariam felt pretty sure she didn’t know a single Muslim woman who would describe herself that way. Why was she hearing about Muslim women from people who were neither Muslim, nor female? Years later the state of the national discourse has deteriorated even further, and Muslim women’s voices are still pushed to the fringes – the figures leading the discussion are white and male. Taking one of the most politicized and misused words associated with Muslim women and Islamophobia, It’s Not About the Burqa is poised to change all that.”

Disclaimer: Mariam Khan is a dear friend but this does not mean that I will not review this book honestly.

Trigger Warnings: emotional abuse, talks of anxiety and depression, islamaphobia.

In our current political climate, and the age of social media, it is impossible to escape the many “divisive” conversations circling in endless news cycles and talk shows. For some of us, people like me, we are able to to turn off the TV, delete our apps and take a break until we feel comfortable enough to recharge and return to them. But Muslim women do not have that privilege. A lot seems to be said about this group of women, and very rarely are they given the platform to speak for themselves.  Activist Mariam Khan decided that it was time for Muslim women to get a say and presents the book It’s Not About The Burqa which is a collection of essays from seventeen Muslim women (herself included) covering many topics for being a Queer Muslim woman, to marriage and divorce, to defying exceptions.

It is not my place to talk on behalf of these women or about their experiences in detail as I cannot relate to these as a white woman. Instead, just like my review of The Good Immigrant, I will share some of the essays that taught me a lot:

“Immodesty Is The Best Policy” by Coco Khan focuses on the modesty expectations for Muslim women. She shares stories about her strict aunt, and her cousin who had to give up dancing because it was seen as “parading herself in front of men.”

“On Representation Of Muslims” by Nafida Bahkar tackles the media representation and how its fine in context of cute Christmas ads and other commercialised aspects, but once those minorities use their voices to get change, they are cast aside. She shines a light on how representation in the media is not as important as dealing with everyday islamaphobia.

“Feminism Needs To Die” by Mariam Khan focuses on the idea of White Feminism (feminism geared more towards issues such as gender pay which has become the overall “known feminism) and how it hurts minorities: that in order for things to change feminism needs to become a more intersectional place for all women.

“Eight Notifications” by Salma Haidrani handles social media when being a journalist and how she had an eight notification rule which caused her much anxiety. If she posted a new article and received eight notifications on Twitter, she knew that it was probably people sending her vitriol.

These are just a handful of the stories that can be found in this collection; many of which will resonate more with other readers than they did with me. But as Mariam Khan says in the introduction: “It’s Not About The Burqa brings together Muslim women’s voices. It does not represent the experiences of every Muslim woman or claim to cover every single issue faced by Muslim women. It’s not possible to create that book. But this book is a start, a movement: we Muslim women are reclaiming our identity.” 

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings