The Bad Muslim Discount

Books on Tape. 2021. 268p. 12:24 hrs. ISBN 9780593293164. $95. F
Masood’s clever debut allies two San Franciscans who (ironically) meet at their mosque. Amid personal crises, anti-Islam sentiment in the post-9/11 era, and turmoil preceding the 2016 election, they lean into the certainty that each has proven disappointing as offspring and as Muslims. Their histories could scarcely be more different: Anvar, who emigrated from Pakistan in adolescence, is surrounded—and annoyed—by his stable, prosperous nuclear family. Recent arrival Azza, born in Iraq during the Gulf War, had to commit to an abusive fiancé in order to get passports for herself and her father. Anvar and Azza, two rebellious souls, derive a comfort of sorts from their liaison, but they’d face harsh consequences should it be discovered. Hend Ayoub affectingly narrates Azza’s story with careful distinctness evoking Azza’s recent transition and her extreme vulnerability. Azza’s somber chapters alternate with Anvar’s, whose witty, comic assessments of family, religion, romance, and politics are narrated by Pej Vahdat, with the aplomb of a stand-up comedian. Both narrators modulate the novel’s notable shifts in tone by inhabiting their characters engagingly. They reminds listeners to consider the vantage points by which Masood’s book observes America, as both a destination and an actor on the world stage.
VERDICT Insightful, entertaining, and warmly recommended.
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