Five Unputdownable YA books with Queer Muslim Protagonists

Queer Muslim YA books are a vital part of the broader movement for diverse and inclusive literature. They delve into the intersection of religion, sexuality, culture, and self-discovery, offering a much-needed platform for voices that have historically been silenced or sidelined.

Five Unputdownable YA books with Queer Muslim Protagonists
These are just five of our favorite queer Muslim YA books, each penned by remarkable authors who have taken on the task of bringing their stories to the forefront.

In the rich tapestry of young adult (YA) literature, stories that reflect the experiences and struggles of marginalized communities have emerged as a powerful force for both representation and understanding. Over the past 10 years, a subgenre of YA fiction has begun to take shape, one that grapples with the complexities of being both queer and Muslim in a world where diverse identities and intersections are increasingly acknowledged and celebrated. In this unique literary landscape, characters come to life who dare to love and be their authentic selves, challenging the stereotypes and stigmas that have long defined their narratives.

Queer Muslim YA books are a vital part of the broader movement for diverse and inclusive literature. They delve into the intersection of religion, sexuality, culture, and self-discovery, offering a much-needed platform for voices that have historically been silenced or sidelined. These books explore the challenges, joys, and triumphs of individuals who straddle the worlds of queer identity and Islamic faith, paving the way for meaningful conversations about acceptance, love and belonging.

The five books below are just a few of our favorite queer Muslim YA books, each penned by remarkable authors who have taken on the task of bringing their stories to the forefront. By doing so, they not only contribute to the ongoing battle for LGBTQ+ rights and recognition but also engage in the broader conversation about the evolving landscape of Muslim identity. These authors and their books invite readers to accompany characters on journeys of self-discovery, self-acceptance and the pursuit of love that transcends boundaries.

  1. “The Dos and Donuts of Love” by Adiba Jaigirdar

Shireen Malik, a teenage girl fresh from a breakup with her ex-girlfriend, has just received the news that she’s competing in a televised baking competition. Her dream opportunity quickly becomes a tangled web of emotions when she learns her recent ex-girlfriend, Chris, will be competing against her. And even more complicated, things are heating up between Shireen and her fellow competitor Niamh. As the competition unfolds, Shireen must navigate both her complicated emotions and potential sabotage to win not only the prize money but also bring attention to her parents' beloved donut shop, You Drive Me Glazy.

This pun-filled YA contemporary romance is a delightful blend of baking, competition and the complexities of young love, making it an ideal read for fans of shows like "The Great British Bake Off" (2010 – ) and sapphic YA rom-coms like "She Drives Me Crazy."

  1. “How It All Blew Up” by Arvin Ahmadi

Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy, but he never thought it would end in an airport interrogation room. Facing a failed relationship, bullying and blackmail, Amir decides to run away from home and escape to Rome. There, he discovers new friendships and romantic experiences like he’d never had before … until his past catches up with him. Faced with a potential threat to his newfound freedom, Amir must be completely honest with a U.S. Customs officer about his journey or risk losing everything.

Ahmadi's novel is a poignant exploration of identity and self-discovery, blending moments of uplifting joy with heart-wrenching challenges. "How It All Blew Up" offers a powerful narrative that delves into the struggle of finding oneself while facing the consequences of one's actions, all set against the backdrop of an escape to Italy.

  1. “What a Desi Girl Wants” by Sabina Khan

Mehar, who hasn't visited India since leaving at the age of 6, reluctantly returns for her rich father's lavish wedding in hopes of mending their strained relationship. Once in India, Mehar forms an easy friendship with her grandmother’s assistant Sufiya, which quickly develops into something more.

Amidst her budding romance, Mehar's aversion to her father’s bride Naz and her influencer daughter Aleena deepens as Mehar suspects their intentions with her father are less than pure. It’s not long before Mehar is faced with a difficult choice — expose the truth about Naz and Aleena? Or stay quiet and protect her growing relationship with Sufiya? Mehar knows what she wants. Making it happen is a whole other story.

Sabina Khan's YA novel blends the romantic charm of Becky Albertalli with the complex family dynamics reminiscent of "Darius the Great is Not Okay," delving into the intricacies of love, family and identity. Khan weaves a compelling narrative that keeps readers engaged as Mehar navigates the complexities of her return to India and the evolving relationships around her.

  1. “Only This Beautiful Moment” by Abdi Nazemian 

This compelling tale from the Stonewall Honor-winning author of "Like a Love Story" follows three generations of boys in an Iranian family, offering a poignant narrative spanning across decades and continents. Moud, an openly gay teen living in Los Angeles, embarks on a journey to Tehran with his distant father, Saeed, after receiving news of his dying grandfather in Iran. This trip leads to the unraveling of family secrets that prompt Moud to reevaluate his history, culture and personal identity.

The story also weaves back to 1978 where Saeed, an engineering student in Tehran, is forced to flee to America due to his involvement in the country's revolution. His new life is complicated further by living with his previously unknown American grandmother.

The story also steps back even further to 1939, exploring the world of Bobby, a young actor in Hollywood who experiences the dark underbelly of the glamorous industry.

Set against the backdrop of Tehran and Los Angeles, this narrative delves into intergenerational trauma, love, and the intricate bonds of family. It sheds light on hidden historical secrets, offering a beautiful exploration of the moments that shape our identities and the ties that connect us across time and place.

  1. “Tell Me How You Really Feel” by Aminah Mae Safi

Popular cheerleader Sana Khan's initial attempt to ask out Rachel Recht ended so disastrously that she’s never even attempted to ask another girl out again. Rachel, a film enthusiast and aspiring director, took Sana’s request for a date as a prank and has despised her for it ever since. But circumstances change when Rachel needs the perfect lead for her senior project. Despite their rocky history, Sana agrees to the role, and her unreciprocated crush on Rachel persists.

Set in the vibrant backdrop of Los Angeles during spring, the narrative unfolds through alternating viewpoints to reveal a simple truth — in the city of dreams, anything can happen. Even love.

Aminah Mae Safi's opposites attract YA romance pays tribute to romantic comedies, featuring two strong willed young women with contrasting social standings who join forces to create a film while trying their hardest not to fall in love.

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