“Temple Folk” Portrays the Diversity of the Black Muslim Experience in America
“Temple Folk” was published by Simon & Schuster on July 4. Each of Bilal’s stories provide unique insight into the Black American Muslims experience
Aaliyah Bilal’s debut “Temple Folk” is a collection of stories that narrate the lived experiences of Black Muslims grappling with their faith and identity in America. The ten stories in the collection illustrate a rich tapestry of the diversity of narratives of Black Muslim life.
“Temple Folk” was published by Simon & Schuster on July 4. Each of Bilal’s stories provide unique insight into the Black American Muslims experience: “Due North” explores the story of an obedient daughter who struggles to understand why she is haunted by the spirit of her recently deceased father. In “Who’s Down?,” a father conspires with his daughter to order him a double cheeseburger after an ill-fated stint of vegetarianism. “New Mexico” features a federal agent tasked with spying on a high-ranking member of the Nation of Islam.
In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Bilal called this work a “pioneering effort”: “There is debate about whether anyone has written about the experience of African American Muslims,” she said. “To be very frank, there hasn’t been work of the sort I have written.”
Aaliyah Bilal was born and raised in Maryland, and earned degrees from Oberlin College and the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies. She has published stories and essays with the Michigan Quarterly Review and The Rumpus, and “Temple Folk” is her first short story collection.
A groundbreaking debut collection portraying the lived experiences of Black Muslims grappling with faith, family, and freedom in America. In Temple Folk, Black Muslims contemplate the convictions of their race, religion, economics, politics, and sexuality in America. The ten stories in this collection contribute to the bounty of diverse narratives about Black life by intimately portraying the experiences of a community that resists the mainstream culture to which they are expected to accept and aspire to while functioning within the country in which they are born. In "Due North," an obedient daughter struggles to understand why she's haunted by the spirit of her recently deceased father. In "Who's Down?" a father, after a brief affair with vegetarianism, conspires with his daughter to order him a double cheeseburger. In "Candy for Hanif" a mother's routine trip to the store for her disabled son takes an unlikely turn when she reflects on a near-death experience. In "Woman in Niqab," a daughter's suspicion of her father's infidelity prompts her to wear her hair in public. In "New Mexico," a federal agent tasked with spying on a high-ranking member of the Nation of Islam grapples with his responsibilities closer to home. With an unflinching eye for the contradictions between what these characters profess to believe and what they do, Temple Folk accomplishes the rare feat of presenting moral failures with compassion, nuance and humor to remind us that while perfection is what many of us strive for, it's the errors that make us human.