Ramiza Shamoun Koya reveals the devastating cost of anti-Muslim sentiment in The Royal Abduls, her debut novel about an Indian-American family. Evolutionary biologist Amina Abdul accepts a post-doc in Washington, DC, choosing her career studying hybrid zones over a faltering West Coast romance. Her brother and sister-in-law welcome her to the city, but their marriage is crumbling, and they soon rely on her to keep their son company. Omar, hungry to understand his cultural roots, fakes an Indian accent, invents a royal past, and peppers his aunt with questions about their cultural heritage. When he brings an ornamental knife to school, his expulsion triggers a downward spiral for his family, even as Amina struggles to find her own place in an America now at war with people who look like her. With The Royal Abduls, Ramiza Koya ignites the canon of post-9/11 literature with a deft portrait of second-generation American identity.
Ramiza Koya is the author of The Royal Abduls, from Forest Avenue Press and was the Director of Youth Programs at Literary Arts. She earned he MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her fiction and nonfiction appeared in publications such as Columbia Review, Lumina, Washington Square Review, and Mutha Magazine. She had been a fellow at both MacDowell Colony and Blue Mountain Center. Her father was born in Fiji, her mother in Texas, and she was born in California. Ramiza passed away on June 5, 2020 after a long battle with cancer.
May 30, 2020: This ownvoices realistic fiction by a Muslim Indian-American woman easily bashes racial and religious stereotypes while focusing on the hard-hitting and important themes of discrimination, secularism, psychological impact of divorces on children, alcoholism, and finding one's identity when being expected to dedicate one's life for relationships. Easily recommendable!
March 6, 2020: So happy to read this literary fiction about the post 9/11 consequences that an Indian-American family have had to face. Thank you so much, Forest Avenue Press for the digital review copy via Netgalley!
[Thank you, NetGalley for providing a copy of the ARC]
This whole book was just completely incoherent. I am so disappointed because I really was quite excited for this story.
What I expected due to the Blurb: A story about a muslim-indian family suffering under the anti-muslim sentiment which came up strongly in the US after 9/11.
What i received: An incoherent and strange story about a family who identifies as atheist, has nothing at all to do with their roots or their ancestors religion, and doesn't even want to talk about it.
This was the biggest problem for me, the fact that the author planned to create a story about second generation immigrants and how they experience the situation in the US after 9/11 - BUT THEN created a family that doesn't identify with their background, doesn't want to talk about their background and is just in complete denial about their heritage. What exactly were they supposed to show the reader? Reading this felt like trying desperately to make someone talk who just doesn't want to talk about it.
Omar. He was such a cute child, and the way the chapters from his viewpoint were written illustrated perfectly the struggles he is faced with due to is name and the color of his skin.
Yea, thats it.
Amina ... was absolutely pathetic and maybe this was intentional but the author missed the point in which she could change the narrative into something that illustrated a point for the reader. We were just left confused the whole time, everything Amina "said" in her thoughts just contradicted her actions. N O T H I N G changed. She just kept acting like it.
... first she started to hate this girl because she thought she was sleeping with her Boss - 1) why is that her business and 2) why is this a reason to be so mean to the girl ???
... then her endless talks about her biology project - what was the point in including this in this book? I mean it was interesting enough at times but it really had no point other than using it as a metaphor, in the last few pages, for species mixing with each other and forming new species.
... her constant inner shaming of everyone who is religious? What sense does this make in a book that was supposed to support people suffering under anti-muslim discrimination? She didn't want to date a man because he had a long dark beard, she didn't want to date someone who was religious, and on and on. At times I just felt like she was the one with anti-muslim sentiment. But then out of nothing, the next second she is complaining about the struggles she faces to due the anti-muslim sentiment, and a few pages later she is talking about being a proud atheist. And then she is crying out of happiness because Barack Obama became president and he is muslim - is this a fiction or did I really miss the point where he was muslim? Not once did we get the impression that she had a problem with how her people were treated in America and now she is so glad that finally, after all their struggles, things can change??
Omars Story I felt like this was the part where the author actually tried to show the reader how a child with a different ethnic background feels in todays USA. And she did a great job of showing it .. but? Then .. just nothing. Not a single soul in his family realized or even cared about the struggles he was facing. His white mother was constantly being angry at hime if just as much as said "India" or "Islam", his father completely ignored him and is aunt made some strange tries but honestly was glad when he stopped reminding her of her heritage. This boy was actually bullied by teachers and other children, by his own damn white family, he was thinking about changing his name into something more "white", etc. etc. this list is ENDLESS. He was confused about what being Indian means (actually thinking that everyone who is of a darker skintown is from India), he did not know one single bit about what Islam is, he was scared of women with headscarves. MAN. This would have been just such a great way for the author to use this and make him talk to his parents and let them explain all he is confused about. It would have been a lesson. But no, she just left him AND US without explanation. It was so frustrating to see him suffer without anybody trying to explain a thing.
This whole book had not one single person (beside a woman in a store of whom Omar was afraid) who represented Islam. There was not a single soul identifying as muslim, not a single soul practicing Islam. The only religious person in this book was a Sikh - which is fine with me, but why then put something about Muslims in the Blurb? This whole family was supposedly having Muslim Roots but didn't want to talk about it and also didn't believe in god. Wow. The author additionally made such a point of showing that this family didn't act muslim - alcohol EVERYWHERE, such strange talk about sex between random people, loving to eat pork. It just became ridiculous when everyone in this book was drinking gin, whiskey, wine and beer on I KID YOU NOT every single occasion AND DRIVING afterwards. It felt like she was so focused on showing how much alcohol is consumed that she forget to check if this has any logic left in it.
I'm sorry but it felt like this book was about a family, looking muslim but not being muslim, that was wrongly accused of being muslim and treated accordingly. Making them the poor people who had to suffer because of Islamic Fundamentalism.
I could go on and on but I will leave you at this.
This. This book. Today, tomorrow, forever. It’s such a true representation of what it’s like to live a bifurcated existence. Every character is flush, each subplot so beautifully constructed. I never wanted to leave this book’s world, and I wanted to be near all of its people.
I received an ARC of The Royal Abduls from Forest Avenue Press. I absolutely enjoyed reading this book! Ramiza Shamoun Koya’s writing is cinematic and meditative. The novel explores the concept of feeling connected and what lengths we go to to create, maintain, and distance ourselves from connections, whether that’s person-to-person or person-to-identity. Given that it’s a long book that spans several years, the pacing did feel slow at parts, but I really appreciated the journey and the intentionality behind each part. I found myself highlighting so many quotes about life and the specific, yet resonant parts of the human condition. The Royal Abduls was one of those books where you feel like you need be in a quiet place and think for a bit after you finish it. I can’t wait to re-read this book and take away something new from it! Full review here: https://samiaabbasi.com/2020/02/17/th...
This is a heartfelt post-9/11 coming-of-age tale from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy; a boy with brown skin and a longing for a connection to the land that birthed his family: India. Amid anti-Muslim grumblings, Omar, his father Mohammed, and his aunt Amina try to manage their lives within the newly harsh focus from their peers, law enforcement, the government, and even family. Examining themes of emotional ties, solitude, tragedy, the thirst for self actualization, family, science, and lives upended, Koya writes a tender love letter to all Muslim-Americans who have been denounced and disowned by their own country. Gorgeously done, The Royal Abduls brings that which is carefully hidden out into the light; searching for the truth at all costs.
Amina Abdul is an evolutionary biologist who has recently moved to Washington DC from California for a post-doc & to be closer to her brother Mohammed and his family. She left behind a longterm relationship that faltered due to her lack of desire to have children and her tendency towards being workaholic. Her brother & sister-in-law welcome her to the city but their marriage is failing and they rely on her to keep their son Omar company. Omar is in the 6th grade at a private school where he is one of the only students of color. Omar, as a second generation Indian-American is hungry to explore his cultural roots and fakes an Indian accent & stories of his family’s supposed royal past. When he brings an ornamental knife to school and ends up expelled, this triggers a downward spiral for the whole family. In a post 9/11 America, at war with people who look like them, the Abduls all struggle to find their place.
This was such a unique, fascinating read dealing with all kinds of issues not often explored in literature. I was immediately drawn to Omar and the way that he dealt with being different by weaving exaggerated stories about India & his family. His grandparents had fought so hard to assimilate and his father Mohammed and aunt Amina had lived in a way where they hardly gave a second thought to their heritage. So Omar knew very little but was so hungry to know more about where he came from and what it meant to be Indian-American. The struggles he faces and the trouble he inadvertently gets into were one of my favorite parts of the story.
Then there’s Amina, who even apart from her cultural and ethnic heritage, is a character unlike any I’ve encountered before. She’s fiercely independent to the point of often alienating those around her. She seems to feel like others are better off without her and if anything I wish that had maybe been explored a bit deeper, as in where did she develop these beliefs about herself, but oof could I ever relate to her. She ends up really deeply caring for Omar too, despite her general dislike of kids, and that was the other highlight of the book for me. To see these two kind of difficult characters find a bond in their struggles was really special and what helps keep this book that deals with so many heavy subjects from being too heavy to bear.
There is so much depth and a broad range of interrelated issues explored. Amina is a woman in the sciences and academia, a space where so few women are and so many end up pushed out and pushed away from. This book really delves into the misogyny of the academic and science communities in a way that’s so real.
In addition to the general identity issues and questions of assimilation versus holding onto and connecting more deeply with one’s heritage, another thing I found really interesting and unique about this novel is that the Abdul family are secular Muslims. They drink (in fact one family member struggles with alcoholism), eat pork, and even celebrate Christmas. Yet in a world that, at the time frame of this story, is only a few years post 9/11 the whole family is forced to contend with what it means to have the last name they do, the history and heritage they do, to worry about their safety and the things others assume about them. More than that though, I don’t think I’ve ever read or even seen a book focused on a secular Muslim family so it was really great to see.
I’m extremely grateful to have read this book and deeply saddened to know the author has terminal cancer. I would’ve loved to have seen what else Ramiza writes but I hope she is so proud to see her debut novel published and to know she’s given a voice to so many complex subjects not seen in literature. This book would be an incredible book club pick, given all the facets and things to discuss. It’s definitely a novel I’ll never forget.
'The Royal Abduls' is an absolutely superb book and one that left me feeling really sad that its author's debut book may well be her last. With writing of such high quality, I want more from Ramiza Shamoun Koya but this may well not be possible for her.
At the heart of the book is an unlikely heroine. Amina likes moths but isn't so crazy about people. She doesn't make friends easily, tries to avoid getting involved in romantic relationships, and gets involved with her own family rather reluctantly. I'm not particularly introverted myself, but I loved Amina's different way of approaching life and could relate to her preference to be out in the countryside looking for moths rather than dealing with the day to day politics of life in her research lab and her complicated family.
Every heroine needs a side-kick and Amina's is her 11-year-old nephew Omar. The book is pitched as (yet another) post-9/11 exposee of racism in modern America. From my point of view, race was a minor player in the prejudices faced by the characters. At 11 years old, Omar could have been picked on just as easily for a handful or other 'differences' - wearing glasses, having red hair, or being a bit geeky - just as easily as for being a bit 'brown'. As the child of a US-born American of Indian heritage and a white mother (surname Benoit - sounds French or French Canadian, I forget if it's mentioned) he is torn between wanting to know more about his heritage, and perhaps a bit of disappointment that his father and grandparents aren't Indian enough or Muslim enough. Yet somehow the kids at school want to call him a terrorist. Kids! Little sods.
Amina is a post-doc researcher for a prof who treats her (and most of his team) like trash and indulges in inappropriate relationships with female subordinates. Nasty. She's dealing with the multiple whammy of being brown, nominally Muslim (the whole family drink, eat whatever they want and Amina's father Abdul was known to all his white colleagues as 'Alan'), and a bit of a sociophobe. Omar chips away at Amina's reserve, introduces her to a potential boyfriend (a not very Sikh Sikh) and drags her into his problems with school and divorcing parents, giving her possibly the first non-dysfunctional relationship in her life.
If you want a book where lots happens, it's possibly not the one for you. But if you like a slow burn where people expand their horizons and realise important things about themselves and their lives, then I highly recommend The Royal Abduls.
I received a free copy from Netgalley in return for an honest review. It's my 6th book from Netgalley and the first one I've loved.
I got an ARC of this rad lil’ novel, and damn it’s such a good read. It balances serious racist crap brown folks deal with in the USA with a fun dramatic story. The two characters at the center of this novel are 100% lovable and it was so nice to spend time with them in this book.
I absolutely love this book. I opened it expecting a journey taking me through the injustice suffered by normal American Muslims post 9/11. What I read was so much deeper than that. This is a book about how difficult it is to just be human. The two main characters, Amina and her nephew Omar, are complex and so deeply normal human beings just trying to live and be happy. It is a very emotional journey following them as they navigate life. I learned more about the world and myself through their fictitious lives than most other books I've read. Highly recommended.
The Royal Abduls is a novel about connections. The Royal Abduls is set in the years right after 9/11 when it was particularly tough to be be brown and Muslim in America. This novel is about the Abduls, an Indian American family. Amina Abdul is a scientist who has just moved to Washington DC from California to be closer to her brother Mo and his family. Amina has had a difficult time making friends for her whole life and is a bit put off when her brother & sister in law ask her to spend time with their son Omar. Omar is very interested in learning more about his Indian ancestory and is hopeful that his family will have a regal or even royal background. He is flustered because no one in his family seems to want to tell him about their Indian culture. Omar feels as if he doesn't fit in at school and is asked if he is a terrorist by his peers. He yearns to learn more about his "otherness".
The overall tone of this book is sadness and loneliness with sparks of joy mixed throughout. The 3 main Abduls featured in this story (Amina, Mo and Omar) all had the common thread of feeling disconnected from the world and themselves. They were all raised to be more American and to not think too much about their Indian heritage. This left them feeling like they had to hide or deny part of who they were.
I found the novel to be compelling and was able to connect with the characters even when I was frustrated by their self-sabotage. I can connect with their feelings of trying to minimize themselves after 9/11 since my husband is also Muslim. It was definitely a tricky time to navigate. I am saddened that the author passed away earlier this year so we won't be able to hear other stories from her #ownvoices perspective.
Biologist Amina Abdul moves to Washington, DC leaving a six-year relationship behind to complete her post-doc and also as a bonus be closer to her nephew, Omar.
Omar is fascinated by stories of his paternal Indian heritage and believes himself to belong to an India that is richly endowed with both culture and wealth. Disturbed with the events of 9/11 he moves closer to his idea of belonging with Indians and takes on an Indian accent and spins a make-believe story of being royalty.
Meanwhile his parents marriage is crumbling and Omar is confused about his identity even more. He gets expelled for bringing an ornamental knife to school and the story continues.
This book had a very interesting premise but it also felt like a huge lost opportunity.
Everything mentioned in the synopsis is not exactly a major part of the story and the exact point of the story felt unclear.
Carrying a knife and threatening a student could end in an expulsion even if instead of “Omar” it was “Oscar” who did it. The story of racism would have been more believable if he’d been carrying a few batteries or something.
Anyhow, Mo and Marcy (shallow, narcissist, entitled and conceited characters) were already having problems with their marriage regardless of Omar’s activities though it’s presented that way.
Also, every time Mo or Amina do anything wrong blaming “all the Abduls” sounds childish and ridiculous.
I don’t really understand why the protagonist and their family are referred to as muslims when in all ways they happen to be atheists. Not judging just by their frequent wine drinking (even during a funeral memorial meeting of an important family member) or the fact that the first meal mentioned in the story involves pork, but by their own admission and activities.
The story is basically about how their names and the color of their skins groups them with people of arab ethnicity and makes people discriminate against them because they look like them.
I would have preferred a story where there are actual believable instances of racism and believe me there are more than a lot of them! This is in no way the story of a muslim family.
Another huge mistake in the book is that Omar calls his paternal aunt, Amina, “Chachi”, when she is his “bua” (in Hindi or “Phuphu” in Urdu). Chachi is the term used to refer to the wife of your father’s brother. That “chachi” bit irritated me quite a bit.
I thank NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I finished this book with a tear or two in my eyes... The story is compelling, quietly gripping. An evolutionary biologist, Amina, studies hybrid moths. This metaphor is found in her own identity as a nonreligious Muslim Indian American as well as her biracial nephew's identity. It's a tension from internal forces and from external ones, esp a post 9-11 America.
The book alternates between Amina's story and her nephew's. The tone for Omar is pitch perfect; he's eleven and struggling at school. He longs for answers to many questions. He's curious and smart but too young to navigate the world around him. He's aching for a foothold For Amina, the tone is brusque and I would say stiff; she's struggling too...almost collapsing within herself. She's aching for an escape or a landing, but perhaps both. This book is a coming-of-age for both characters.
I found their stories haunting and intimate. The third-person perspective didn't work as well for Amina. She was unreachable although understandable and perhaps forgivable.
What a beautiful book! I loved this books, start to finish, and was delighted that the main character is a smart, science and career focused WOC who doesn’t compromise their goals or aspirations to appease others. The characters are very relatable, and the writing is clean. This is a great read!
The Royal Abduls bravely counters the situation of Immigrants trying to survive in America. After 9/11 things changes drastically for Muslims, in particular. The story follows a small Indian-American family, each individual fighting their own battles.
Omar is confused child, being born into a house of brown Muslim father and a white mother, Onar constantly finds himself in a conflict of identity. I felt the worst for him, he only wanted to explore his roots, know where he came from, why he looked the way he did, why everyone called him names based on his race even though his family wasn't a practicing Muslim family.
Then there is Amina, independent, successful, headstrong but also selfish, unable to walk an extra mile for loved ones. Amina's character proved that shortcomings in childhood does effect you in adulthood too. I think she was so tired of being constantly judged becaus eof her looks that she became determined to be successful in her field. Along the way, she also forgot to live a happy life.
Mohammad, or Mo, is Omar's father. He's an uncommunicative, closed-off father. Mo and Marcy, like many others were high school sweetheart. What irked me about them was that Marcy knew Mo from the beginning, she saw him change from a boy to a man, she knew what her husband was like yet she blamed everything on him, blamed him for not being talkative enough, expressive enough. Whereas Mo, who had endured identity crisis himself as a boy should have been there for his son. He should have tried to have a better relation with his as compared to the one he had with his father. He believed putting food on the table and paying the bills was enough.
The Royal Abduls is a heart-wrenching story about a striving family, It's about family, love, the wrong choices we make, and paying for them. Its about being there for our family and regrets, All in all, it left me feeling extremely sad but also hopeful.
How I read this: Free ebook copy received through NetGalley
I feel like if I wanted to give The Royal Abduls a proper review, I’d have to write a whole other book about it – I just can’t see how I would put it all into a single-post review. This story was great, and it’s just so full of everything – it covers a large variety of topics, but the most important thing – it does it all very well. It’s not too much, and every subject goes in pretty deep.
In short, it’s a book about not knowing where you belong – both culturally, as well as individually, but it’s also a book about abandonment, growing up with divorce, without roots. It’s about assumptions, labels people give each other, things we think about others and ourselves and how those things can be unexpectedly different – in both good and bad ways.
It’s also about helplessness, perhaps helplessness we train ourselves into, and all-engrossing loneliness that seems to be becoming more and more ubiquitous. And, to be honest – those are not even all of the topics. For example, a sprinkle of women’s struggle in academia is also definitely there.
Even if I wanted to, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to name everything that was covered in The Royal Abduls – it felt that extensive. And that’s exactly why I strongly recommend to read it. But read my full review if you want to learn more: https://avalinahsbooks.space/royal-ab...
I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.
I wanted to love this one. I really did... and feel badly that I could connect with any of the characters at all. The book synopsis says it the novel deals with post 9-11 race issues etc but truthfully it never even digs deep into that. If it had, I would have been more immersed into what this family was feeling in the aftermath. But the story dealt more with a second generation Indian-American who married a white woman and had a son. Their heritage is largely in the background and not discussed which actually made me sad for the little boy Omar. With two parents who don’t teach him about his ancestry or even where his grandparents were originally from, he tries to search for some sort of connection to his other culture. I wanted his parents to smarten up and embrace both beautiful cultures and I wanted Omar to grow up loving who he is as a Desi.
That said, I want to highlight this book regardless as it was written by Ramiza Shamoun Koya who tragically died this past June of breast cancer. It was her first novel and she died as it was released. Thankfully a friend drove her around to see her novel in bookstores in Portland. I can’t imagine her happiness of seeing her book in print, knowing that her words would live on forever even if she wouldn’t. And so while I think this book didn’t dig deep enough, I have true empathy for her daughter and marvel at the gift of having her mother’s words now that she’s gone.
Thank you @netgalley and @forestavenuepress for the chance to read and give an honest review
52% read in 2020. Provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Ok, so this one has me in a little bit of a pickle. I actually quite enjoy the premise. I think it is a really smart book subject to look at an Indian American Muslim family in the aftermath of 9/11. The September 11 attacks were a massively impactful moment in US history and, especially for the younger and/or non-American readers (I was 8 years old in The Netherlands at the time), it is a part of the US timeline that we do not know a lot about. The storyline on its own was quite interesting and engaging. However, the writing style and the switching of narratives (the second significantly younger than the first) just did not work for me. The story felt very choppy and rushed. And the younger protagonist felt mismatched with the first and older perspective.
So if I end up finding this in my local library, I will take it home and give it another try, but I definitely do not feel inclined to buy a physical edition just to finish the story.
Ramiza Shamoun Koya’s debut novel is an emotional portrayal of a Hyderabadi American Muslim family and the struggles they face in post-9/11 America. The characters are lovingly drawn, and the conflicts they deal with never felt inorganic. The story is primarily told from the perspectives of Amina and her nephew Omar.
Amina is a post-doc in Biology who has recently taken up a new post in Washington, D.C., the city where her brother lives. Through Amina, we get an insight into how insidious sexism in the workplace manifests itself. This is especially evident with Amina’s colleague Anjali and her too-friendly relationship with their boss Chris. Amina herself feels like she is in a rut, having just left a long-term relationship and not really in love with her new job. As someone looking to pursue biology at a Master’s level, I must say that Amina’s experience with her position was not encouraging to me. But I applaud the author for not sugarcoating anything, but still giving us a sense of how Amina first fell in love with biology and her continued love of field work.
Omar is the son of Amina’s brother Mo and his white wife Marcy. The family is fairly disconnected from their Hyderabadi roots, but because Omar is perceived by others to be Indian and/or Muslim depending on the situation, he naturally comes to have an identity crisis. I felt the author’s portrayal of Omar to really capture what it is like to feel lost at such a young age. With his parents caught up in their own problems and a huge gap in his knowledge of his family history, Omar begins to turn to Amina for guidance. But Amina’s own issues with commitment make her somewhat unreliable for him.
Throughout this, the realities of being Muslim in 2000s America, or really just having Muslim names, blows out of proportion situations that should have been brushed off. An incident with a knife ends up having undue consequences for Omar, and the author clearly shows the Islamophobia in the punishment and the bullying that led Omar to it. The author also did a great job of portraying how Omar’s disconnect with his Muslim and Indian heritage leads him to being more confused about how people treat him. He is trying to come to understand what it means to be perceived as Muslim even when he is not religious and has no one to guide him. The novel’s last section is set in India, and without going into too much detail, I was relieved that the author deftly portrayed the differences and similarities between the character’s life in India and the US. The threat of a majoritarian government has yet to come into fruition in India, but the author clearly shows how othering it is to be perceived as Muslim even there. India is not the homecoming the character may have thought it would be, but it still represents an important stage in the character’s development.
The author’s choices when it came to presenting the family’s culture and various elements of desi culture was thought provoking. For one thing, it is unusual to see a Hyderabadi Muslim family claim Hindi as their ancestral language. But I thought it was a bold choice to have the characters state misconceptions about different aspects of desi culture because they genuinely believed them. Omar, for example, believes initially that Hindus are more Indian than Muslims. Amina at one point gives a definition of desi to mean being of Indian heritage, when the term applies to some other South Asians as well. For a desi reader like myself it was easier to parse out the misconceptions from what was actually true, but it could lead to some non-desi readers believing these misconceptions.
Despite a somewhat unorganized start, I found that this novel built up emotion very well, so that by the end I was absolutely gripped by these characters’ stories. This portrait of a family struggling to stay together was incredibly moving. This is a book that skillfully balances heartwarming lighter moments with heartbreaking darker ones.
DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Netgalley and Forest Avenue Press for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily.
The Royal Abduls By Ramiza Shamoun Koya is a fantastic book that portrays the islamophobia, anti-muslim sentiment, and bigotry against people of color post 9/11 America in a realistic fashion. I had this book on my TBR for the longest time and I am glad I finally got around to reading it. This is a very important book and deals with a lot of social and political issues prevalent to this day. My first impression on reading the synopsis was that it was going to be about a practicing Muslim woman's experience and her struggles in the post 9/11 climate. But reading on I realized that the family had a Muslim background but had forfeited their faith a long time ago. While the anti-muslim sentiment is what shapes the story and propels it forward in a lot of ways, the fact that they were not even practicing Islam was disconcerting. I want to reiterate the fact that this is not the story of Muslims or an Own Voices representation of Muslims. This is the story of the experiences and struggles faced by a second-generation Indian American family in the US. Going into the book knowing this will help you enjoy it and not be confused by the actions of the characters that contradict the faith. The story is told from the two main character's perspectives. One is an Evolutionary Biologist Amina and the other is her young nephew Omar. These perspectives help build the story and take us on a journey through their lives where they each grapple with family situations, racism, islamophobia, prejudice, and workplace tensions. While Omar strives to blend in and live a normal life a young boy with brown skin and a Muslim name, Amina deals with workplace tensions, love life problems, and family issues. I enjoyed reading this book and following Amina and Omar as they navigated the reality of being brown and having a Muslim name in the US. The wide array of topics that can be used for discussion from this book are so many and I am glad I was able to see the problems through Amina and Omar's viewpoint. If you enjoy literary fiction that talks about some of the more serious social topics and tackles subjects like anti-Muslim sentiment, cultural heritage, assimilation of people with ethnic backgrounds to avoid prejudice this will be a good read for you. I gave the book 4.5 stars and I highly recommend checking it out. Keep in mind this is not a story about Muslims, but people who came from a Muslim background who don't practice the faith and are living a secular lifestyle.
This is an adorable book, I really enjoyed it. Ramiza Sharmoun Koya's narrative kept me interested in the situations that Amina Abdul lived, a successful scientist who has grown up between two cultures, that of the United States and her own. She works in Washington DC, her brother, who lives in this city receives her at his home. Amina meets Omar, her nephew, who is very interested in their family past. Amina explains her nephew as much as she can, due to Omar's immense interest in learning the origin of his family. It is a very interesting book that describes some of the difficult situations that immigrants go through. I really liked that Amina, how she always kept a positive attitude and her optimism towards her environment. I also liked the way she explained to her nephew Omar about her past. Excellent book. Thank you NetGalley and Forest Avenue Press for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
I was gifted a copy of this book by Net Galley and this is a book that hooked me from the first page. Once I started it was hard to stop. The book is an examination of career, love, family, parenting, Islamophobia and identity and how these things show up intimately in our relationships and imprint on our lives. The characters in this book do not hold religious identities themselves, but their names suggest otherwise, and so the author shows powerfully how xenophobia and Islamophobia impacts a person independent from their religious identity.
The most powerful of this story was the characters - and I completely fell in love with its protagonists, Amina a new postdoc in Washington DC, and her 11 year old nephew Omar. Above all else, this book feels like a love story about that love between an aunt and her nephew and I highly highly recommend!
In this gorgeously crafted novel, Koya has created characters so deeply human and alive that you feel a kind of familial love for them, and at times a desperation to find a portal into the book so you can be with them in their pain and loss. Omar is a character that we should all come to know in this current political climate of ours. Through Omar's grappling with identity and belonging in a divided family and splintered country, Koya takes us inside what it really means to feel "other". As someone who works with young people of Omar's age, I am especially grateful for this deeper understanding of what some of my students might be feeling. The Royal Abduls is an important book that offers healing at a time when we so urgently need to find the threads that will hold us all together.
What an important and enjoyable book. It deals with the complexities of family relationships, gender discrimination, and racial stereotypes, but in such a gentle and nuanced manner. Never preachy or whiny. No answers, just issues laid out in a way that will make you rethink what you think you know. I found Amina to be a sympathetic character and just want to give Omar a huge hug and tell him it will all be OK. The ending leaves you to fill in the blanks as you'd like, which is a treat and in no way unsatisfying. The writing was simple yet powerful and I had a hard time putting this down.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book.
This is a brilliant character driven novel. The writing is stellar and the realistic view of what life is like for immigrants in America post-9/11 was educational. The writing style doesn't come off as preachy, but the injustice that the characters experience comes through.
This was another good and interesting read about the Muslim-Indian-American experience. It was hard not to compare it to Mirza's A Place for Us, which I read earlier in the year and liked better. Still Koya's story also keeps you turning the pages and is moving.
Physical book provided by Blackstone Publishing for my honest review.
When I started off this book, I was surprised by how much I was enjoying it and how certain cultural references or knowledge in the book were things I knew or resonated with. I think that this book had a lot of potential, and I did appreciate what it was trying to get at, but it could have been executed a little better. The writing style was good, a little clunky at times, but still good. The characters in the book were what I liked and disliked the most about this book. At first, I liked Amina's character. She was not very sure of her heritage, but still tried to help give information to her nephew, she was career driven, and still not exactly sure what she wanted out of life. However, instead of her becoming a more well developed character I felt like it went a little backwards. There was this moment she told one of her coworkers, what do you expect other people to think of you dressed the way you do, or looking the way you do, just because she wore makeup, cared about looking nice, etc. As a woman, going into a STEM field, it's already difficult fitting into a male dominant field and feeling like you deserve to be there because you're just as smart, but having other woman tell you it's because the world perceives you and you're the one who has to change is a little messed up. It's not those woman who have to change, but society. A woman can wear makeup, dress nicely, AND be intelligent and competent in her career. Through the book, Amina just started avoiding her responsibilities even though she didn't want to hurt people, she literally ran away from her problems. I just didn't understand her. On the other hand, Omar was just the sweetest boy, and my heart ached for him. Growing up in world where no one knows how to pronounce your name, calls you racial slurs, and isolates you because you're different is what many people from Indian or Muslim backgrounds go through. I felt like Omar was just trying to navigate his life the best he could while terrible things kept on happening. The world can be an ugly place, but all this kid ever wanted was for people to like him, learn new things about himself and his culture, and have people in his life who loved him. I really appreciated his perspective in this book. Finally, when it comes to the plot of this book, it was more of a literary fiction piece of navigating the world as an individual who yes, is seen as Muslim, but I felt like certain situations in the book weren't talked about a lot. I think the synopsis talks about how the book is to be centered around how post 9/11 lives of Muslim people are affected, but it's slightly misleading in that it doesn't feel like that's the focus of the book, at least to me. Overall, I'm glad to have read this piece because I think it holds valuable information and a perspective of how kids and adults alike feel like they need to conform into this new society by brushing away their culture.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC for review.
The story is about second and third generation Indian Muslims caught between their ancestral heredity and the country that they were born in.
I have mixed feelings about the book and wavered between 3 and 2.5 stars. While the story was interesting, the main character seemed a little weak and very indecisive. What annoyed me the most was that the chapter told from the 11 yr old kid's perspective make him seem like a 5 year old. His inner thoughts are expressed as for someone who is much less mature than an almost-teenager. He thinks in short sentences that seem out of an infant storybook or a cartoon meant for babies.
Some other inaccuracies showed that the author may not be very familiar with Indian culture. Amina asks her nephew to call her "chachi" which is not the right term for father's sister ("bua"). Amina's mother is mentioned as using red powder in her hair and on forehead which is not accurate for muslim women. Not to mention casket burial, drinking at a funeral and pork/ham/bacon eating at various points. The characters were more atheists than traditional muslims. The whole muslim angle seems very forced just to talk about racism in a post-9-11 world.
Overall, the point of the story seemed unclear with threads like the fabricated royal past of the family just used intermittently with no purpose. There was a lot of blaming on "all the Abduls" by various characters.
Makes me wonder about all the glowing 5 star reviews.