November Reads

Two reading recommendations follow.

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by Zarqa Nawaz

Recommended by Anah

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque

This book, a memoir which outlines the everyday but anything but commonplace life in Canada by Zarqa Nawaz (the creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie), was such fun to read. Irreverent, self-mocking, and entertaining fun, with just enough seasoning of life's challenges to ground it.

Nawaz is a first generation Canadian, who immigrated to Canada with her family when she was five. To say that she was born with a questioning spirit and a unique approach to life is an understatement. I knew this was going to be really enjoyable when she started her story by remembering playing in the schoolyard with a little boy who tells her that he'll "believe in God if you push me on the swings for as long as I want. I agreed. My arms ached and recess was torture, but that was the price of saving Davy's soul." Soon after, Davy's mom returns the favour of saving souls by stopping Zarqa from eating (more) pork at Davy's birthday party: "I couldn't believe my taste buds. The meat was so good it was like eating a piece of heaven... Who knew that the pictures of cute pigs with a giant X through them would translate to tasty morsels on a platter?"

This is just page two, and already readers knows that they are well-positioned for a great time, and in fact I read this book in one sitting, enjoying her stories about her dissatisfaction with her braids, her school lunches, what she wore, challenging her parents on faith, going to Muslim camp, adventures in education, dating (oh, the dating!), concerns about circumcision, and so much more. Her wonderful family, and even more wonderful husband with his deadpan responses to her slightly more, shall we say, excitable responses to life brought even more texture to the stories. More than once I found myself being rather sad that I wasn't related to them, too.

Those parts of the book when she dealt with more serious topics (questions of faith; the response by her mosque to her television series; gender issues; death of family members; and importantly, 9/11) were thought-provoking. While self-deprecation remained a hallmark of these stories, too, the important nature of what she was talking about resonated.

If you want to make a new friend, and laugh out loud while doing so, I hope you pick up this book today.

Get your copy of Laughing All the Way to the Mosque today.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Recommended by Bekah

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Reading fantasy novels is something I've done for most of my reading life. I suspect that given my love for fairy tales and tales of the Greek and Norse gods as a child, it was a pretty obvious transition to reading Tolkein, and the other titans of fantasy writers, and doing so is something I've continued to enjoy since that time. As a result, I was very pleased to get this recommendation from Bekah, as I had not yet read any of Barnhill's titles — an oversight soon to be rectified.

The City of Sorrows is a fog-bound community, led by Elders, with the status quo protected by Sisters of the Star. It also has a dreadful annual Day of Sacrifice. On this day, the community accepts that a sacrifice of a newborn child must be made to the Witch who lives nearby, in order to protect the lives of everyone else in the community. It is something that is accepted by all, but the numb grief of having to do so inculcates the community in sadness.

Then we meet the Witch, who lives in the Bog with her friends, the genial, poetry-writing swamp monster, Glerk, and the large-hearted Fyrian, who believes he is a Simply Enormous Dragon but is in fact a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. She has no idea why the City of Sorrows leaves a baby once a year in a clearing in the nearby forest, but each year she is driven to be there to rescue the child, and take it to be adopted to neighbouring, and much happier, communities. The communities welcome these Star Children, so-called since Xan, the Witch, feeds them on starlight as they travel through the forest to their new home.

We visit the City of Sorrows as Antain, a young man who does not fit into the roles others try to assign him, begins to question the Day of Sacrifice, a mother fights to keep her baby daughter and is driven mad with loss, and Xan accidentally feeds the latest sacrificed baby moonlight instead of starlight — enmagicking the girl. Xan realizes that she must raise Luna herself, with the help of her friends.

Thirteen years later, Luna's magic is bursting from her, Xan is aging, a Perfectly Tiny Dragon may become more than he seemed, more of Glerk's origin is revealed, escape from a prison seems possible, and birds are not always what they appear to be. Disturbingly, Antain and his wife Ethyne are the only parents with a newborn leading into the Day of Sacrifice, and so a terrible decision must be made. Changes are coming. And the true horror of what lies at the heart of the community is revealed.

What a terrific book.

Get your copy of The Girl Who Drank the Moon today.