“Hana Khan Carries On” — which has already landed on bestseller lists in Canada — is the second hit Author Uzma Jalaluddin. Her debut novel “Ayesha At Last” hit bookshelves in 2018 and was a Muslim spin on literary classic “Pride and Prejudice.”
She told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday that the accolades and positive reviews from readers online has been “amazing and overwhelming,” And, “to be honest, I never thought anything I wrote would ever be published.”
Her latest novel is a romantic comedy centring around a 24-year-old Toronto Muslim woman whose Indian family restaurant gets into a spat with a rival hipster Halal restaurant that opens up down the street.
The main character Hana, who wears a Hijab and is the daughter of South Asian immigrants, is trying to carve her own path by breaking into radio. “Yet, she feels this pull towards her community, especially her parents, when the restaurant is trouble.”
“I think that really taps into something that a lot of the children of immigrants face. Even when they don’t have overwhelming familial pressure and they still feel the pressure to sort of give back to their community,” Jalaluddin said.
Although the book is full of funny characters and “hopeful, joyful moments,” the book does touch upon an persistent issue for Muslim Canadians: Islamophobia.
There has been a string of vicious assaults against Muslim women in Alberta recently, with Edmonton’s Anti-Racism Advisory Committee noting there’s been a rise of racist anti-Muslim attacks in the region throughout the pandemic. And last year, a Toronto mosque was repeatedly vandalized over several months.
In one scene in the book, racist protesters overtake a street festival. Jalaluddin said she wanted to ensure that she didn’t shy away from the real racism Muslims, especially visible Muslims wearing Hijabs, face.
“I really wanted to put the reader’s head and sort of put them in her shoes. ‘What does that feel like from the perspective of someone who was a victim of an attack?’”
Jalaluddin said her novels and their popularity speak to how they “really tap into a hunger in the readership out there for stories that are set in different communities and through diverse perspectives.” And she advocates for even more Canadians to check out and support books with narratives and characters who might not look like them.