Tag Archives: muslims

Book Review: Shadow on the Wall

Shadow on the Wall by Pavarti K. Tyler (pub date 5/1/12)

“Actions could be decided, people could be corrupted, but faith is the only thing left that could remain pure no matter what trials it endured.”

Heroes can come from anywhere, and they are often born out of unusual and sometimes tragic circumstances.  Although in order to be a hero for others, they must first rise above their own fears and shortcomings.  In this novel by indie author Pavarti K. Tyler, a young Muslim man faces his own demons in order to fight corruption in his home city. 

Shadow on the Wall is the first installment in The SandStorm Chronicles, a new series about a Muslim superhero who battles the brutality of an organization called the RTK.  The RTK is a corrupt group who wish to impose Muslim fundamentalist law in Turkey.  Operating with the support of the mayor of the city of Elih, the RTK act as “morality police,” spreading terror and arresting people for any perceived infraction.  

In this book we are introduced to Recai Osman, the privileged son of deceased billionaire parents.  After being forced to witness an act of extreme cruelty committed by the RTK, Recai retreats from the world and goes on a journey of self-discovery.  Recai comes to terms with his own failure to act on that terrible day, and returns to Elih to assume control of his family’s corporation and fortune.  Then with the help of his friend Maryam and pseudo father figure Hasad, Recai becomes The SandStorm and vows to bring down the evil powers that be.

In short, Shadow on the Wall is a new spin on the Batman mythos, though it is not a graphic novel and is also not suitable for children.  But Tyler did more than just write a new Batman story.  She made it her own, and took a risk by writing about a controversial topic like Muslim fundamentalism.  This story could have been set anywhere in the world, but Tyler dared to set the story in Turkey and use Muslim characters, even though she is not Turkish or Muslim.

This is an ambitious and very unique story.  It tackles some very heavy themes, including faith, honor, and the treatment of women.  Tyler does not consider this to be a feminist novel, but there are prominent female characters in the story, each with her own opinion of Islam and of wearing the traditional headscarf and veil.  Maryam sees her coverings as a comfort and protection, while the power-hungry Darya sees them as tools of subjugation.  The issues regarding women in Islam were what I enjoyed most about this book.   

It’s a solid story with interesting characters, though it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  But if you enjoy stories that challenge the way think and how you see other religions and cultures, then give Shadow on the Wall a try.  And don’t worry if you think you don’t know enough about Islam to understand it; there is a glossary in the back of the book that explains some of the more obscure words and phrases.

Shadow on the Wall was nominated for several awards, and won the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Award for general fiction.  It’s great that in an industry dominated by about only six publishing conglomerates, indie authors are still finding their voice and receiving recognition.  I’m psyched to find out what happens in Book Two of The SandStorm Chronicles!

Guest Post from Indie Author Pavarti K. Tyler

I’m so thrilled that I got to be a part of Book Expo America 2012!  Yesterday I spent the day in New York with a few of the lovely ladies from the Booksellers Without Borders NY blog and we all met some wonderful people and picked up some interesting books along the way.  I’ll be sure to post a full report soon.  Right now I want to let you all know about one author in particular that I met at BEA: Pavarti K. Tyler, author of Shadow on the Wall and winner of the 2012 Indie Book Award for general fiction.

Shadow on the Wall is about a Muslim superhero, and I’ve heard it described as a new spin on the “Batman” mythos, even though it is not a graphic novel.  If you’re thinking you might be put off by a book with a Muslim protagonist, don’t let first impressions fool you!  Take a look at this guest post by Pavarti, in which she describes how she got started on her book:

***

How a Unitarian from Jersey writes about a Muslim Superhero

 

Have you ever gotten that feeling in the back of your head that there’s something not quite right about the way you think?  I’ve always daydreamed about things others have considered impossible or ridiculous.  I’m the loon who decided statistically charting various vampires’ awesomeness was a good idea.

So when the suggestion was made that someone needed to write about a Middle Eastern superhero my imagination went into overdrive.  Of course we need a Middle Eastern superhero!  Others have tackled this topic to great success, like Dr. Naif of the99.org, what’s different here is that I am not from the Middle East.

I sat down and started writing and a character named Recai Osman appeared on the pages before me.  With green eyes and red beard, Recai stood in the middle of a windblown desert, daring me to take the challenge.

And cue the theme to Beyond Thunderdome.

A problem soon presented itself.  It’s impossible to discuss the Middle East in any meaningful way without bringing religion into the conversation, and while I’ve studied Islam, I am not a Muslim.  I’m not Jewish either.  In fact, I’m about as far from the religious spectrum of the Middle East as you could get.  I’m a Unitarian Universalist.

UUism is based on the idea that we all have the right to our own path to Truth.  For some that Truth is God, for some it’s not.  What connects us within the UU church is the belief that the search is valuable and that there is benefit to having a supportive and respectful community with whom to share that search. (You can read more about our principles here: Our Unitarian Universalist Principles)

For me, the importance of an individual’s expression of faith within a community is huge.  I believe in God.  Because of this, I often find myself listening to the fundamentalist rhetoric of all religions with a frustrated sigh.  Why does someone have to be wrong in order for another to be right?

It was with this in mind that I thought about Recai.  What makes a good man?  What makes a good Muslim?  And in a society in which religion is such a prominent part of day-to-day life, what would be the shape of evil?

Recai is a faithful man; he’s erred and he’s sinned, but his belief in Allah and in humanity is solid.  Underneath his layers of confusion and self-doubt is a good man.  His day-to-day life has been isolated from the city he lives in: Elih, Turkey (Google it for a good giggle). What would happen if a flawed man was forced to confront real evil, real sin?  Could he rise to the occasion?

Islam and Judaism run throughout Shadow on the Wall. Some of the phrases and cultural idioms may be unfamiliar to Western readers, but I hope that you will see a little of yourself in the characters. The issues they face are written at high stakes, but the questions posed are ones we must all answer.  Who am I?  What do I stand for?  Although Shadow on the Wall has supernatural elements, I like to think heroes exist in life, and I like to think that religion can fuel the good in people.  Perhaps we’re all capable of great things.

***Want to know more about Pavarti Tyler?  Check out this bio and visit her fan pages.  And look for my review of Shadow on the Wall, coming soon!

 

 

Author Bio:

Pavarti K Tyler is an artist, wife, mother and number cruncher. She graduated Smith College in 1999 with a degree in Theatre. After graduation, she moved to New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off Broadway.

 

Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry as a freelance accountant for several international law firms. She now operates her own accounting firm in the Washington DC area, where she lives with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not preparing taxes, she is busy working at Novel Publicity and penning her next novel.

 

My blog is all ages: http://www.fightingmonkeypress.com

My tumblr is 18+ only: http://pavartidevi.tumblr.com/

My Fan Page needs your likes: https://www.facebook.com/#!/FMPress

My Twitter likes friends: http://twitter.com/#!/PavartiKTyler

My Google+ is random: https://plus.google.com/?gpinv=JFSVnKSj7Uk:FdjR-3NCJW8#me/posts

 

Early Review: A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson (pub date 5/22/12)

“The tide had moved up the shore at an incredible rate and with the sound of shingle dragging up, and drragging down, taking away with it all the lies she had been told as a child. . .”

Now that summer is fast approaching, this is a great book to read for the season.  Full of exotic travel, interesting characters, and excellent writing, it’s a summer read with substance.

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar is an inter-generational drama about love, loss, and betrayal, peppered with the intrigue and danger of the mysterious Far East.  In 1923, sisters Evangeline and Lizzie are on a missionary journey in the Turkish city of Kashgar.  Led by the matronly figure Millicent, the ladies are spreading the Gospel in a land mostly populated by Muslims, while Evangeline takes notes for the travel guide she is planning to write.  When the trio finds themselves the subjects of a local dispute, their lives quickly change in ways they never thought possible.

The 1923 story alternates with a story set in present-day London.  Freida Blakeman is a world-weary young woman about to embark on a journey of self-discovery.  She is aided by Tayeb, a Yemeni national living illegally in England, whom she recently befriended.  Slowly, the connection between the alternating plots is revealed.

This is a rich book, touched with sadness yet still full of hope.  The story sucks you in from the first page, and is well written throughout.  I enjoyed the contrast between the two stories, not just in the settings, but in the situation the characters find themselves in.  Evangeline, Lizzie, and Millicent are three British women in a foreign and sometimes hostile Muslim land, while Tayeb is a Muslim in England, a land foreign and sometimes hostile to him.  And while the three missionary women face mainly external conflict, Freida’s conflict is all within herself.  It’s s story about finding your roots, and about making your own destiny.

This is a great book for anyone who enjoys literary fiction, or stories about women’s relationships.  A nice debut novel from a promising new writer.

Early Review: The Ruins of Us

The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen (pub date 1/17/12)

What would you be willing to do to marry someone from another culture?  Imagine changing your religion, learning a new language, and moving to another continent to be with the person you love.

The Ruins of Us is about a woman who has done just that.  Rosalie is a beautiful American, born in Texas, who is married to a sheik named Abdullah.  Rosalie left her life behind to live with Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, and quickly adapted to Saudi culture.  She converted to Islam, learned Arabic, and dressed and acted as was expected of the women in Abdullah’s country.  Together they raised two children, and enjoy the life of luxury that Abdullah’s wealth has provided.  But Rosalie’s illusions of a happy life are quickly shattered when she inadvertently learns that Abdullah has taken a second wife, and had been keeping his other marriage a secret for two years.

Shaken and angry, Rosalie starts to reconsider her life with Abdullah and her place in Saudi culture.  What is interesting about the book is that it also considers Abdullah’s perspective on the marriage.  He is shown as a man who cares deeply for his wife, yet finds himself yearning for the person she was before they were married.  It is an interesting paradox to think that he fell in love with Rosalie because she was not like Saudi women, while knowing deep down that she would have to adapt to Saudi culture in order to be accepted by his family, and later resenting her for it.

The turmoil in Rosalie and Abdullah’s marriage makes them too preoccupied to see its effects on their teenage children.  Their daughter Mariam years to be a more modern woman, and begins pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior for girls at her school.  Their son Faisal takes the opposite approach; he falls in with a group of radical Muslim fundamentalists, and comes to hate his own American heritage.

This is a powerful debut novel.  The characters are bold and dynamic.  It is interesting to contemplate Rosalie’s character, a woman who prides herself on her independence and spirit, yet who chose to live in a country where she is not legally permitted to drive a car.  Abdullah is not entirely unsympathetic; he loves his wife but is conflicted by what is acceptable in his culture and how it affects his marriage.  This is a story about love and loyalty that is both well written and engaging.  It’s a relevant and entertaining read from a great new author!

Early Review: The Submission

The Submission by Amy Waldman (pub date 8/16/11)
 

 

“A garden is just a garden, until you decide to plant suspicion in it.”

 
September 11, 2001 changed our nation forever.  I can still remember vividly where I was and what I was doing on that day, and the million different thoughts and feelings that went through my mind in the days and weeks that followed.  Now ten years later, a book comes along that perfectly encapsulates the myriad of emotions that the American people experienced after 9/11, and how the American people can tragically turn on one another.
 
The Submission is a novel set just two years after 9/11.  A national memorial is about the be commissioned at Ground Zero, and a jury has just selected the winning memorial design from among thousands of anonymous submissions.  The chosen designer is a talented architect and a proud New Yorker.  The problem?  His name is Mohammad Khan, and he is a Muslim.  Once word gets out that a Muslim is going to be designing the 9/11 memorial, it unleashes a maelstrom of anger, paranoia, and sorrow, of twisted truths and suspicious motives and friends turning on each other.  In light of the “Ground Zero Mosque” debacle in recent years, this book is a true reflection of the time we are living in.
 
The characters in The Submission are real and dynamic, each believing that he/she is serving some sort of greater good in their own actions.  Mohammad, who is not even a devout Muslim, just wants to see his design become a reality, and takes offense at his motives for entering the competition being questioned.  Claire Burwell, a 9/11 widow and jury member, tries to do the “right thing” by supporting Mohammad but finds her opinion wavering as she is pressured by different people to withdraw Mohammad’s design.  Sean Gallagher, a loudmouth whose brother was killed on 9/11 and Alyssa, a muckraking journalist, represent the sensationalism and hatemongering that often accompany a controversial issue like this.  And as is bound to happen, the truth is ignored, emotion overrules reason, and people get hurt.
 
In my opinion, this is a book that is going to be studied in literature courses in future years.  Laden with beautiful writing and powerful symbolism, this novel manages to explore all sides of the issue while still remaining tasteful and respectful of the real victims of 9/11.  It should be considered not just an important post-9/11 novel, but an important American novel, period.  This book transcends the surface issues of Islam, terrorism and prejudice, and becomes a story about right and wrong, while still letting the readers decide for themselves how they feel.  It’s not a call to war or to peace, but a call to think for ourselves.  Buy it and read it, because a lot of people are going to be talking about it.