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Winter reads to warm your soul

  • Published at 06:38 pm January 4th, 2021

Wash off the bad juju of 2020 with these uplifting reads

With the weight of a turbulent 2020 behind us, we could all take a moment for a breather. Sometimes a change in scenery is all one needs to unwind.Wouldn’t it be wonderful to whisk yourself away from the daily grind of city life, put your feet up and relax?It would indeed, butquarantine has made such escapades almost impossible. Let’s not despair just yet, for there is another way you can launch yourself into another time and place without ever having to leave your home: all you have to do is lose yourself in the pages of a good book!From tea houses of Jiufen, to the most extravagant desi wedding in Lahore to cold mornings in Toronto, all the way to the beautiful, wild shorelines of the Arabian Gulf; from present day waterfront homes on Lake Michigan tothe pristine campuses of Oxford University in late 1800s, we have created a literary itinerary that will keep you warm, refreshed and entertained throughout the long winter months. 

So get that steaming cup of chaa and grab your favourite blanket because we are ready for take-off:

Pride and Prejudice retellings with a South East Asian twist:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice never fails to delight. Being one of the most loved fictions of all time, it is no surprise that the novel has inspired a myriad of retellings and adaptations set in locations other than 19th century England. Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal, and Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin are two such retellings with fun South Asian twists.The plot of Ayesha At Lastis loosely based on Pride and Prejudice set in modern day Toronto;Unmarriageable, on the other hand follows the exact plot andis set in modern day Pakistan. The authors of both books use masterful storytelling to shed light on problems plaguing today’s societysuch as, racism, classism, cronyism, oppressive marriage traditions and problematic gender roles. Aside from discussing these weighty topics, both stories are told in beautiful prose that steals you away to the drama, joy and spectacle of desi weddings. Soniah Kamal says in Unmarriageable, “We’ve been forced to seek ourselves in the literature of others for too long.”  But not anymore – these two books will make you feel heard and represented because the characters are South Asian andthoroughly relatable. 

A League of Extraordinary Women Book Series by Evie Dunmore:

This is an ongoing book series by Evie Dunmore. The first two books in the series are titled, “Bringing Down the Duke” and “A Rogue of One’s Own.” A third book titled “Portrait of a Scotsman” is due to be released in 2021. This book series will transport you through time to England in the late 1800s where you will get to meet the unique and brilliant group of women who are among the very first recruits of female students at the University of Oxford. Set against the backdrop of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, this series is a clever, dazzling and delectably romantic account of love, revolution and history. Here, you will meet an armyof women who are ahead of their time, who do not settle for anything less; and men who despite being born into patriarchal privilege hold the courage to break the norms and become advocates for a more equal society.

Beach Readby Emily Henry:

In this heart-warming read, Emily Henry reinforces that opposites do attract and when the hero and heroine are authors of conflicting genres, that attraction is almost combustible! Sweet, melancholy, witty and wholesome, this book is just the right balm for your overtaxed mind. January Andrews, our heroine finds herself feeling uprooted and lost after discovering her deceased father’s secret past that he had been hiding from her for years. Broke and single, she moves into the house her father had left her and finds herself struggling to write her new book that was supposed to contain the happily-ever-after she no longer believes in. To her dismay, she discovers that her new neighbor is her nemesis from college, Augustus Everett who is now an established author of literary fiction. One thing leads to another and January and Augustus find themselves striking a deal that has them swapping genres for their next book. The deal is for each to accompany the other inresearch worthy of their respective genres, finish their books by the end of summer and not fall in love. Or so they think.   

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan:

This is a coming of age story of an American teenager following her mother’s unnatural death.The protagonist Leigh is lost, depressed and uncertain – dealing with life after loss of a parent and the complications ofher biracial identity. She struggles to fit in, existing between two worlds, not belonging to either one. She decides to go on a life changing journey to visit her estranged maternal grandparents in Taiwan to uncover family secrets and heal her wounded soul. The narrative fluctuates between past and present, real and unreal, painting a frequent and poignant contrast.The use of language is almost lyrical and synesthetic.Leigh is an artist and her entire story, experiences and feelings are told in vivid depictions of color. This powerful novelexplores themes like depression, loss, abandonment, identity and most importantly, healing. This novel assures you that in your darkest hour, if you look for light, you will surely see it.

Love from A to Z by S. K. Ali:

An adorable love story interwoven with faith and spirituality, Love from A to Z explores important themes like Islamophobia, racism, cultural appropriation, prejudice and the blatant normalization of all of the above. The protagonist Zayneb,is an American hijabi high school senior who gets suspending from school for confronting her Islamophobic teacher. Her parents send her to Doha to her aunt’s place to find some solace. On her way there, she meets Adam, a Muslim convert of Chinese and Finnish descent who is a college studenton his way home to Doha from London. Despite both being practicing Muslims, their experiences with islamophobia couldn’t be more different: Zaynab is constantly being singled out as a Muslim in public places and the prejudice is filling her with rage and resentment; Adam however, goes through life without being labeled “different.” Adam’s struggle lies elsewhere – he is diagnosed with a terrible illness and even though he’s a calm and mature individual, he feels unmoored and struggles to break the news to his family. Despite their contrasting views of the world, the one thing that binds them is their faith and eventually Zayneb and Adam help restore each other’s balance. This novel is unapologetically Muslim and explores the challenges of living in a prejudiced world that claims to be inclusive.But in the end, it reminds us of the good things that exist too: kindness, love, family and faith.

Stay warm, bookworms! The world is yours for the reading!

Formore book review/ recommendations, you can follow Sameirah on Instagram: @booksnher (Instagram link: https://www.instagram.com/booksnher/)

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