Ok, I finished a book in March. Finally.
My first read of the month (yes, it’s March 20) was The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed Masood. A recent release that’s gotten a lot of buzz, it’s the story of two Muslims – one traditional and devout, one modern and non-devout – whose lives cross paths in San Francisco. I am not sure what I was expecting, but The Bad Muslim Discount turned out to be something different.
Why I picked it up: The Bad Muslim Discount was reviewed very highly by people I trust and I liked the premise.
As a boy, Anvar Faris moves from Pakistan to San Francisco, where he rejects his parents’ traditional Muslim ways. Unlike his devout, pious brother, Anvar pursues literature and poetry, as well as Zuha, the daughter of his parents’ friends, whom he dates secretly. After the two break up, he moves away to go to law school, returning to San Francisco years later. Meanwhile, Safwa, a young woman in Baghdad living with her strict and abusive father Abu Fadh, finds a way for them to move to America, but at a high price. When she arrives in San Francisco, she finds her life to be as contained and repressed as it was in Iraq, thanks to her father’s watchful eye. Safwa and Anwar cross paths in their apartment complex where many other Muslims live, setting into motion events that will change their lives forever.
While there is humor throughout The Bad Muslim Discount, mostly thanks to Anvar, who is very funny and sarcastic, this is really not a funny book. It’s about the clash between modern and traditional, faith and secularism, honor and identity. I learned a lot from The Bad Muslim Discount, but it also frustrated me. First, traditional Islam is not portrayed very well. The devout characters are also the most flawed and hypocritical. Second, Safwa’s actions seemed very out of character at times, and she’s a difficult character to relate to. Third, the final quarter of the book, turns sort of thriller-y, with guns and government agents. Not what I was expecting, and not my cup of tea. So The Bad Muslim Discount was sort of a mixed bag for me. I am definitely in the minority, though, so please give this book a chance if it appeals to you.
I listened to The Bad Muslim Discount on audio. I preferred the narration of Anvar’s chapters by Pej Vahdat to those of Safwa’s by Hend Ayoub. Vahdat in particular did accents really well. Overall the audio is pretty good, though, so if you’re interested in reading this book, I do recommend the audio.
The Bad Muslim Discount was book #13 of 2021.