Priyanka Taslim is our first guest editor of 2023, and her exploration of intersectional South Asian Muslim identity in this rom-com is evocative and beautiful. Zahra Khan is a Bangladeshi American teen who’s meddling mother Amma arranges a meet cute—“good match,” Jane Austen-style—to secure their family’s financial security—just as she’s falling in love with someone else: Nayim Alta, the tea shop’s dishwasher. Her mother though has her sights set on the wealthy, handsome, and annoying Harun Emon for her daughter. But it turns out that Harun is just as uninterested in this match as Zahra, so they decide to sabotage their parents’ plans. And for once in Zahra’s life, she can have her rossomalai and eat it too: “dating” Harun and keeping her mother pleased while getting to know Nayim. Or so she thinks…
Don’t miss our exclusive interview with Priyanka Taslim about writing YA versus adult romance, writing to the challenges that eldest daughters from immigrant families deal with, and her upcoming adult novel.
I last bought/am currently reading: A Million to One by Adiba Jaigirdar
I recommend to everyone: Everything by Sabaa Tahir, one of my all-time favorite authors. I’ve been hooked since I read An Ember in the Ashes.
That was my favorite to read last year, and why: It’s so hard to narrow down because I enjoyed quite a few books, but TJ Powar Has Something to Prove was funny, swoony, and had really important messages about brown girls still being worthy of love even when they don’t conform to Eurocentric beauty standards.
Whose author I would love to have lunch with: I’ve been friends with Adiba Jaigirdar for a long time but because we live on different continents, we haven’t yet had a chance to meet in person. It would be amazing to have lunch together and I’m kind of determined to make that happen this year. Fingers crossed!
That made me realize language had power: I’ve been slowly reading Unbelonging by Gayatri Sethi, which does something truly unique with narrative and storytelling, combining prose and poetry, memoir and pieces from other works, to unpack colonial mindsets and the concept of belonging. I’d really recommend it in academic settings or for anyone interested in decolonization!
I’d like to see adapted to the screen: Honestly, it’s a crime that we’ve yet to get the Ember Quartet by Sabaa Tahir adapted! I want to see way more books by authors of color get adapted for the screen. There’s this trend of taking less diverse books by white authors and rewriting characters’ races for them, or adapting books by white authors that have surface level diversity, which can be hit or miss. It would be spectacular if that attention were given to books that were written to tackle the nuances of diverse, intersectional representation to begin with.
That made me laugh out loud—or cry—while reading it: I honestly haven’t read too many books recently that could make me cry, mostly because I’ve needed bright spots basically since 2020, but a series that never fails to make me laugh is Sayantani DasGupta’s Kiranmala, about a young Bengali girl who learns she’s actually a princess in an alternate dimension. I really appreciate the Bengali in-jokes and magical creatures, but I think it’s a fun read for anyone! (For heartrending pain, try All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir, although the Ember Quartet devastated me plenty as well.)
That has the most gorgeous cover: Other than mine? I’m only half-kidding because I think both Simon & Schuster U.S. and UK did such a brilliant job with the covers for The Love Match, but another cover that absolutely takes my breath away is Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amélie Wen Zhao.
With the best opening line: I read it a while ago, but I think maybe the opening line of Sadie by Courtney Summers? I was unable to put it down from the first line on and ended up binge-reading it, desperate to know how it ended. It’s an interesting dissection of true crime.
Bookstore that I frequent/is my favorite: Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, New Jersey is a really cute bookstore!
Bonus: Hm, maybe What are some 2023 releases I’m looking forward to?
The Do’s and Donuts of Love by Adiba Jaigirdar
Last Chance Dance by Lakita Wilson
Something More by Jackie Khalilieh
A Grim and Sunken Vow by Ashley Shuttleworth