Ramadan Reading with Annie

One of our favourite bloggers at the AusYABloggers is Annie from Read3r’z Re-Vu and during the week I caught up with Annie to chat about her wonderful network of readers, the holy month of Ramadan and asked Annie for her favourite own voices recommendations.

What is Read3r’z Re-Vu

We spy Laini Taylor there Annie
I created Read3r’z Re-Vu, A Network of Readers (name and all) in 2008 and launched in 2009 as a means to bring readers together to enjoy what they are most passionate about – books. Over the years, I have watched the network grow to not just include readers, but bloggers, small business owners and we have had the unique privilege of having authors join us as special guests during sessions I host once a month. It’s different as we don’t analyse a prescribed text – a theme is prescribed to allow members the freedom to choose what they would like to review at sessions but to keep it consistent, it would be a book that relates to the theme. In addition to the sessions I run once a month, we also engage in outdoor activities such as annual bookstore crawl, annual athletics carnival picnic and host exclusive high teas and dinners with visiting authors as well as attend as many book events and launches as possible to support the publishing house or author. We are living in difficult times so keeping a network that is so diverse in faith and culture alive is very important to me on a personal level. With all the negativity in the world, I want to lead by example rather than speech. I feel if I can keep something so positive alive and contribute to the community, I’ve done what I could to supress hate and bridge gaps. I am quite proud of what Read3r’z Re-Vu has achieved as a network and how friendships have been formed among people from all walks of life.

Can you share with us what Ramadan is?

Muslims follow the lunar calendar where the phases of the moon are followed closely and upon the citation of a new moon, a new month commences. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, depending on the citation of the new moon it can go for anywhere between 28-30 days. It is a holy month for Muslims as Muslims believe it is when our Prophet Muhammad received the divine revelation of the Holy Quran, Islam and the message of One God. As part of the holy month, Muslims engage in a fast during sunlight hours. The fast is our means of bringing us closer to God, humble ourselves as a person and remind us of those who are less fortunate than us. The fasting is only prescribed to Muslims who are fit and able to engage in the fast – so if a Muslim is sick or has a medical condition that requires regular medication or meals, they are exempt. Same applies to pregnant and lactating women. If one has commenced fasting then during the day has become ill, they are to break their fast immediately. For those who can’t fast, they usually pay a Fidyah which is a charity – money paid to the needy and equates to what we would normally spend on food in a day which general rule of thumb Muslims tend to apply is approx. $10 per day for a meal. Ramadan is a peaceful time of the year – it is a time for prayer, family and repentance. You could call it our annual spiritual and physical detox.

How can allies support our Muslim friends during the time of Ramadan?

Support always comes with understanding and mutual respect :) it's helpful when allies know to disassociate Muslims from the evil that's happening around the world. These atrocities do not represent our values. I have often said - pick a team you're most proud of, imagine if you wake up one morning and you find people who you don't even know wear your team's jersey and commit these evil acts in that team's name yet it's not what you stand for.. how would that make you feel?

I always do my best to have chats with friends and family who aren’t Muslim about Ramadan just to bridge that gap – I am very sure what we do would appear strange to those who don’t know anything about Islam or Ramadan but having a conversation where friends listen to understand rather than just to reply – it’s very supportive and helpful. I usually start with: Have you ever worked with a Muslim colleague or have a Muslim friend who has declined invites to lunch or even social gatherings after work or school during a certain time of the year? They suddenly go missing from the social sphere or they disappear for a power nap during lunch? It’s not to cause any offence or to avoid anyone, it’s only because it’s the Holy Month of Ramadan. We’re either fasting or praying or sleeping lol When it’s time to break our fast (Iftar) we’re most likely with family as Ramadan is the time for family then afterwards we are at the mosque for prayers that go for most of the night. So our time is quite consumed with the fasting and prayers during Ramadan. With it, the fast can get quite exhausting but not from the lack of food and water consumption. We wake up Sahur (breakfast) at approx. 4:30am to eat in time before Fajr (morning prayers) by 5:20am - then it’s off to work or school so when we do get downtime – it’s usually for rest. To mark the end of Ramadan, we celebrate a religious holiday called Eid ul Fitr also known as Idul Fitri. It’s a time when we attend prayers in the morning then make up for lost time by visiting friends or family and go house to house eating all day. It’s also a time for charity as we pay what is called a Fitrah to the poor prior to Eid prayers and continue to give charity and also do our best to carry on positive behaviour once we bid the Holy Month farewell.

Can you tell us about the first book you saw yourself and faith represented?

That’s an interesting question because I have 2 books that I can name here. The first book I saw myself in was “Hate is such a Strong Word” by Sarah Ayoub. Although the main character was of a different faith, I saw myself a lot in the protagonist with her attitude and outlook towards life, cultural communities and how she was ‘trapped between 2 cultures’ having grown up in Australia but still having to deal with cultural traditions that are deeply rooted into her family. The second book I can name here is “Fire Boy” by Sami Shah. Although this is Urban Fantasy and relates to story of Jinn – the referencing to the Islamic faith in this book was so accurate, it blew me away! It also sparked a lot of questions from my non Muslim friends once reading this which bridged even more gaps.

With the importance of diverse reads, we would love if you could recommend readers own voices narratives to support Muslim authors.​

A couple of fantastic YA titles come to mind:
When Michael Met Mina” by Randa Abdel-Fattah – very important read and a story that is told in 2 perspectives. It explores hot topics such as refugees and Islamaphobia and also explores how mutual understanding and respect can form strong friendships that break down the barriers and stereotypes. This is book I see as the next “Looking for Alibrandi”

“Living on Hope Street” by Demet Divaroren – this is quite new in Contemporary YA due for release this month. This story is told from various perspectives and each voice is so distinguished, you can easily follow the story and each character as you read it. It’s a very raw and confronting read as it taps into hot topics such as immigration and also explores intense themes such as alcoholism that fuels domestic violence however unlikely friendships form among neighbours who live on the same street that help deal with these issues.

Titles Annie recommends to support own voices authors

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You can find Annie via Read3r’z Re-Vu  Twitter  Instagram  Facebook and Tumblr

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