Following two families from Pakistan and Iraq in the 1990s to San Francisco in 2016, The Bad Muslim Discount is an inclusive, comic novel about Muslim immigrants finding their way in modern America.
“Masood’s novel presents a stereoscopic, three-dimensional view of contemporary Muslim America: the way historical conflict in the Middle East lingers in individual lives, the way gossip travels in a close-knit immigrant community.” —The New York Times Book Review
It is 1995, and Anvar Faris is a restless, rebellious, and sharp-tongued boy doing his best to grow up in Karachi, Pakistan. As fundamentalism takes root within the social order and the zealots next door attempt to make Islam great again, his family decides, not quite unanimously, to start life over in California. Ironically, Anvar's deeply devout mother and his model-Muslim brother adjust easily to life in America, while his fun-loving father can't find anyone he relates to. For his part, Anvar fully commits to being a bad Muslim.
At the same time, thousands of miles away, Safwa, a young girl living in war-torn Baghdad with her grief-stricken, conservative father will find a very different and far more dangerous path to America. When Anvar and Safwa's worlds collide as two remarkable, strong-willed adults, their contradictory, intertwined fates will rock their community, and families, to their core.
The Bad Muslim Discount is an irreverent, poignant, and often hysterically funny debut novel by an amazing new voice. With deep insight, warmth, and an irreverent sense of humor, Syed M. Masood examines universal questions of identity, faith (or lack thereof), and belonging through the lens of Muslim Americans.
In this ambitious if flawed novel, Masood (More Than Just a Pretty Face) charts the unraveling lives of two Muslim immigrants. Anvar Faris moves with his family at 14 from Karachi, Pakistan, to San Francisco in 1996, after his father has had enough of the country's growing conservatism and embrace of Islamic fundamentalism. Masood then introduces the reader to 10-year-old Azza bint Saqr in Baghdad, two years before the U.S. invasion. When Azza's father is arrested and held by U.S. forces in 2005, Azza flees to an aunt's house in Basra. Anvar, in college, grapples with the end of a sexual relationship with a Muslim woman ("The more I study what Allah wants, the more I realize that I don't want to sin anymore," she says). Later, as a young lawyer, Anvar grows disenchanted after failing to protect a Muslim client's civil liberties. Azza and her father finally reach the U.S. in 2016, after Azza was sexually exploited by the man who provided their passports, and arrive as then-candidate Trump begins calling for a border wall and ban on Muslims. In their shared subsidized apartment block, Anvar and Azza meet and begin sleeping together, leading to an explosive conclusion. Despite many insightful moments, Masood's characters never fully come to life. Still, the immersive story offers a rich meditation on religion and personal identity. Correction: An earlier version of this review used an incorrect name for a character.
After a long time I got to read something relatable to myself 😀as a Pakistani Muslim in the USA, the characters are accurate and wonderful. Thank you for this great read.