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The Bad Muslim Discount
Cover of The Bad Muslim Discount
The Bad Muslim Discount
A Novel
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.
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.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book 9780385545259|excerpt

    Masood / BAD MUSLIM DISCOUNT

    THE OPENING

    1995–­2005

    How you begin things is important. This is true in checkers and in life, because at the beginning of things you are freer than you will ever be again. Once the game starts, every move you make is influenced by what someone else has done. The longer the game goes, the messier the board becomes, the more that influence grows. But the opening, Anvar, belongs to you.

    —­Naani Jaan

    ANVAR

    I killed Mikey.

    It sounds worse than it actually was. You have to understand that I didn’t kill Mikey because I wanted to do it. I killed him because God told me to do it.

    I don’t suppose that sounds much better.

    It helps, I think, to know that Mikey was a goat. He had bored brown eyes with rectangular pupils that made him seem a little creepy. Loud and obnoxious, he shat tiny round pellets all over the cramped garage he shared with three of his brethren. He was probably the only one of them who had a name. I know my parents didn’t name their goats, and my brother, Aamir, said that naming animals was stupid.

    Mikey was the only pet I ever had. He was mine for about a week. I fed him dry straw, brought him buckets of water and asked him if he really wanted to be slaughtered for the sake of Allah at the upcoming Eid because, quite frankly, that seemed like a poor career choice. He remained stoic in the face of his grim fate, at least so far as I could tell.

    Eid al-­Adha marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca. The name of the celebration translates to “the Festival of Sacrifice.”

    Yes, Islam has a marketing problem.

    The festival commemorates Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, either Isaac or Ishmael depending on what you believe or disbelieve, to God. Muslims all over the world purchase and slaughter rams, goats, cows or camels in memory of the moment when God saved Abraham’s son from God’s own command.

    Mikey was my sacrifice to Allah. Since I was only ten, his purchase was financed by my parents.

    I remember that Eid well. I was forced to wake up a little after dawn and shower. My parents gave me a brand-­new, bright white shalwar kameez and a matching woven skullcap. Then they took me to a mosque to pray.

    When we got home, butchers my father had hired were waiting for us, carrying the sinister tools of their trade. Eventually, these men would skin the animals, gut them and chop their carcasses up into manageable bits to be cooked, frozen or given away as gifts or charity.

    Mikey was the first one they led out of the garage. He didn’t resist.

    My father handed me a long, sharp knife and instructed me to be careful. He said that the butchers would hold the goat and expose its neck. All I had to do was slice open the carotid artery and Mikey’s blood would flow out. One clean motion would be enough. He clapped a heavy hand on my shoulder.

    “Be brave,” he said.

    I did not feel the need to be brave. I wasn’t scared. I felt something else entirely. I didn’t say anything to my father. I could’ve told him I didn’t want to do this. I don’t know what he would have said. Instead of speaking, however, I gripped the knife. I held on tight because the plastic handle felt slick and slippery in my hand.

    The men tripped Mikey to bring him to the ground. Now he resisted. He kicked, trying to struggle to his feet, but was restrained.

    I walked up to him. I think he saw me, recognized me, because he seemed to relax a little. I heard my brother...
About the Author-
  • SYED M. MASOOD grew up in Karachi, Pakistan. A first-generation immigrant twice over, he has been a citizen of three different countries and nine different cities. He currently lives in Sacramento, California, where he is a practicing attorney.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    June 1, 2020

    Rebellious young Anvar's mother and brother remain rigorously devout after the family flees Pakistan's surging fundamentalism for California, but Anvar himself is tired of being a good Muslim. Soon, his story intersects with that of Safwa, who's escaped from war-shattered Baghdad with her conservative father. Karachi-born, Sacramento-based Masood has claimed citizenship in three countries and residency in nine cities; his YA novel, More Than Just a Pretty Face, publishes in August.

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 3, 2020
    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. (Nov.)Correction: An earlier version of this review used an incorrect name for a character.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from October 1, 2020
    The first time Anvar had to slaughter a goat, he forgot his line in the ceremony. He was 10, and his family was celebrating Eid al-Adha in their home in Pakistan. As usual, his goody-two-shoes older brother knows the right thing to do and saves Anvar from wrecking the ceremony. Wisecracking Anvar does not develop into a devout Muslim; indeed, he is devastated when his secret girlfriend, Zuha, commits more fully to Islam and ends their relationship. Anvar had even taken her to prom, thanks to the distraction afforded by the discovery of porn on his brother's laptop, having framed him, of course). Masood adeptly balances humor with pathos in this unforgettable, twisting tale. After the family moves to San Francisco and Anvar becomes a lawyer, gaining notoriety for representing a man killed by a drone, he meets Azza, whose route to California had taken some darker paths. Her father, who fought with Americans in Afghanistan, only to be tortured by them in Iraq, blames her for leaving her dying brother to breathe his last tortured breaths in Baghdad. His beatings and her silence leave Azza wishing for escape when Qais, a young man who visits her secretly at night, offers her a passport to America?for a price that only keeps increasing. Once Anvar and Azza find each other, their connection opens a possible path toward what they each want most. A moving, comic take on the immigrant experience.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2020
    The paths of a man from Pakistan and a woman from Iraq--each rebelling against the restrictive ties of place, family, and religion in radically different ways--collide in the United States. When we meet Anvar Faris in Karachi in 1995, he has never been the ideal child for his middle-class family, country, or Islam. The second son of a strict Muslim mother and a slightly more laid-back father, he would rather leave the trappings of obedience to his older brother, Aamir. Anvar grows up amid the fallout of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, but then when he's in his teens, his father moves the family to California. There, Anvar meets and falls in love with the like-minded Zuha Shah, but he loses her in college when she takes a more religious path. Meanwhile, we meet Azza as a preteen girl in Baghdad. After she loses her mother to cancer, she must keep house for her repressive father and nurse her terminally ill brother. Three years later, her father is abducted and tortured by the Americans during the Iraq War. Alone, she must make the devastating choice to leave her brother behind as she flees. When her father is released and finds her, they go to another country, where he takes his violent anger out on her. A bargain with a village man takes her and her father to the U.S. In San Francisco, she moves into Anvar's building and the two begin, inexplicably, to sleep together. The story is well written, but the fascinating familial and religious dynamics are often too convoluted, and the relationship between Anvar and Azza never takes off because Azza is not as fully developed a character as Anvar. Her victimization defines her even when she breaks free, which makes her disappointingly one-dimensional. An engaging though overly complicated story of two people fighting to overcome their circumstances.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    May 1, 2021

    Gr 10 Up-Anvar grew up in Pakistan where he spent most of his childhood, until his family's move to America where he then tries to navigate his new lifestyle changes, including an eventual college heartbreak, and settles into his current life in California as a religious skeptic. Safwa's story is one of resilience and continuous struggles, having grown up in war-torn Iraq, immigrating to America after changing her name to Azza, and facing abuse from seemingly pious men in her life. After coming together, Anvar and Safwa realize that, although they don't have much in common and have gone through very different experiences, they ended up with similar thoughts about their faith, culture, and what it means to be a "bad Muslim." Although at times the subject matter is heavy, the story is told through eloquent writing with occasional bits of dry humor from Anvar. Told in alternating chapters, Masood's adult debut features authentic, complex characters who don't have much "faith," but ultimately find balance and perhaps even happiness. VERDICT An #OwnVoices novel that will stay with readers long after they're done.-Shazia Naderi, Bethpage P.L., NY

    Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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