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Book Review: Between Two Moons by Aisha Abdel Gawad

To be honest, I don’t know where to begin with this book. It’s one of my favorite books of 2023, but I feel like no matter how succinct I try to be with my review, I will not be able to do it justice.

I’ve had Aisha Abdel Gawad’s debut novel, Between Two Moons, on my most anticipated summer releases list last year and finally got the chance to pick it up from the library a couple months ago. As someone who loves coming-of-age stories, I was super excited to see a book that featured not only Muslim main characters but an entire novel full of Muslim people and the Muslim community at large.

And I knew this book would break my heart, simply after reading the blurb. And yet, I couldn’t stop the tears when I reached the end of the story.

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A gorgeous, and truly authentic story about what it means to grow up as Muslim teenagers struggling with identity and faith in a country where Islamophobia runs rampant, Between Two Moons by Aisha Abdel Gawad is a shockingly realistic novel about family, girlhood, and the immigrant experience.

~ Synopsis: Between Two Moons by Aisha Abdel Gawad ~

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It’s the holy month of Ramadan, and twin sisters Amira and Lina are about to graduate from high school in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. On the precipice of adulthood, they plan to embark on a summer of teenage revelry, trying on new identities and testing the limits of what they can get away with while still under their parents’ roof. But the twins’ expectations of a summer of freedom collide with their older brother’s return from prison, and his mysterious behavior threatens to undo the delicate family balance.

Meanwhile, outside the family’s apartment, a storm is brewing in Bay Ridge. A raid on a local business sparks a protest that brings the Arab community together, and a senseless act of violence threatens to tear them apart. Everyone’s motives are called into question as an alarming sense of disquiet pervades the neighborhood. With everything spiraling out of control, how will Amira and Lina know whom to trust?


Rating: 5 out of 5.
Trigger Warnings: Islamophobia, graphic violence, hate crime, teen pregnancy, rape (off-page & implied), leakage of private photos, sexual harrassment

~ Between Two Moons Book Review ~

Between Two Moons follows the adventures of Amira and Lina–two Egyptian-American Muslim girls who are about to graduate high school during Ramadan and are determined to make their last summer as teenagers one to remember. But things start to become tense when their older brother is suddenly released from prison, and the girls are forced to acknowledge a traumatic past they’d been trying to forget about. 

Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The real tensions begin to rise after a raid on a local business sees Muslim protestors out on the streets, only for two horrible hate crimes to occur within days of the incident. Through it all, the girls try their best to make the summer about them–from sneaking away to parties and nightclubs, getting drunk after Iftar, Amira and Lina rebel in every way that they can think of.

And this is what I really loved about Between Two Moons by Aisha Abdel Gawad. I grew up in a country where nearly 98% of the population were Muslims. And I have seen first-hand how every Muslim has a very…unique relationship with their faith. 

I know hijabi girls who drink and have had sex before marriage. I know non-hijabi girls who remained completely chaste until marriage (not even kissing) and never missed a single prayer. I know Muslim men with beards who lowered their gaze in front of women, practiced regular charity and then went behind their brother’s back to cheat them out of their inheritance. I know Muslim men who mingle freely with women and drink and go to nightclubs but still go to the mosque on Fridays for the Jummah prayer. 

Muslims are not a monolith and never have been. People of color are not a monolith and never have been. So when I read about Amira and Lina–two young girls who believe in Allah but cannot quite relate to organized religion, I couldn’t help but remember my own people and my own community.

In many ways, I saw my own struggles during adolescence reflected in Amira and Lina. Like Lina, I have several cousins who own their sexuality with pride, who attend parties and drink and smoke, and who have physical relationships with their partners. Like Amira, I grew up wondering if I was this or that: was I to be a modest, virtuous, hijabi girl, or was I to be the kind of girl who loved wearing shorts and crop tops and dancing with boys?

((Unlike Amira and Lina though I never really got to act too rebelliously as a teen–partly because my parents did not care for ‘gentle parenting’ like theirs did and partly because I have always had issues with physical intimacy, but that’s a story for another day.))

I also loved the representation of Muslim parents practicing gentle parenting with their children in this book. Usually, most brown parents have a reputation for being overly strict and overly pushy with their children. 

But in Between Two Moons, Aisha Abdel Gawad beautifully shows all the way Amira and Lina’s parents express their love for their children through their actions rather than with words–like when Amira’s father confronts her about drinking during Ramadan, but instead of being angry he simply firmly tells her not to do it again…and then proceeds to cook up a delicious meal of roasted lamb shanks for her to eat. 

This was not only refreshing–it also made me remember all the times my own parents have shown their love for me through acts of service and caring rather than with words. Brown parents–particularly the first-generation immigrants–have a bad rep for being too hard on their kids, but they also never get enough credit for all the sacrifices they make for their children. 

But the characters of Between Two Moons by Aisha Abdel Gawad are not without their flaws. Faraj, Amira’s love interest and a Pakistani-American Muslim boy, really pissed me off for 90% of the on-page time that he had. While sweet and charming, he is incredibly hypocritical, manipulative, and borderline toxic. 

Even Amira herself often acts very contrary to what she claims to believe. Without a doubt she is intelligent, but sometimes she believes herself to be so smart that she ends up being oblivious to her own lapses in judgments and sheer stupidity. 

But because Aisha Abdel Gawad writes these characters so realistically it is easy to accept them as they come–flaws and all. And this goes beyond the characters and extends to the relationships between the characters too–Amira has a very fraught relationship with her older brother Sami, who had gaslighted her so much when she was young and shown such a violent side of himself to her that Amira suffers from deep-seated trauma. For the majority of the book, she struggles to believe that her brother could be a possible victim who is finally lashing out, rather than an abuser himself. 

It’s not until the end of the book that Amira finally understands her brother’s truth, but by then it is too late. And it is not until the end of the book that Amira sees that despite their differences, her Arab community, her Muslim community, has always stood steadfast by her family’s side in their times of need. 

I could honestly keep going on and on about this book, and I think I will, but perhaps in a series of multiple blog posts rather than in a single review. Because just as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was an incredibly important book about what it really means to be a Black kid growing up in a trigger-happy racist country, Between Two Moons by Aisha Abdel Gawad is an equally important novel that shows what it is truly like to grow up in a country where most people refuse to see you as human beings.

Book Review: Between Two Moons by Aisha Abdel Gawad



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