As a South Asian Muslim woman myself, I was beyond excited to get my hands on Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin, a delightful love story featuring a bold, brilliant and ambitious young Muslim protagonist, two competing rival halal restaurants, and a diverse cast of colored characters. I have to admit, this is definitely going to be one of the best book of 2021. Hana Khan Carries On takes all the things you love in a romantic-comedy and gives it a refreshing new twist.
Thank you so much Colored Pages Tour for having me as a tour host for this amazing book, and to Atlantic Books for sending me a review copy. Read on below for my full review (or get the TL;DR version here) & participate in an exclusive giveaway to win ONE FINISHED COPY OF Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin.
From the author of Ayesha at Last comes a sparkling new rom-com for fans of “You’ve Got Mail,” set in two competing halal restaurants
Sales are slow at Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, the only halal restaurant in the close-knit Golden Crescent neighbourhood. Hana waitresses there part time, but what she really wants is to tell stories on the radio. If she can just outshine her fellow intern at the city radio station, she may have a chance at landing a job. In the meantime, Hana pours her thoughts and dreams into a podcast, where she forms a lively relationship with one of her listeners. But soon she’ll need all the support she can get: a new competing restaurant, a more upscale halal place, is about to open in the Golden Crescent, threatening Three Sisters.
When her mysterious aunt and her teenage cousin arrive from India for a surprise visit, they draw Hana into a long-buried family secret. A hate-motivated attack on their neighbourhood complicates the situation further, as does Hana’s growing attraction for Aydin, the young owner of the rival restaurant—who might not be a complete stranger after all.
As life on the Golden Crescent unravels, Hana must learn to use her voice, draw on the strength of her community and decide what her future should be.
Trigger Warnings: racism, Islamophobia, vandalism, death/funeral of family friend, car accident/hospitalization/paralysis of parent
With a compelling, fascinating cast of characters, sizzling enemies-to-lovers romance, and a good helping of light-hearted family drama, Hana Khan Carries On is a wonderful story about Indian and Muslim families, growing up and finding your roots and identity, accepting changes in friendships and falling in love in the most unexpected ways. I could go on and on about this book for days, but for the sake of keeping this review short, here are 5 reasons why you should read Hana Khan Carries On. (You can also read the TL;DR version here).
1. A Wholesome Story About Family, Love & Young Adulthood
Although pitched as a romantic comedy, Hana Khan Carries On brings so much more to this beloved, light-hearted genre. The first thing I want to talk about is the family dynamics. Hana Khan Carries On dives deeply into South Asian culture–specifically Indian culture–and explores how our customs and traditions shape the dynamics in different families in different ways. Hana’s own family for instance, is a happy Brown family where everyone loves and accept each other wholeheartedly. At the same time, we also see the abuse and toxicity in Brown families that hold too strongly to tradition and refuse to see things from the other’s perspective.
And of course, as Hana is a twenty-something young adult, we get to see her try to find her voice and assert her identity as a Muslim woman, as a daughter of immigrant parents, and as a Canadian-Indian. I loved reading about how she felt far away from her roots as she did not visit India very often and had grown up in the bustling city of Toronto; and I loved it even more when she realized that though she and her extended family were oceans apart, her roots were dug so deeply into the earth that no matter she travelled she would always be a part of her family’s legacy.
2. A Delicious Enemies To Lovers Romance
Enemies to lovers is a trope that I am an absolute sucker for, especially if it is done right. And the romance in this book had me gleefully turning the pages waayyyy past decent hours on a week night. I loved the sizzling chemistry between Hana and Aydin, and the way they slowly learned to respect each other and to care for each other warmed my cold, cynical heart.
Add to that, the strange romantic tensions between Hana and her long-time podcast follower turned virtual friend Stanley P, despite the fact that they know nothing personal about each other. It’s a delightfully cliche romance that you cannot help but bite into.
I also loved how Uzma Jalaluddin masterfully shows the strong attraction Hana and Aydin have for each other without the two of them ever sharing so much as a kiss on page. It reminded me a lot of a Jane Austen novel (specifically Pride & Prejudice), where you can feel the chemistry between the characters without even seeing them hold hands with each other.
3. Accurate & Realistic Representation Of Muslims
When it comes to reading books that feature Muslim characters, or even watching shows with Muslim characters, I am always more than a little apprehensive. I have seen many Muslims being presented in media, and all of them are always portrayed as terrorists, or as sons/daughters/wives of terrorists.
And when it comes to Muslim women, if we are not being portrayed as family members of religious extremists, we are shown to be oppressed and weak and only finding true freedom after taking of our hijab.
Reality is so much more different though. As someone who was born and raised in a country where more 90% of the population are Muslims, I can tell you this much: there are so many different kinds of Muslim men and women out there, and none of us are completely the same. Some of us pray 5 times but do not wear a hijab, some of us occasionally pray and fast but do not practice Islam to the dot. Some of us are Muslims but wear short skirts, drink alcohol, have boyfriends and girlfriends and are okay with casual physical touches with the opposite sex.
Every human being practice and observe their religion in their own ways, whether it be Christians, Hindus, Buddhists…or Muslims. And yet, when it comes to media and literature, we only ever see a tiny fraction of our community being represented.
I think this is why I loved Hana Khan Carries On. Although this book mainly represents Muslims who are very religious and observant, there are several implications and references to Muslims who believe in Islam but do not follow all the rules that have been set for us, and live their lives more casually than what is believed to be the norm.
And since this book mainly features characters who are very religiously observant, we get to see a deeper look into the traditions and customs in Islam, which was something that I absolutely loved. Words aren’t enough to describe how good it feels to see parts of myself in a book like Hana Khan Carries On.
4. A Phenomenal Cast Of Unforgettable Characters
The characters in Hana Khan Carries On are ultimately one of the best and strongest points of this novel. Each and every character had something to bring to the table, and were unforgettable in their own unique ways. I loved Hana’s best friends Yusuf and Maria and how their friendships evolved as they grew older and went their own ways. I loved Hana’s delightfully quirky cousin Rashid, and her snappy, vivacious Kawkab Khala (khala = maternal aunt).
But they weren’t the only characters who stole the show so to speak. Even the minor, supportive characters like Hana’s coworkers Big J and Thomas, and her brother-in-law had something important to add to the story. It was such a treat to see so many people of color in a genre where we are completely invisible, even if some of them were downright distasteful and somewhat of an antagonist for Hana and her family.
5. A Careful Examination Of Microaggressions In Real Life
I want to clarify that Hana Khan Carries On is a very light-hearted rom-com, but a fluffy love story can still interweave important topics and themes into its plot. And that is exactly what happens in this book. Uzma Jalaluddin masterfully shows us what it is really like to be a minority in a world that refuses to understand you and would rather put you in a box that fits their own narrative. And she adds these themes so carefully into the plot, that it flows naturally with Hana’s story and her character arc.
In a world where racism and Islamophobia runs rampant, it is unrealistic to expect that a single Muslim or a colored person can go about their day without facing at least some kind of microaggression or be unfairly stereotyped. I am a proud brown Muslim woman myself, and even though I had the privilege of growing up in a country where my people are the majority, I grew up being acutely aware of the hate the rest of the world seem to harbor against people like me. It affected me to the point where I felt ashamed to be a Muslim, and responsible for crimes that I had not committed. And this is something that every Muslim, in every part of the world, experiences to some degree.
To give you a clearer picture: my real name was Syeda Tanaz Masaba Kabir. But my mother had it legally changed to Tanaz Masaba during my O’levels because she was worried I would face Islamophobia if I traveled to a non-Muslim country for my higher studies.
So to see the microaggressions faced by people like me portrayed realistically in a genre that rarely even features characters who look like me was a big deal. I am glad the author did not shy away from such a difficult topic, and included it so carefully in a romantic comedy.
5 Reasons To Read Hana Khan Carries On By Uzma Jalaluddin: A New Spicy Twist To A Beloved Genre
To sum it up, here are FIVE reasons why you should read Hana Khan Carries On:
- Bold, brilliant & unforgettable characters.
- A deliciously sizzling enemies-to-lovers romace.
- Realistic portrayal of South Asian and Muslim communities.
- Thought-provoking discussions on racism and Islamophobia.
- Incredibly wholesome family dynamics and friendships.
On Identity And Representation: Read My Interview With Uzma Jalaluddin
Meet The Author: Uzma Jalaluddin
I am the author of AYESHA AT LAST (2018), a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in a Toronto Muslim community. My second novel HANA KHAN CARRIES ON (2021) is inspired by the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and set in rival halal restaurants. I also write a funny parenting column for The Toronto Star, and have written for The Atlantic. I live in Toronto with my husband and two sons. Find out more at www.uzmajalaluddin.com and thanks for visiting!
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