For Ages
12 to 99

This heartfelt and humorous YA contemporary follows Dua, who spends the month of Ramadan making unexpected discoveries about family, faith, and first love.

"Beg beautifully crafts a comforting tale filled with fun characters and excellent Muslim representation.”--Aamna Qureshi, author of The Lady or the Lion

"[A] love letter to Islam, capturing all the wonderful nuances of faith and culture."--Adiba Jaigirdar, author of Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating

Being crammed into a house in Queens with her cousins is not how Dua envisions her trip to New York City. But here she is, spending the holy month of Ramadan with extended family she hasn’t seen in years.
Dua struggles to find her place in the conservative household and to connect with her aloof, engaged-to-be-married cousin, Mahnoor. And as if fasting the whole day wasn’t tiring enough, she must battle her hormones whenever she sees Hassan, the cute drummer in a Muslim band who has a habit of showing up at her most awkward moments.
After just a month, Dua is surprised to find that she’s learning a lot more than she bargained for about her faith, relationships, her place in the world—and cute drummers. . . .
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An Excerpt fromSalaam, with Love


I was rocking out to the radio in my room when my mom walked in. I froze, one foot behind me, and reached up to pull my earbuds out as my mom watched me with a bemused expression.

“Dua, come into the kitchen. Your father and I have something to tell you,” she said, the Urdu words flowing like poetry from her lips. “And please stop jumping around like an electrocuted penguin,” she added, closing the door behind her.

“Electrocuted penguin,” I muttered as I put the earbuds away. Actually, I’d been called worse when it came to my dancing.

“What’s . . .” My voice trailed off as I walked into the kitchen and saw the looks on my parents’ faces. “What happened?” My heart hammered in my chest. Was this about my music again?

“We’ll explain,” Mom said gently. “Sit down, please.”

I bit my lip. If music hadn’t been on their minds, I didn’t want to bring it up and cause an argument. Instead, I asked, “Did someone die?”

Dad shook his head. “No, alhamdulillah—­all praise is due to God. You remember Uncle Yusuf and his family?”

Dad had seven brothers; keeping all their names and faces straight in my head was almost impossible unless a cup of coffee sat at the bottom of my stomach first. “Yeah, of course. His family visited Dada and Daadi in Pakistan at the same time as us five years ago.”

“Dua,” Mom said, as if I hadn’t even spoken, “as you know, Ramadan starts in a week.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, my brow furrowed as I leaned forward, waiting for her to finish. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to hear what else she had to say. “And?”

“Well, Yusuf invited us to come and stay with them for Ramadan,” Dad said, a smile breaking out on his face, his teeth startlingly white against his tanned skin. “And we’re going to take him up on it.”

For a minute, all I could do was blink at him, my mind suddenly blank. Of all the things I expected him to say, this had been nowhere on the list. Once my brain processed his words, I said, “What? Wait . . . what?”

“We are going to stay at your uncle Yusuf’s for Ramadan,” Mom repeated, slowly this time, enunciating each syllable. “Now, please, be happy; we haven’t seen them in years.”

I would’ve jumped out of my seat if I hadn’t already been in danger of falling off of it. “Exactly! I haven’t seen or even talked to Uncle Yusuf or my cousins in five years; that’s a long time. How am I supposed to connect with them? What are we going to talk about?”

“There’s so much you have in common with your cousins. Your heritage, your faith,” Dad reminded me.

I barely held in a snort. Heritage, sure. Faith? Not so much. I knew enough about Islam from what Mom and Dad had taught me growing up, from years of weekends spent at the dining table while they read from the Qur’an or books on prophetic tradition. But Uncle Yusuf and his family were on another level. My cousins grew up going to Sunday school where volunteers would teach them the Qur’an and Islamic history every week. They had Muslim friends from the moment they were born, all the way through university. Compared to them, I wasn’t a bad Muslim, but the differences in our experiences were huge. Ramadan wouldn’t be a quiet, private affair in their household the way it was in my small family.

Like Dad, Uncle Yusuf was a doctor—­pediatrics for Dad, cardiology for Uncle Yusuf. Unlike Dad, when Uncle Yusuf wasn’t seeing a patient, he was often found attending or listening to Islamic conferences and lectures. A phone call from him meant getting a free lesson on the importance of waking up on time for fajr, the morning prayer. In comparison, I preferred my parents’ occasional complaint about my lack of focus during worship.

Sure, my uncle meant well and was kind, generous, and soft-­spoken, but I could only take so much preaching before it got on my nerves. I knew enough; I didn’t need every moment to become another teaching opportunity. How would I live for a month with him and his family?

“And how do you connect with strangers?” Dad went on, oblivious to the thoughts spinning in my mind. “Just go up and talk to them, but it’s even better because they’re your family. They’ll accept you no matter what.

“You’ll be applying for college soon and Mahnoor just finished her bachelor’s. I’m sure she’d love to answer any questions you have about college life and the application process.”

I didn’t respond, recalling the last time I’d attempted to bring up my thoughts about “college life” and the major I wanted. A slight heaviness settled in my stomach, just as it had that evening. As soon as the word music left my mouth, Dad had gotten a confused look on his face while Mom chuckled—­assuming I was joking. I hadn’t had the guts to bring it up again.

“Aren’t you Facebook friends with Mahnoor?” Mom asked, reminding me of the dangers of being friends with your parents on social media. Even when you only added them because they wouldn’t stop crying that their only child is ashamed of them.

“Yeah, but she’s almost never online,” I answered. From what I remembered, she’d always been a little on the antisocial side. Plus, I almost never use Facebook anymore. “I think the last time I talked to her was a year ago.”

“When she got engaged?” Mom asked, thinking back.

“Right, I reached out to congratulate her, and then we only talked for a few minutes because she was studying for the LSATs.” I wasn’t exaggerating either. We’d talked for two minutes, and in that time all I’d gotten in was Hi, I’m so happy for you, and bye. Not that we would have had a lot to say to each other anyway.

“You’re cousins, sweetheart. No matter how much time passes, you can always pick up right where you left off. That’s what happens when you share blood.”

I gnawed on my lower lip as I studied my parents’ faces. My mom, with her light brown hair and warm, amber eyes, a smile that could get me to do anything, even the chores I hated the most. My dad, with his thousand-­watt grin, merry dark brown eyes, and jet-­black hair cropped short and going gray at the temples. I was an even mix of both of them, with my skin tone somewhere between my mom’s light complexion and my dad’s olive coloring, my eyes an exact match with my mom’s, my hair as black and thick as my dad’s, and a nose like someone stuck a pear in the middle of my face (I wasn’t sure where the nose had come from).

They were being gentle with me, trying to allow me to accept their decision maturely rather than pushing it on me. Not unlike their approach to the options they posited for my future: business, prelaw, or premed. Still, I knew them too well to think that I had any real say in what was going to happen. Family had always been important to Dad, and once Mom made a decision, there was no turning her away from it.

“I can’t get out of this, can I?” I asked anyway, slumping in my chair.

“No,” my mom said, stopping to kiss me on the head as she got up and left to start packing. “Have your suitcase ready by tomorrow morning, honey. We leave in the evening.”

I sat up straight. “You’re not even giving me forty-­eight hours’ notice when you make plans now? I’m your only child—­why the lack of communication?”

“We just told you. How much more notice do you need? We’re going for a visit. You’re not getting married and moving away. You don’t have to pack the whole house,” Dad said, not getting it, as usual.

I sighed. I just wanted to be consulted for once, to feel like I actually had a voice. “I’m not saying I’m going to New York kicking and screaming, but you could’ve at least told me earlier. Kat and I had plans for the rest of summer vacation. Now I have to let her down, and we don’t have time to hang out before I leave. And what about my birthday? It falls during Ramadan this year, so we’re not going to be able to celebrate it together.”

“Just celebrate it when we get back,” Mom said calmly. “It’s only a matter of a few days.”

Clenching my jaw, I mulled that over. Kat was more than my best friend; she was my constant companion. We’d played in sandboxes and learned to ride our bikes together. We talked about everything, were always together, always a team. Now our plans were ruined. To my parents, it was only a month, but I felt robbed. Kat knew how to make me forget the stress of trying to deal with everything that came with being different, not just from my non–­Pakistani American, non-­Muslim classmates and friends, but also from my own family, Uncle Yusuf and my cousins included. Whenever that familiar feeling of not fitting in started to set in, Kat knew how to make me feel better.

“You can invite her for dinner tonight. Your mom’s making chicken karahi. Kat loves it, right?” Dad said, like he couldn’t get what I was making such a big deal out of. “Try to be happy about this, Dua. I haven’t seen my brother in years, and we used to be even closer than you and Kat are now. If you’re excited, then Kat will be excited for you too. A month away from your best friend isn’t going to kill you.” He paused, looking thoughtful, as if he wasn’t sure if he should continue or not. “Besides, Kat’s a nice girl, but she’s not Muslim. There are some things about the way we live that she just can’t relate to. You’ve spent your whole life in this little town, and it’s high time you made some Muslim friends.”

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this, but it was the first time Dad seemed to be genuinely regretful about it. We’d moved to Burkeville, Virginia, when I was a toddler because of Dad’s residency and stayed on because he’d received an offer he couldn’t pass up. While Dad had always intended to move closer to his brothers one day, or at least where there were more Muslims or Pakistanis, that day always got put off for one reason or another. My education. Mom’s budding, home-­based catering service (anyone craving chicken tikka masala within a fifty-­mile radius would be out of luck if we moved). So, Dad put off moving indefinitely. He’d spent almost half his life away from his family. In comparison, one month wasn’t much to ask.

“It’s not that there’s something wrong with your friends now,” Dad said softly, almost desperate that I not take his words the wrong way, “but you’ll see, it’s a little different. You actually belong, unified in a group by our love of God.”

I understood what he was saying. It made sense, but I had to stop this mini-­lecture before it turned into something you might see on Lifetime. “Okay, Dad. I’ll call her to come over tonight and start packing right after.” I even tried to smile despite the growing knot of dread in my stomach. “I make no promises that I’ll enjoy this trip, but I’ll keep the complaining to a minimum.”

“Good. Ingratitude is displeasing to God,” he said, bending to kiss me on the head before going after my mother.

I stared like he’d suddenly turned into a two-­headed calf. How were those words supposed to encourage me about a trip I didn’t want to go on? “God help me,” I muttered, plopping my head down on the table.

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