Cover Image: You Truly Assumed

You Truly Assumed

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I love seeing strong female characters represented in novels. Given some of the thematic material about fighting anti-Islamic hate, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to S.K. Ali's work. I enjoyed that each young woman also dealt with struggles beyond Islamophobia, and how each narrator's arc truly felt different and special. I think this novel would be both a perfect mirror or window for readers who want to combat hate.
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ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Actual rating: 3.25/5

This book is about three Black Muslim women who started a blog after a terrorist attack happened on DC. Told from three different point of views.

This is the first book (that I know of) which story tells us about what it feels like to be a Black Muslim. And as a Muslim WOC, I really resonate with the part where they have to try to fit in to 3 categories at once. This book doesn't try to 'tame' the kind of racism that Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah have to face because everyone need to know how crude people can get when it comes to xenophobia and racism. But I like how the aspect of community is written in this book. All in all, you need to read this book if you're Muslim because I believe you can relate to this book and you'll think "I've experienced this too once!". Another thing that I love is the friendship between Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah pleaseee they're always supporting each other and I'm so glad about their closures!
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3.5 rounded up. 

I think this is a really important story to tell and I love that it's been told. It was a little predictable and wrapped up a little too nicely to be a super strong book, but I think it's actually what was right for the book and what will help the message of the book get across to teens. I think if anything it could've benefitted from another 50 or so pages to really flesh out the conflicts at the end.
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You Truly Assumed is a stunning debut novel that highlights a group so marginalized, that even marginalized people often forget about them, Being a Black Muslim woman in America is harrowing, and Laila Sabreen captures the grief and anger and hate so flawlessly. I love that in YTA while yes, all three girls are Black Muslim, they do not become a monolith. Each girl has their own personality and relationship with their religion and its beautiful to see.

Unfortunately, I found the plot to be far too slow for my liking, and sometimes the characters blended together. They didn't have their own distinct voices, and it made it hard to get through at a certain point.
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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book! You Truly Assumed follows three Black Muslim teen girls who start up a blog as a safe space for other Black Muslim teens. Each character also has her own issues apart from the blog, as well as different ways of experiencing their faith. I think this book did an excellent job of talking about the various topics of racism, Islamophobia, and oppression that the characters face. I think my only complaints with this title were technical ones. There was a lot of "telling" and not "showing" and the stories of the three girls felt rushed at times. I think with another pass and maybe some more time spent on each storyline, this book would have been excellent. I still think it's an important book to read, but the pacing and technical issues stopped it from being a personal favourite.
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I didn’t really need much to make me add this to my TBR. I saw the cover and it was all I needed. And then I heard it was an own voices novel and that made me even more excited. I knew from the very beginning I needed this book.

When there’s a terrorist attack near where she lives and the culprit is automatically assumed to be Muslim, Sabriya tries finding a way to feel comforted. She makes an online journal to rage write out her thoughts. When the journal goes live on accident, she finds there’s more people out there that feel the same way. They reach out to her and they end up coming together to make the site more than any of them ever expected. Zakat, Farah, and Sabriya end up being really good friends who risk everything to have their voices heard.

Of course the best thing about this is the social justice part. I LOVE seeing teens be the strong and powerful activists that they are. These are the ones who are welcoming change and I love to see them start acting on it. I hope that this book opens the minds of those that read it and gets them to enact on changing some things as well.

To get some things straight, I am a Black woman. I am not Muslim, so since I was reading an Own Voices book, I accepted this to be the way the author practices. So with that being said, I loved the representation. Though the list is growing, there’s still not many books about being Muslim, and there’s even less than that about being a Black Muslim. This was a great book to open the gates to know more about Black Muslims. **After looking at some other own voices reviews, there is a discrepancy of the teen wearing a hijab with short sleeves on the cover. They mentioned she should have long sleeves on, and as an Own Voices author, they should have caught that.**

But of course, with this being about social justice, I do want to touch on what they were fighting against. Especially since they’re teens. Dealing with racism on top of Islamophobia would be enough to break down any adult. The fact that they are teens just blew me away. And I know some might say “it was all online tho.” And (for the most part) it is. But as a blogger myself, hate online is sometimes scarier than people saying it to your face. At least if they’re saying it to your face, you know to stay away from them. But the online trolls can be anyone. (And if you read this, well…. you get it.) These teen girls were so strong and I loved their characters.

The writing style itself was just ok though. It didn’t really have anything that STOOD out. And I didn’t really feel like the “new” romance was necessary in this? Idk, they’re here and kicking ass and taking names, they didn’t need the romance with it. It seemed to be written in just to have some romance in it. I did like the girl who had the issue with her new family tho. I liked the way they came together and took care of their problems.

This was SO, SO GOOD. I really enjoyed reading this and I hope that there is more where this came from with this author. It did have some debut issues, but those can be fixed in her next books. I hope there’s more!
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Based on the set-up, we expect a couple of things from this book. All three main characters occupy an intersection of oppressed groups: they are Black, Muslim, and female. The world wants them to be silent and invisible and tears them down when they try to assert themselves. When they start a blog they become a target. We expect the bulk of the plot to be focused on fighting that oppression. While that is certainly a surface part of the plot, it is even more about the things that challenge our identity. Each girl is faced by significant changes in her world. Addressing the issues brought up by their blog empowers them to address their own issues as well. Family, future plans, love, betrayal. There's a universality to these issues that makes this book accessible to a wider group of readers than it might otherwise. Powerful, empathetic, and accessible. Definitely worth a read.
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This debut YA novel was a little of a mixed bag for me. I loved the exploration of the issue that stood behind the story. Seeing something written from the perspective of Black Muslim women, examining the effect of racism (or religious discrimination/vilification) on these young women, their determination to stand up for themselves and to find their way in this world was fantastic.

However, I found much of the dialogue quite stilted and forced and some elements didn't ring true, eg the level of claimed friendship between the girls, after only 1 week and a handful of texts. In the same way, I think more could have been shown about how/why You Truly Assumed became such an important outlet and source of encouragement for the girls. After minimal interaction, it became the most important thing in the world to them. Maybe more of the positive interaction and feedback could have been shown, rather than focusing on the later negative feedback?

I can't speak to the experience of a young Black Muslim woman, being different in every one of those adjectives! Maybe they would read it differently, but I found some of the early reactions of the girls difficult to understand. Both Bri and Zakat jump to conclusions (in my mind) about the behaviour and motivations of some of the people they encounter, considering the evidence available at the time. This then made them combative. Some of these suspicions later proved to be well founded, but it seemed they made these judgements before they were warranted.

Overall, I still enjoyed the story and would happily reccomend it to my young readers to open their eyes/get them to think about these issues.
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This is representation needed in life. . The strength of the girls is admirable. 3 Black Muslim women start a blog about their struggles with Islamophobia. They create a safe space for Muslim women. The story focuses on family and friendship and the power of these things. I enjoyed reading from all 3 prospectives to get insight and feel more attached to each of them.
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Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC digital copy. I have not been compensated for my opinion and this is an honest review.

Unfortunately, I was unable to finish reading this ARC digital copy before needing to switch to other books that were being archived. From the portion I read, this book is remains on my Goodreads "want to read" list. I will update my review to reflect an updated opinion when I finish it at a later date..
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Disclaimer: I received an E-ARC via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review. However this review is based on the final copy.

Trigger warning(s): Islamophobia, racism, racial slurs, bullying, hate crime, panic attacks, and body shaming. There are also content warnings included in the final copy.

Reading Challenge: #PondathonII

Rep: Zakat and her family are Black Muslims. Sabriya, her sister Nuri, and her father are Black Muslims. Sabriya’s mother is a Black Christian. Farah, her mother, and maternal grandparents are Black Muslims. Tommy is Black. Riley is a white Christian. Aafreen is a Muslim. I’m not sure if she is Black, or an Arab, if anyone knows please leave a comment and I will edit this post. Hayat, his siblings and (I think) his mother are Black Muslims. Hayat’s father (might be) a Black Christian. Morgan is Black. Please let me know in the comments if I have missed someone.

My Thoughts Before Reading: When I had seen this book on Twitter I knew I had to read it! I am always looking to read more book by Muslim authors from different cultures than my own (I am a Pakistani). Plus this seemed right up my alley.

I am so happy to say that I loved it!

What I Liked: The writing style was superb! Sabreen effortlessly switched between Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah’s point of view. Each girl had a distinctive voice, readers will be able to tell them apart. The blog posts were a delight to read about as well! I loved how well written they were. And as a blogger it was a nice touch. I really loved how they were able to build a safe community for Muslim women.

As a Muslim I always look forward to books by Muslim authors with Muslim characters. I was so excited when I heard about this book! It made me so happy to see that the author is a Black Muslim writing about Black Muslim characters. Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah all have a different relationship with Islam. But you can tell that the author cares about Islam and it shows in each of the girls characters. It was done so effortlessly and beautifully!

The Islamophobia was handled really well. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t painful to read about. I did have to take some breaks in between reading. But I still finished the book feeling hopeful.

Sabriya’s relationship with her family was great! I really loved reading about how close she was to her younger sister Nuri. It was so nice to read about the older sibling going to the younger sibling for advice. I do that all the time with my little sister and I really felt seen. Sabriya’s mother is a Christian so there were many times she felt that her mother couldn’t understand her experiences as a Muslim. Which did leave a strain on their relationship. But her mother came to her defense towards the end of the book and it was such a beautiful moment to read about. Sabriya’s father was really sweet and optimistic. I loved how he would use the Quran to give advice to Sabriya.

I really liked reading about Sabriya’s relationship with Morgan and Hayat. Morgan was such a sweet friend and the two of them were there for one-another. Hayat unexpected grew on me. Like Sabriya I did find him a bit annoying, but as I continued to read I really liked getting to know him better. I thought he was really sweet. I loved their romance!

Zakat’s relationship with her family was nice to read about! Her parents were very protective of her and wanted the best for her future. Zakat felt that her parents were a bit much at times, and they were. However their reasoning makes sense and they communicated openly with their daughter. I love it when parents are willing to communicate with their children! Please we need to see more of this in other novels.

Zakat’s friendship with Aafreen was so sweet to read about! They were so close to one-another and trusted each other. Aafreen was Zakat’s biggest supporter but also willing to call her out when it needed to be done. Readers will feel the love and trust these two have for each other.

Farah’s relationship with her mother and maternal grandparents was wonderful to read about! I loved how they were there for one-another and how Farah’s mother pushed her out of her comfort zone. It was just also nice to read about how close they were. Farah was comfortable with her mother that she could tell her anything and everything. Her grandparents didn’t come in that many times but you could tell how close knit this family was.

Farah’s relationship with Tommy (her father) and his family was a bit complicated. Tommy doesn’t really visit Farah and barely makes any attempts to keep in touch. Despite this Tommy invites Farah to stay with him, his wife and children for one month. Understandably Farah isn’t pleased with this decision but her mother pushes her to go and that she does. Throughout the month Farah develops beautiful relationships with her siblings and even Tommy. It was such a joy to read about! I love reading about children and siblings.

Farah’s relationship with her boyfriend Riley was so cute to read about! I loved how they were both nerds, and they made each other so happy. Farah is a bit reluctant about their relationship. Riley will be going to college after summer and Farah doesn’t think they can do a long distance relationship. She does decide to give it a chance though. Which I was very happy to read about.

I adored Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah’s relationship! They formed such a beautiful friendship over the course of one month. They were also able to grow throughout the book. Each girl grows more confident and stronger through their friendship with one-another, their experience from the blog and of course their own personal relationships with the people around them.

My Criticism(s): There was an error in the beginning when Zakat was making wudu. The order was wrong. But aside from that I have nothing else to say.

Conclusion: Overall I loved You Truly Assumed! I highly recommend it for anyone looking for more Muslim representation.
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I really enjoyed reading this book, and it definitely hits hard. The author does a good job of separating the three different narrator's voices, and I really like how well she portrays the ways that the intersectionality of their identities play out in both different ways for each girl, while they all still have the same underlying feelings, and a common thread throughout their experiences. 10/10, would recommend.
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I loved You Truly Assumed. I think this book speaks to everything that is good about teens that want to change the world and are activists for the causes they believe in.

After a terrorist attack in DC, a Black Muslim teen ballerina posts her thoughts online about how she feels about her identity and her place in the world, her post goes viral, and she begins a blog called "You Truly Assumed." Through this online space, she has the opportunity to give Muslim female teens a place to vent and find likeminded individuals. She finds two other teens, an artist and a coder, both of which are also Black Muslim teens, and together the three of them work to make You Truly Assumed the best it can be.

And while there is a lot of positivity happening online, there is also a lot of negativity. The girls begin getting threats, and when one particular threat hits a little too close to home, they have to decide if they are going to continue the important work they're doing, or if they need to step back.

I was truly impressed with this book. The writing was beautiful, and I loved getting to know these incredible girls. I think their passion and willingness to stand up for their beliefs highlights the strengths of the teens I know in real life. This book was an important piece of realistic fiction, and I have been recommending it to school groups and teens from middle school and up.
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This book right here is my FAVORITE book of 2022! Having three different views of how the attack affected them was beautiful! I fell in love with the major and minor characters so much that I had to read the book for a second time as well as buy the hard book!  Great first book from Laila!
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This book did a really good job showing how microaggressions are everyday occurrences that don't necessarily shock those who receive them because they've become so commonplace. I loved seeing quotes from the Quran and mentions of faith woven throughout, and there were some great teen-adult discussions, especially between Farah and her mom. 

Unfortunately its many good qualities weren't strong enough to overshadow the book's narrative problems. There were some noticeable inconsistencies with continuity within individual sections. While the teen-adult discussions were good, the language was often stilted and unnatural. Most noticeably, the girls say how important YTA is to them and how it's had such a great influence in their lives, but we don't see the evidence to support this claim. The end says the blog was built and sustained by friendship, but apart from very short bursts of texts and chats, we didn't get to see the development of this friendship. Additionally, the end says YTA's followers have "put so much love and strength" into the community, but unfortunately those contributions also weren't well-developed. If the connection between the three girls were stronger, and also their interactions with their readers, it would have made for a stronger read.
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You Truly Assumed was a great read! It was eye opening, focused on intersectionality, and overall a lovely SJ oriented read. I found the Audi version of the book a littler difficult to follow, but devoured the print/ebook edition. I will definitely keep a copy of this book on my classroom bookshelf and recommend it to students!
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It took me a while to get to reading this and I regret not reading it sooner! It's a fantastic book about the intersectionality of being Black, muslim, and a woman and how those identities face oppression. Definitely give it a read.
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This is such a brilliant read with the most lovely form of representation. This is the type of read that every person should read at least once in their life.
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Thank you Inkyard Press & #NetGalley for giving me a copy of You Truly Assumed in exchange for my honest thoughts! 

CW: Islamophobia, racial microaggressions 

3 stars

You Truly Assumed is a debut YA novel that the lives of three Black Muslim girls over the period of a summer as they grapple with the aftermath of a terrorist attack in Washington, DC, where the attacker is assumed to be Muslim due to their name. The girls come together to run a blog to work through their complex feelings about Islamophobia and racism in the aftermath of the attack, as well as to create a safe space and a community for other girls who identify with their experiences. This is a coming of age book, as we follow each characters unique experiences with growing up and approaching their final year of high school and future college plans, navigating family dynamics and young love, and dealing with Islamophobia and racism in both in person and online. Sabreen centres her story on the importance of sharing your voice and the power of a supportive community. She also draws attention to the quickness of the white population to make harmful assumptions about people based on their race, religion, and names, and stereotyping and targeting entire communities because of one individual.

I really liked how Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah came from unique backgrounds and were united in their desire to create a community for other Black Muslim girls and to combat Islamophobia. I wish that their connection was explored more deeply beyond simply being told about how strong their friendship was - there was little interaction between the main characters beyond a few texts and calls about the blog, but their support for one another did ring true. While the book felt a bit 2 dimensional at times, the story it explored was nuanced and empowering.  

Quotes I wrote down: 
"I'm constantly aware of my existence, my being, being politicized. As a Black Muslim young woman, I've gotten used to having all three identities politicized. Or having others try to separate the three and try to act like one is central to my existence. I used to try to do the same, until I realized it was impossible. I'm Black and Muslim and a young woman." (p 116)

"It's scary that names can speak for someone before they're given the chance to even open their mouth. Names can decide between who lives and dies. Between who can live in peace and who has to live in fear. Between those who can tell their own story and those whose stories are assumed before they  can pick up the pen." (p 39)
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I am grateful that I received an early arc for this book. Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah stories are really are very well developed characters, following their journey tackling islamophobia, racism, online harassments. I would highly recommend this book, want more and more people to read this!
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