Today, Lori is interviewing SK Ali. They’ll be talking about feeling and emotion in YA fiction and her new book Love from Mecca to Medina.
Have you signed up to be a DIY MFA Radio Insider yet? This is an exciting new monthly newsletter, especially for our podcast listeners. Every month, you’ll get an email from our podcast producer with recaps of the most recent episodes, a curated Listening List of episodes on a particular theme, and other fun goodies we only share via email. Best of all, it’s free to join! The theme for October is Horror/Suspense, and you can become an insider by signing up with your email at diymfa.com/insiders.
In this episode SK Ali and Lori discuss:
- Why she gave her two main characters contrasting perspectives on life.
- How the constraints of a set structure can lead to creativity.
- Balancing a light tone with serious topics.
Plus, her #1 tip for writers.
About SK Ali
SK Ali is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of several books, including Saints and Misfits, a finalist for the William C. Morris award, winner of the APALA Award and Middle East Book Award, and Love from A to Z, a Today Show’s “Read with Jenna” Book Club selection. Both novels were critically acclaimed and named best YA books of the year by various media including Entertainment Weekly and Kirkus Reviews.
Her novel, Misfit in Love, was a People magazine best book of summer 2021. Her books for younger readers include the widely acclaimed middle grade anthology Once Upon an Eid and the New York Times bestselling picture book, The Proudest Blue. She has a degree in Creative Writing and lives in Toronto with her family, a very vocal cat named Yeti, and a very quiet cat named Mochi. Her newest novel, Love From Mecca to Medina, went on sale October 18, 2022.
You can find her on her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Love From A to Z
A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.
An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.
But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.
When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.
Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.
Then her path crosses with Adam’s.
Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.
Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.
Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.
Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…
Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Love From Mecca to Medina
On the trip of a lifetime, Adam and Zayneb must find their way back to each other in this surprising and romantic sequel to the “bighearted, wildly charming” (Becky Albertalli, New York Times bestselling author) Love from A to Z.
Adam and Zayneb. Perfectly matched. Painfully apart.
Adam is in Doha, Qatar, making a map of the Hijra, a historic migration from Mecca to Medina, and worried about where his next paycheck will come from. Zayneb is in Chicago, where school and extracurricular stresses are piling on top of a terrible frenemy situation, making her miserable.
Then a marvel occurs: Adam and Zayneb get the chance to spend Thanksgiving week on the Umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, in Saudi Arabia. Adam is thrilled; it’s the reboot he needs and an opportunity to pray for a hijra in real life: to migrate to Zayneb in Chicago. Zayneb balks at the trip at first, having envisioned another kind of vacation, but then decides a spiritual reset is calling her name too. And they can’t wait to see each other—surely, this is just what they both need.
But the trip is nothing like what they expect, from the appearance of Adam’s former love interest in their traveling group to the anxiety gripping Zayneb when she’s supposed to be “spiritual.” As one wedge after another drives them apart while they make their way through rites in the holy city, Adam and Zayneb start to wonder: was their meeting just an oddity after all? Or can their love transcend everything else like the greatest marvels of the world?
If you decide to check out the books, we hope you’ll do so via these Amazon affiliate links: Love From A to Z, Love From Mecca to Medina, where if you choose to purchase via the link DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!
Link to Episode 432
(Right-click to download.)
If you liked this episode…
Head over to iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, or Google and subscribe so you’ll be first to know when new episodes are available.
Also, remember that sharing is caring so if you know anyone who might enjoy this podcast, please tell them about it or leave us a review so other listeners will want to check it out.
Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome!