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Muhammad Khan is an engineer, a secondary-school maths teacher and YA author. His critically acclaimed debut novel I Am Thunder was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Great Read Award and TSBA Book Awards, among others making him a promising voice in the YA fiction world. He lives in South London and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at St Mary’s.
On winning the prestigious Branford Boase Award 2019 for his outstanding debut he said;
‘I am stunned, humbled and thrilled to learn that I am Thunder has won the Branford Boase Award. To do so in its glorious 20th year is completely mindboggling! Just to be shortlisted among such a talented bunch of authors with incredible debut novels was exciting enough.’
He thanked his editor Lucy Pearse: ‘Every writer owes a huge debt of gratitude to their editor – more so debuts. Our editors work tirelessly to correct our rookie mistakes, incoherent plots, cardboard characters, and continuity errors. No mean feat! Sharing the experience of bringing I am Thunder to publication with Lucy Pearse has been an unforgettable privilege. I’m not going to lie: it was also extremely exhausting; involved copious re-writes, tight deadlines and the unsung pressures of being a full time maths teacher. She not only understood Muzna - this character I was just as fiercely protective of as any of my real-life students - but she knew exactly how to present her to the world. Lucy is one of the bravest, kindest and most talented people I have ever met and sharing this award with her is so special.’
He added: ‘Over the last several years, Muslims have had more than our fair share of struggles. We’ve had to deal with the spectre of 9/11, ISIS spreading a false version of Islam, the notorious ‘Kill a Muslim Day’, Islamophobic attacks both on individuals and mosques, discussions centred on what we can and can’t wear, misrepresentation in the media and exclusion from conversations about us. I am a Muslim author writing about Muslims and depicting the plurality that is our reality. That I am the first writer of colour to win the prestigious Branford Boase Award gives me tremendous hope for the future.’
Photo © Sarah Blackie
A day can change everything in this exclusive short story from the award-winning author of I Am Thunder, written for World Book Day 2020. Fifteen-year-old Salma Hashbi has been caught with her boyfriend in a totally humiliating misunderstanding. Instantly accused of being easy, she is shunned by everyone at school, shamed by her community and worst of all has disappointed her mum. Enough is enough and Salma decides to fight back against the prejudice and rumours and audition for the role of her dreams. But on the hottest day of the year, with everything against her, can Salma make it in time and show the world who she really is? A powerful story of standing up and standing out from the Branford Boase Award-winning Muhammad Khan.
This unflinchingly authentic second novel by the author of I Am Thunder packs a powerful punch in recounting boys’ abusive sexual humiliation of girls, and is uncompromisingly astute on the destructive effects of bullying, peer pressure and gang life - how quick it is to get caught up, how hard it is to escape. After enduring racist ridicule over his World Book Day costume in primary school (“Superman ain’t no brown boy”), gifted aspiring comic book creator Ilyas is inspired to create his own British Pakistani superhero, PakCore. Years later teenage Ilyas finds himself pulled in different directions. His father is constantly telling him to be less of an arty “girly-boy” and he’s under the cosh from his mates to sexually ridicule girls in the name of proving his worth for their DedManz mandem. When he dares to stand up to gang leader Imran - the epitome of toxic masculinity - Ilyas lands himself in big trouble, but silver lining comes in the form of fellow comic fan Kelly. She’s a ray of non-conformist sunshine, but also struggling with the pressures of her malicious mates, and an arrogant mother whose do-gooding work is motivated by a belief in her white superiority. Thankfully, another ray of light comes courtesy of a cool teacher who encourages Ilyas to take his comic book creativity to the wider world. “Comics is the one place I get to call the shots,” he states. “The one place I can’t be controlled”, but finding the strength to do the right thing and get out of the gang comes with great risks. A resoundingly stark, thought-provoking novel with a heart that burns with hope and courage.
Winner of The Branford Boase Award 2019 | February 2018 Debut of the Month | An important, engaging debut in which a bright British Muslim is drawn down a dark path. Tingling with heart and urgency, and astute on the complexities of radicalisation, this rivetingly authentic read shows that representation really does matter. Fifteen-year-old Muzna has a passionate ambition to become a novelist, but her parents have other plans. Boys, make-up and hair removal are strictly forbidden, and they want her to become a doctor – “#BrownGirlProblems”, as Muzna describes her predicament. When labeled a terrorist by a classmate in her new school, “Guy Candy” Arif sticks up for her, and it’s not long before they strike up a friendship, and more. She starts attending meetings with Arif and his older brother Jameel, and her eyes are opened to the media’s anti-Muslim bias, and to Western demonisation of Islam. The brothers encourage her to pray, and she’s gifted a hijab, which she hides from her parents, since her father insists “it was only the 'ignorant’ who clung to Islamic teachings”. Being sharp-minded and questioning, Muzna is keen to understand different facets of Islam, but she’s conflicted when Jameel says her parents aren’t “real Muslims”, and he can’t be right when he declares “writers of fiction are among the worst of people”, can he? Muzna’s conflicts are sharply evoked, and there are moments that will have you begging her to listen to her friends when they reach out to her. But the truth only fully hits Muzna as time is running out, and she must summon the strength to remain true to the talented, intelligent young woman she is. Inspired by author’s shock at hearing that three British schoolgirls had flown to Syria to join the ‘Islamic State’ in 2015, this is a timely, thought-provoking debut that also packs in powerful universalisms about growing up, falling in love and discovering who you are.