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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
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.
A powerful, compelling novel from the critically-acclaimed author of the Branford Boase-winning I Am Thunder, about making friends, and breaking them too. Fifteen-year-old Ilyas is under pressure from everyone: GCSE's are looming and his teachers just won't let up, his dad wants him to join the family business and his mates don't care about any of it. There's no space in Ilyas' life to just be a teenager. Serving detention one day, Ilyas finds a kindred spirit in Kelly Matthews, who is fed up with being pigeonholed as the good girl, and their friendship blows the social strata of high school wide open. But when Kelly catches the eye of one of the local bad boys, Imran, he decides to seduce her for a bet - and Ilyas is faced with losing the only person who understands him. Standing up to Imran puts Ilyas' family at risk, but it's time for him to be the superhero he draws in his comic-books, and go kick the moon. Kick the Moon, is Muhammad Khan's explosive second novel, with original comic-book art from Amrit Birdi, bestselling illustrator of Username:Evie. 'Funny, angry, powerful' Patrice Lawrence, award-winning author of OrangeBoy 'A powerful novel that encapsulates the experiences of teenage boys with wit and heroism' Nikesh Shukla, author of Run Riot '[Written] with humour and empathy' Independent '[An] ambitious, wryly funny, optimistic-against-the-odds novel' Times Literary Supplement 'Khan's gift for authentic characters and believable dialogue makes his writing sing' Bookseller
I Am Thunder is the Branford Boase Award-winning debut novel which questions how far you'll go to stand up for what you believe. Fifteen-year-old Muzna Saleem is used to being invisible. So no one is more surprised than her when Arif Malik, the hottest boy in school, takes a sudden interest. But Arif is hiding a terrible secret and, as they begin to follow a dark path, Muzna faces an impossible choice: keep quiet and betray her beliefs, or speak out and betray her heart. Muhammad Khan's stunning, multi-award winning YA writing gets right to the centre of what it means to be an urban teenager today. 'An uplifting, empowering novel with hope at its heart' Observer Children's Book of the Week 'Funny and clever - a perspective long overdue in British fiction' Alex Wheatle, Guardian prize-winning author of Crongton Knights 'This one is special . . . punches well above the weight of most debuts' The Times 'This assured, hopeful debut feels unprecedented and essential' Guardian 'One of the most distinctive narrators I've read in ages.' Fiona Noble, Bookseller