Posted by on December 05, 2013 in Blog

By Dena Elian
Fall Intern, 2013

Arab American author Saladin Ahmed debuted his first fantasy novel earlier this year. In Throne of the Crescent Moon, the first novel of three planned installments, Ahmed creates a rich Middle Eastern backdrop for his story that takes place in the fictional city of Dhamsawaat. The main character, Dr. Adoulla Makhslood, is a ghul hunter, who embarks on a journey to save the khalif (religious leader) in danger of being murdered. Multiple reviews have pointed out the old Arab traditions that Ahmed weaves into the plot and have even compared his writing style to the classic 1,001 Arabian Nights.

However, Ahmed’s use of Middle Eastern elements goes beyond setting a culturally authentic tone for the story. In an interview with one blog, when inquired as to the recurring use of Middle Eastern components in his writing and how it aligns with the existing prejudice against the region, Ahmed said “Since long before 9/11, US culture has been saturated with stories about Arabs and Muslims as villains, as fanatics, as worthless, as better dead than alive. I aim to tell different stories in my work, and Throne is a part of that effort. Throne very consciously aims to re-center the traditional western fantasy map, and to interrogate attendant cultural assumptions in the process, but, via monsters and magic rather than polemic.”

Since the book’s release, Ahmed has won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and has been nominated for the Hugo Award and Nebula Award, both given each year for the best science fiction or fantasy works of the previous year.  This attention has led to the development of a worldwide fan base, where he receives reviews and messages from fans all over the world. One notable fan is Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, who recommended Ahmed’s book for the Hugo Award.

A Dearborn, Michigan native, Ahmed credits his predominantly Arab American community and ethnically-conscious upbringing for his unique writing style. He admits, though, that during his upbringing, he was marginalized for pursuing an interest in science fiction and fantasy literature; however, today, Ahmed has reconnected with his hometown community and is strongly supported by community members. He’s been invited to present at the Arab American National Museum and the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Ahmed currently lives about 20 minutes outside of his hometown in Huntington Woods, MI, a Detroit suburb, with his wife and two children. He hopes to have the sequel to Throne of the Crescent Moon released by next year.

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