Book Review: Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin

Hana Khan Carries On

Author: Uzma Jalaluddin

Publication Date: 13 April 2021

Genre: Adult Fiction – Contemporary

Pages: 368

Publisher: Berkley Romance

From the author of Ayesha at Last comes a sparkling new rom-com for fans of “You’ve Got Mail,” set in two competing halal restaurants

Sales are slow at Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, the only halal restaurant in the close-knit Golden Crescent neighbourhood. Hana waitresses there part time, but what she really wants is to tell stories on the radio. If she can just outshine her fellow intern at the city radio station, she may have a chance at landing a job. In the meantime, Hana pours her thoughts and dreams into a podcast, where she forms a lively relationship with one of her listeners. But soon she’ll need all the support she can get: a new competing restaurant, a more upscale halal place, is about to open in the Golden Crescent, threatening Three Sisters.

When her mysterious aunt and her teenage cousin arrive from India for a surprise visit, they draw Hana into a long-buried family secret. A hate-motivated attack on their neighbourhood complicates the situation further, as does Hana’s growing attraction for Aydin, the young owner of the rival restaurant—who might not be a complete stranger after all.

As life on the Golden Crescent unravels, Hana must learn to use her voice, draw on the strength of her community and decide what her future should be.

I am going to start off this review by saying that this book is absolutely fantastic, and it is one that I highly recommend especially to white allies. That being said, the marketing of this book absolutely sucks. This is not some cutesy enemies to lovers rom-com. This book deals with very heavy topics such as racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, targeted hate crimes, and microaggressions. For fellow BIPOC, this will not be anything new BUT, it will be painful and triggering, so please take heed before diving into this story.

Okay, so back to the book.

Hana Khan is a 24 year old Muslim woman who was born and raised in Toronto to parents who emigrated from India. Hana anonymously hosts her own podcast (Ana Brown Girl Rambles) while pursuing a career in the radio industry. She wants the opportunity to tell stories of her Muslim community that is predicated on the tired stereotypes that the media typically regurgitates. While interning at a local radio station, which is unpaid, she must also still help out at her family’s halal restaurant, Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, which is struggling. Hana must find a way to save her family’s restaurant with the threat of a new halal restaurant moving in across the street while also holding onto her radio dreams.

I absolutely loved reading this book from Hana’s lens. Hana just felt so authentic and relatable. The frustration that she feels from the microaggressions she faces at work and the pressures from her family’s restaurant was palpable. Hana isn’t perfect. She makes rash decisions with the best of intentions but still manages to come up short. Hana’s will to continue fighting and refusal to give up reinforces what some many people of color face when the odds are stacked against them.

Now, let’s talk about the other characters, because all of them are fully developed, stand on their own; and quite frankly, are just incredible.

I love Aydin. From first glance, Aydin seems cold and uncaring since he determined to show his father that he has what it takes to be a business mogul, but I promise you, he ends up surprising you.

Rashid, Hana’s cousin that visits from India is honestly a breath of fresh air. Rashid is clever and deserves way more credit than what he gets. People are quick to dismiss him simply because he’s from India, but he’s quick to remind people that xenophobia and racism is not exclusive to the Americas.

KawKab Khala. This is another cousin that unexpectedly accompanies Rashid from India, and y’all, this woman is ICONIC. I don’t want to give any of her secrets away, but just know that she’s a legend.

All of the discussions surrounding food literally had me drooling. I so very much just wanted to sit in Hana’s family restaurant and be served all of the delicious goodness that her mom was cooking up. Well, I am still on the fence about the biryani on poutine…poutine just does not sound like it’s for me (hello lactose intolerance my old friend).

This book had me bouncing from one emotion to the next. One minute, I was swooning over the banter between Hana and Aydin and the next I was ready to curse someone out for the blatant racism that Hana experienced at her workplace. I just need one good throat punch to her boss. That’s all I’m saying.

To wrap things up, this is truly an incredible book. The storytelling is top notch and really dives deep into both the benefits and struggles of being an immigrant. And since this is also a romance, there are plenty of swoon worthy moments to provide levity when it’s desperately needed.

Thank you to Berkley Romance for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

Grab your copy of Hana Khan Carries On here!

Uzma Jalaluddin grew up in a diverse suburb of Toronto. Her favourite place in the world is the nearest bookstore or library, so it came as no surprise to anyone when she started writing her own stories, poems, plays and other creative writing from an early age. Her debut novel, AYESHA AT LAST (2018), is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in the Toronto Muslim community. The novel was a Goodreads Choice Award Finalist, was featured on The Today Show, and was a Cosmopolitan UK Book of the Year. AYESHA AT LAST has been optioned for film by Pascal Pictures. Her second novel, HANA KHAN CARRIES ON, will be published in April 2021. She writes a culture and parenting column for The Toronto Star, and has written for The Atlantic. Uzma lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and two sons, where she also teaches high school. She is probably dreaming up ideas for her next book right about now.

Follow Uzma on twitter @UzmaWrites or Instagram @UzmaJalaluddin.  

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