What happens to a teen girl who is expected to observe Ramadan by her family? How can a teen live if she has to give up not only pizza but boys?
Those are the themes of Bestest.Ramadan.Ever., a debut young adult novel written by Miami Beach resident Medeia Sharif.
“It’s about a girl named Almira,” Sharif said. “During the last Ramadan she cheated and she ate. Her grandfather catches her with crumbs on her mouth. The next Ramadan she decides to be good. She’s not supposed to think about boys. But she falls in love with a boy. There is a possibility she’ll get into trouble with her parents and her best friend if she goes after what she wants, which is the boy.”
Sharif and another debut author, Kristi Cook, did a book signing on July 16 at Books and Books in Coral Gables, an event co-sponsored by the Florida Center for the Literary Arts.
“It was fun. It was a nice crowd,” Sharif said. “I read funny excerpts. Then someone started laughing and I started laughing. It was a bit of an interruption.”
Thus far, Bestest.Ramadan.Ever. has received two good reviews from well-known review publications, Kirkus and Booklist.
Initially, Sharif set out to write a middle grade book focused on a boy celebrating the holiday.
“But when I thought it out, I wanted it to be a girl. I had a previous adult novel that didn’t work out so I took pieces of that and made this book,” she said.
Bestest.Ramadan.Ever. is not autobiographical. Sharif said she’s never celebrated the Muslim holiday — which requires fasting from sunrise to sunset every day for a month — although members of her family would. In fact, her family did not get upset with her for not participating in the holiday.
“I had to read about the holiday and I had to read about the religion,” she said. “There was even a scene when she was in a mosque and had to do research because I’ve never been in a mosque.”
It took her about nine months to write the book. Currently, she’s working on two novels simultaneously — one is a sequel to Bestest.Ramadan.Ever. and the other is about a girl who is very attractive but loses her looks in a very fast and unusual manner.
“I hope to be finished with one of them by the end of the summer,” Sharif said.
She shares her writing with a critique group based in Aventura.
“My group has read portions of my two books and I’ve noticed an improvement in my writing,” she said. “I think if I joined them sooner, I would have been published sooner. It really doesn’t help writing in a bubble, which I was.”
Sharif wrote her first book when she was 17 and has written poetry and short stories since middle school. Although every writer’s dream is to write full-time, she’s has kept her day job as a public school reading and English teacher. She had been teaching high school English at Corporate Academy North, an alternative school, but expects to be assigned to a new school soon. That’s because budget constraints and attendance require closing and combining the alternative schools.
“I’ll be placed somewhere else,” she said. “I’m certified in middle and high school.”