Ramiza Shamoun Koya has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in publications such as Columbia Review, Lumina, Washington Square Review, and Mutha Magazine. She has been a fellow at both MacDowell Colony and Blue Mountain Center. Her father was born in Fiji, her mother in Texas, and she was born in California. She lives with her daughter and two cats. Her debut novel, The Royal Abduls, is published by Forest Avenue Press. The book is slated for an official national release May 12, 2020, Portland-area booksellers are teaming to get the title on local shelves in February, with a soft launch slated for Powell’s City of Books on Sunday, March 15, 2020 at 2:00.
In addition to this special early release, Forest Avenue Press publisher Laura Stanfill and NWBookLovers wanted to celebrate Koya’s stunning work with a first-ever face out extravaganza. Below, please enjoy recommendations from Pacific Northwest booksellers, authors, and literary luminaries. We are sure there will be more raves where these came from. Find your copy in Portland this week or preorder from stores everywhere for the May 12 release. After you’ve finished reading, please comment on this post with your recommendation.
Amina Abdul is a biologist studying the elusive hybrid zone, areas where differing species can mate and have viable offspring. A perfect metaphor for her American family with Muslim East Indian heritage facing post-9/11 hatred, desperately braving connection with each other and community. And while these major motifs guide the story, the magic of Shamoun Koya’s novel are the familiar and universal voices of the relocating Amina and her now neighboring brother’s family. Told in part by Amina and in part by her adolescent nephew Omar we are invited into the inner workings of a struggling American family and to see ourselves on every page. This is a wonderful story with great depth and thoughtfulness. I loved it!
—Kim Bissell, Broadway Books (Portland, OR)
The Royal Abduls is a powerful novel; I was swept up by Amina’s life and her nephew Omar’s struggles. The friction between isolation and connection that Koya presents so realistically in every character is rare to find, and left me both bereft and hopeful.
—Ruby Meyers, Annie Bloom’s Books (Portland, OR)
I have just begun this debut novel by Portland author Koya and am really enjoying it. Amina moves to DC to further her career and be close to her family in the years following 9/11. There, she develops a relationship with her nephew, who is fascinated by their East Indian heritage and is searching for answers. This is a well-crafted story about second-generation Americans finding their place in the world.
—Jennifer Hill, Powell’s Books (Portland, OR) in “The Big 3-0: Meet the Books Our Buyers Can’t Wait to Read This Year“
The Royal Abduls is a beautiful testament to the complexity of family and social dynamics in mixed-ethnicity, minority families in post 9-11 American society. Set in Washington D.C. and centering around a strong and intelligent female protagonist, The Royal Abduls is a must-read for young, minority women trying to find their place in culture that pins professional and personal spheres against each other. This novel will be a wonderful addition to any family.
“This is a heartfelt post-9/11, coming-of-age tale from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy; a boy with brown skin and a longing for a connection to the land that birthed his family: India. Amid anti-Muslim grumblings, Omar, his father Mohammed, and his aunt Amina try to manage their lives within the newly harsh focus from their peers, law enforcement, the government, and even family. Examining themes of emotional ties, solitude, tragedy, the thirst for self actualization, family, science, and lives upended, Koya writes a tender love letter to all Muslim- Americans who have been denounced and disowned by their own country. Gorgeously done, The Royal Abduls brings that which is carefully hidden out into the light; searching for the truth at all costs.”
—Dianah Hughley, bookseller, Powell’s City of Books (Portland, OR)
Ramiza Shamoun Koya’s novel The Royal Abduls brought my heart back from the brink of despair through the story of an Indian-American family refusing to come apart in the face of a country pushing them into pieces. In particular the journey of evolutionary biologist Amina and her nephew Omar as they explore identity, love, anger and empathy in a post-9/11 landscape reflects the reader’s own tensions and contradictions back to us asking, will we evolve or devolve? How do we rebuild love in the face of warring impulses? Who do we want to become in this moment of difficulty? The Royal Abduls is stunningly hopeful.
—Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water
In this unputdownable novel, Ramiza Shamoun Koya has given us a story of family, identity and the perilous politics of our time. With the theme of “hybrid” running deftly through, Ms. Koya gives us at once a deeply personal story and one whose universal themes challenge us to rethink some deeply held assumptions and definitions about the world we live in. A beautiful and important contribution to contemporary fiction.
—Liz Scott, author of This Never Happened
Ramiza’s whipped up two kickass characters that take about five seconds to fall in love with. Amina’s just about the most relatable protagonist in recent memory, and Omar’s got that youthful innocence we all wish we still had. Crafting a compelling tale combined with all the racist shit brown folks deal with in America, Ramiza knows how to tell a story that is both equally serious and wickedly fun to read.
—Jonah Barrett, author of Moss Covered Claws
The Royal Abduls is a rich, multi-generational tale of the complexities of the immigrant experience in America, a beautifully nuanced tale that cannot be reduced to bumper sticker sized slogans. Ramiza Koya has given us, in Amina Abdul, a true hero, a human being struggling to find her path forward in her chosen field, despite the palpable truth that her ethnicity and her gender work against her. Koya shows us the ties that bind families and cultures together, and the strains that fray those bonds as each generation makes its own accommodation with a new
culture. Her lucid prose keeps the story leaning forward, and never settles for a simple answer, nor a half-truth.
—Stevan Allred, author of The Alehouse at the End of the World
The Royal Abduls kept me up way too late one night, and Koya’s characters have stayed with me since. This novel understands how we hide from the people we love, how we can’t help but show ourselves to them … and how our country too stumbles toward self-reckoning, exposing the truth despite itself.”
—Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet, author of The Greenhouse and Tulips, Water, Ash
This is the complicated emotional geography of a family dealing with all the hills and valley of assimilation in a new country. Amina loses herself in intellectual pursuits and has the same difficulty her brother has in valuing human relationships first. Omar’s perspective and voice elevate both the romanticism of a country he’s never visited but that holds his heritage. His clinging to the romantic notions juxtaposes the reality of bullying that comes out of being “different.” Why is it so hard for many Americans to realize we are all immigrants? . . . Lovely and timely.
—Dian Greenwood, essayist
I did not expect to find myself, a middle-aged, white woman, in the pages of Ramiza Shamoun Koya’s novel The Royal Abduls, and yet, there I was. Like Amina Abdul, I am an evolutionary biologist who studied the fuzzy divide between species. Like Amina Abdul, I was a woman in academia, who had to navigate difficult choices around career and family. Like Amina Abdul, I watched men succeed while women were held back by harassment and discrimination. This kinship drew me into Koya’s densely layered story of a family fracturing in post-9/11 America.
Hybrids—individuals caught between two species, born of both, never wholly of either—don’t tend to last. Conditions tend to favor one species over the other, and eventually the hybrids are swamped out. Stable hybrid zones are rare. Balance is hard to achieve. Co-existence with difference only occurs under very specific circumstances. This is the central metaphor of The Royal Abduls. In its pages, the dynamics of the hybrid zones between white America and Brown America, the needs of the heart and the demands of career, and the world of a child and the
world of adults swirl and clash.
I loved this subtle, smart, skillful book, and I closed the last page feeling hopeful that Amina, her family, and her friends, and in truth, all of us in America today, will find our way to a stable hybrid zone, no one group swamped out by the other, but each living a true life.
— Amber J. Keyser, author of No More Excuses: Dismantling Rape Culture
A beautiful and messy family story set in the tumultuous post 9/11 world of Washington, DC, The Royal Abduls digs deep into the hearts of a small boy and his academic auntie as they struggle to define themselves and stay connected to the ones they love. It’s a story of an immigrant experience of our times, full of hope and tender human wisdom.
—Joanna Rose, author of A Small Crowd of Strangers
The Royal Abduls is a propulsive and absorbing story of the tensions that reside between career and love, personal desires and family expectations. Upping the power of this book, Ramiza Shamoun Koya deftly reveals how these tensions are made more complicated by political, cultural and social forces. Especially unique in this story is the complex and beautifully drawn relationship between the two point of view characters: a childless aunt
and her adolescent nephew. We need more stories like this.
—Jackie Shannon Hollis, author of This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story
Set in DC, this is a novel about anti-Muslim sentiment and misconceptions about race and identity in the years following 9/11, centering on one family with East Indian heritage. But it’s not just a novel of being targeted as “other.” This is the story of loner scientist Amina’s emotional coming of age and accepting that family and love are a necessary and valued part of life. You can’t do it alone. You shouldn’t do it alone.
— Cindy Heidemann, Pacific Northwest sales rep, PGW and Two Rivers
Ramiza Koya’s debut, The Royal Abduls, is one to note as a narrative doing the work of forging a new canon. Through brilliant voice, language, description, characterization, and tremendous tension, Koya masterfully brings three-dimensional life into Amina, Omar, their Indian- American familial dynamic, and those they interact and forge relationships with in their post- 9/11 America. This multi-generational arc exposes the sincere struggle in the search for identity and ancestral roots in a country and at a time when black and brown bodies are perceived and registered as threats. Koya challenges her readers to get uncomfortably close to the palpable anguish, curiosity and love experienced by her characters on their brave, heartening individual and collective journeys through the age-old transformation of self that will stick to the readers’ bones and resonate with them long after reading.
—Samm Saxby, associate editor, Forest Avenue Press
Though not due out until early 2020, Ramiza Shamoun Koya’s debut novel, The Royal Abduls, is one to look out for. Both entertaining and thought-provoking, it is the story of a family trying as hard as they can to be “normal” Americans, despite being of Indian Muslim descent. Amina Abdul believes they have succeeded until her young nephew, Omar, begins to speak with an Indian accent. Told from alternating points of view, the novel explores what it means to be different. Omar can’t decide if he is Indian or American; to be both doesn’t seem possible. As Amina struggles to help him, she discovers that she too is trying to answer this very question. Calling to mind some of the struggles of my own family (I am married to an Iranian), I found myself finding extra reading time in order to learn what happens to these characters. The wine I chose to pair with this rich and timely novel is a 2018 Stoller Dundee Hills Chardonnay. A distinctly beautiful Yamhill County wine, full of the flavors of Bosc pear and sweet apple balanced by a touch of bitter orange, its finish is long and soft and not unlike the affection I feel for Ramiza Shamoun Koya’s book.
—Mary Wysong-Haeri, Oenophile