Temple Folk (Paperback)

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Finalist for the 2023 National Book Award for Fiction

A “splendid and grand collection” (Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize­–winning author of The Known World) portraying the lived experiences of Black Muslims grappling with faith, family, and freedom in America.

In Temple Folk, Black Muslims contemplate the convictions of their race, religion, economics, politics, and sexuality in America. The ten “beautiful and vivid” (Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award­–winning and New York Times bestselling author) stories in this collection contribute to the bounty of diverse narratives about Black life by intimately portraying the experiences of a community that resists the mainstream culture to which they are expected to accept and aspire to while functioning within the country in which they are born.

In “Due North,” an obedient daughter struggles to understand why she’s haunted by the spirit of her recently deceased father. In “Who’s Down?” a father, after a brief affair with vegetarianism, conspires with his daughter to order him a double cheeseburger. In “Candy for Hanif” a mother’s routine trip to the store for her disabled son takes an unlikely turn when she reflects on a near-death experience. In “Woman in Niqab,” a daughter’s suspicion of her father’s infidelity prompts her to wear her hair in public. In “New Mexico,” a federal agent tasked with spying on a high-ranking member of the Nation of Islam grapples with his responsibilities closer to home.

With an unflinching eye for the contradictions between what these characters profess to believe and what they do, Temple Folk accomplishes the rare feat of presenting moral failures with compassion, nuance, and humor to remind us that while perfection is what many of us strive for, it’s the errors that make us human.

About the Author

Aaliyah Bilal was born and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She has degrees from Oberlin College and the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies. She’s published stories and essays with The Michigan Quarterly Review and The RumpusTemple Folk is her first short story collection.

Praise For…

A Finalist for the 2023 National Book Award for Fiction
The New Yorker's Best Books of 2023
Time Magazine's Best 10 Fiction Books of 2023
Time Magazine's Best 100 Books of 2023
NPR's Best Books of 2023

“Aaliyah Bilal’s debut short story collection, a finalist for a 2023 National Book Award, offers a vivid and nuanced portrait of the Black Muslim experience. Across 10 stories, she introduces characters, often women, who are reconsidering or rediscovering their faith… Temple Folk is Bilal’s love letter to her community.” –Time Magazine

“These nine short stories follow Black American Muslims who drift toward and away from their faith, judge one another for immodesty, wrestle with upended family lore, and reflect with ambivalence on the impact the Nation of Islam has had on their lives… Bilal’s stories depict characters who serve as sensitive guides to matters of apostasy, racial prejudice, and gender roles.” –The New Yorker

Temple Folk’s stories touch on modesty and sexuality, abuse and family, responsibility and faith.” –The New York Times

“Bilal’s finely drawn and unvarnished character portraits leave much space for readers to reflect on their own conflicting allegiances, identities, and beliefs. These singular stories offer great insight on a community underexplored in literature. –Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Aaliyah Bilal says she knows that a lot of people associate the Nation of Islam with hate. But in her new collection of short stories, Temple Folk, she reclaims narratives about Black Muslims and how they contemplate faith, identity and community in the U.S.” –NPR

“A groundbreaking debut collection portraying the lived experiences of Black Muslins grappling with faith, family, and freedom in America.” –BookBrowse

“In Bilal’s debut, Black American Muslims explore the intricacies of their faith and community.” –Kirkus Reviews

“This stunning collection by debut author Aaliyah Bilal features Black Muslims as they reckon with family, faith, and community. A collection dealing with faith of any kind, regardless of the particular religion, should wrestle with the gap between what the characters believe and how they act, and Bilal is a master at drawing those contradictions. The characters come to life in these stories, which are often quiet, but never without an elegant assuredness… Temple Folk announces Aaliyah Bilal as a remarkable talent and a writer to watch.” –Chicago Review of Books

Temple Folk is more than a special literary accomplishment, it is a gift of glorious songs. The people in the nation of Islam have not appeared very often in literature. Now, Aaliyah Bilal arrives with a splendid and grand collection of 10 stories that, with sensitivity and insight and skill, give us a world of people, our loved ones, and neighbors, who decided that life might be better in the nation. We have long needed these stories, these songs, and this gift should be praised from as many rooftops as possible.” —Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Known World

“Obviously a student of history, and even more so, a student of the human heart, Aaliyah Bilal lays bare the interior lives of Black Muslims in these ten extraordinary stories. Across decades, generations, and continents, Bilal's finely wrought and unforgettable characters grapple with religion, culture, family, desire, and most compellingly, themselves. Every story was an eye-opener for me. Bilal is a gifted storyteller, and Temple Folk is quite simply a masterpiece.” –Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Life of Church Ladies

“Aaliyah Bilal is a gifted storyteller who understands how to build a world that feels both particular in its contours and universal in the challenges, triumphs and yearnings of its characters. The stories that make up Temple Folk explore love, faith, loyalty and disillusionment while offering up gorgeous langauge and unforgettable imagery. Temple Folk feels like no collection I have read before and announces Bilal as a literary talent worth championing.” –Angela Flournoy, Author of The Turner House

“A beautiful and vivid collection of stories. Aaliyah Bilal is the truth. Grateful for her voice in the world.” –Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author

“Temple Folk is a remarkable debut that does many things at once. It opens the door to a people we barely know, yet opens our eyes to the struggles that make us all human.  People surprise and they disappoint. They stumble spiritually and soar morally. They love with all they have and lose all they've got. Put between faith and family, duty and self, Temple folk live through all the ties that bind and break.” –Marlon James, Winner of the 2015 Booker Prize

“With her landmark debut, Temple Folk, Aaliyah Bilal shines a light on a Black American community that, for all its influence, hasn’t been given its due in fiction—the Nation of Islam.  The deftness of her storytelling allows total access to characters struggling to practice faith as a means of survival. This is a truly masterful work, full of compassion, humor, nuance, and great insight.” –Emily Raboteau, Author of Searching for Zion

Product Details
ISBN: 9781982191825
ISBN-10: 1982191821
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: July 2nd, 2024
Pages: 256
Language: English