CECH Spotlight highlights recommended books in the the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) Library.
Hollow Fires / written by Samira Ahmed / 2022
CW: Islamophobia (Graphic), Racism (Graphic), Murder, Neo-Nazism (Graphic), Xenophobia, Racial Slurs, White Supremacy (Graphic)
Samira Ahmed’s contemporary thriller Hollow Fires switches between two narratives: Jawad Ali, a middle schooler who loves to invent, and Safiya Mirza, a senior with a passion for journalism. Nothing connects the two, but to the rest of their Chicago neighborhood, they’re one in the same as they practice the same religion: Islam.
It starts with Jawad being labeled a terrorist over his Halloween costume, then his disappearance, then his murder. Safiya follows his story closely, as her majority-white school district sweeps the incident under the rug like it’s nothing. But when she starts receiving threats like Jawad did, it’s up to her and her friends to investigate, since the school and police don’t seem to care.
Throughout her novel, Ahmed includes multimedia pieces such as interviews, text messages, articles, and transcripts to emphasis the message. By not just jumping between Jawad (after he’s passed) and Safiya’s perspectives the novel also utilizes the literary technique of being a “frame story,” where it begins at the end and then takes readers on the journey to the end. Ahmed brings nonfiction into her novel, using real life circumstances and recent history to guide the haunting truth of Islamophobia and racism in American society in the 21st century.
Ahmed tackles modern issues within America, and this novel can be graphic in its realistic portrayal of these actions. This novel is a fantastic read, but it does tackle very heavy subjects so please read up on the content warning (CW) before reading.
Review by Alice Somers, CECH Library Student Assistant | Early Childhood Education and Deaf Studies, CECH 2026