Temple Folk

Finalist, National Book Awards 2023 for Fiction

ISBN 9781982191818
Simon & Schuster
author photo of Aaliyah Bilal. (Photo credit: Tasha Pinelo)
Aaliyah Bilal

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 Rumpus. More about this author >

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From the publisher:

In Temple Folk, Black Muslims contemplate the convictions of their race, religion, economics, politics, and sexuality in America. The ten 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.

Judges Citation

Following the days, years, and decades after the death of The Honorable Elijah Muhamad, the short stories in Temple Folk explore the individual journeys of current and former members of The Nation of Islam as they endeavor to discover where their true faith and future lies. Temple Folk offers an intimate look into a community rarely explored in fiction, but it is the skill of debut author Aaliyah Bilal—and her rare gift for capturing the nuances of the human condition—that makes this short story collection one of the most important books of the year.


Aaliyah Bilal at the 2023 National Book Awards Finalist Reading