Books·First Look

Little Mosque on the Prairie creator Zarqa Nawaz publishing first novel, read an excerpt now

Jameela Green Ruins Everything will be released on March 8, 2022.

Jameela Green Ruins Everything will be released on March 8, 2022

Zarqa Nawaz is a former broadcaster, and the creator of the TV show Little Mosque on the Prairie. Her newest project is the novel Jameela Green Ruins Everything. (CBC News)

Zarqa Nawaz, the creator of the hit CBC comedy series, Little Mosque on the Prairie, is now a novelist. Her first novel, Jameela Green Ruins Everything, will be published on March 8, 2022.

Jameela Green Ruins Everything is a satirical novel about a young woman named Jameela Green, whose biggest dream is to see her novel become a bestseller. When that dream doesn't come true, she becomes involved in her local mosque, which inadvertently leads her to infiltrating an international terrorist organization. Jameela Green Ruins Everything is a dark comedy that explores success, searching for meaning and community, and the failures of American foreign policy.

"I started writing this book in 2014, when ISIS had first emerged, and it was a confusing and difficult time," Nawaz told CBC Books in a statement. "Writing the book helped me process what was happening in the world. This is by far the most challenging but rewarding piece of writing I've ever done."

Nawaz is a film and TV producer, writer and former broadcaster based in Regina. She is also the author of the memoir Laughing All the Way to the Mosque, which was shortlisted for the 2015 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Nawaz is also working on a new CBC TV series called Zarqa, which is set to premiere in May of this year.

You can read an excerpt from Jameela Green Ruins Everything below.

Lee Lee, Fajr Prayer, 6:07 a.m., Oct. 6

Dear Allah,

Mom's disappeared. The CIA says she's killed people. And that she's a terrorist. She is. But the kind who will fight you at a Kate Spade flash sale. Religion's never been her thing. I know she's been acting weird lately, but people don't get radicalized and run off to the Middle East to fight in a holy war that quickly. Unless terrorists sit around watching comedy specials on Netflix while online shopping, their lifestyle wouldn't appeal to her. I'm really scared. She could be a better person and mom, but I love her. Dad says her life has been complicated. And the complications have caught up to her. I'm doing what the imam at the mosque, Brother Ibrahim, taught me: be patient and ask You for help. So please help. But Brother Ibrahim is missing, too. Something is very, very wrong.


Maybe the prayers had finally worked. Jameela scanned the growing crowd in the New York Public Library's sixth floor. She was impressed. Her publicist, Arlene Baker, waved. She had on her uniform: a powder blue pantsuit last seen on Hillary Clinton or Chairman Mao. Jameela waved back.

"Great crowd," gushed Arlene as she tottered up to Jameela in matching heels, windmilling her arms to maintain her balance. She air-kissed Jameela with her perfect raspberry pout. Jameela wondered how her lipstick never came off. Maybe it was tattooed on.

"I haven't seen a book launch this big in a while," Arlene said. "And I've been to two others already this week."

"I know why they're here," said Jameela. "I've been trying something new."



Jameela hadn't prayed since Jamal. But now there was something she needed badly. After decades of work, Jameela had finished her memoir. She looked up, trying to find God in the tin-stamped ceiling.

Remember what we talked about, she thought. You will make my book go right to the top of the New York Times bestseller list like You do for all the white people You love so much: J. K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood, or even better, Malcolm Gladwell. That guy doesn't need any more number one books. And he has enough hair on his head to stuff a whole pillow. Do any of those people even believe in You? Probably not. In the Qur'an, Prophet Solomon asked for a kingdom greater than anyone's before or after, plus to talk to animals, and You gave it to him. So now it's my turn. I want a literary career greater than anyone else's. I don't want to talk to ants or anything. Unless they know how to order a book from Amazon. So that's it. IMMORTAL LITERARY SUCCESS. If You need to send me a sign, use a grilled cheese sandwich. That's what You do for Christians, right?

I am not in high school anymore. I am an accomplished woman. Please, everyone look at me, she thought.

Arlene touched Jameela's arm and brought her back to earth. "That's so funny, sweetie, I thought you said 'praying.' So much press here. So fantastic. And your mom and her friends came, too. How sweet." Jameela turned to see her mother, Nusrat, arriving with five of her Pakistani friends, all wearing bright, jewel-toned shalwar chemises. She acknowledged them with a curt nod, her right hand in her jacket pocket, rubbing the blue marble prayer beads her brother, Jamal, had given her as a child. People streamed in by the dozens. She should have tried praying long ago. Who knew God could be so responsive?

But then Courtney Leland entered. Jameela froze. The familiar chill of dread ran up her spine, even after all these years. Why was that woman here?

Oh no. Suddenly it made sense why people were rushing to get front row seats. Jameela clutched her prayer beads so tightly her fingers hurt. Fear and anxiety sparked through her body. She was instantly transported back to high school, a time when she and her mother had constantly fought over her clothing choices. She was forced to wear pants under her dresses, and any hairstyle besides pigtails was deemed too alluring. If Anne of Green Gables had been brown, with a unibrow and a mustache, Jameela would have been her doppelgänger. During that tumultuous period, her brother had convinced her to join the yearbook staff to gain experience as a writer and develop confidence. By her senior year, she had become editor of the school yearbook and eked out a niche for herself — until Courtney joined the team and, like a black hole, absorbed all whose eyes gazed upon her. In that year's yearbook, their group photograph featured a smiling Courtney standing in the front of everyone, hands on hips, partly blocking Jameela's face.

The caption editor was typed under her photo.

She looked exactly the same now as she had back then, maybe a bit thinner and blonder. Her clothing choices perhaps had become more cutting edge. She wore knee-high black suede boots with stiletto heels over black leggings, a miniskirt, and an orange jacket with metal zippers everywhere. It looked like she'd just thrown the outfit together, but Jameela could tell that it was all high-end designer.

I am not in high school anymore. I am an accomplished woman. Please, everyone look at me, she thought.

Excerpted from Jameela Green Ruins Everything by Zarqa Nawaz. Published by Simon and Schuster Canada, 2022. All rights reserved.

WATCH | Zarqa Nawaz discusses her family's connection to the CN Tower:

'We belong here.' Zarqa Nawaz on her family connection to a Canadian landmark

6 years ago
Duration 0:59
"As a child of immigrants, to be able to say we were part of the building of this country is an important thing to say. It matters to us. Our blood is in the soil of this country."

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