The Next Chapter·Dog-Eared Reads

Why YA novelist S.K. Ali loves Flannery O'Connor's fiction

The author of Saints and Misfits sees connections between her work as a Muslim writer and the stories of Roman Catholic novelist O’Connor.
One of YA author S.K. Ali's favourite books is The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor. (Andrea Stenson/Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

S.K. Ali' debut YA novel, Saints and Misfits, is about a young Muslim woman struggling to understand how a respected member of her faith community could be capable of assault.

Ali is a big fan of Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories. Ali sees connections between her work as a Muslim writer and O'Connor's stories.

This interview originally aired on Feb. 5, 2018.

Kindred spirits

"I like to revisit The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor. I think it might be because O'Connor was a person of faith, which I identify strongly with as a practicing Muslim. I love that she explores what it means to be a person of faith versus a person who pretends faith — that's one of the themes in my book as well."

A writer's quest

"When I was reading O'Connor's stories as a teen, I actually read them for that element of creepiness. Her characters are not who they say they are, so there is that mystery there. Later on, upon rereading her stories, I saw that other layer that was there. I read her biography and I saw that she was really into examining why faith does not affect actions. It happens all around the world — people, supposedly, of faith are doing heinous things. I saw that she took time to look into this, and yet she still kept her faith. She's one of the titans of American literature, so I'd love to do that in my fiction as well."   

S.K. Ali's comments have been edited and condensed.