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Review: Anthology of Muslim men writing about love includes diverse voices, yet amateurish

"Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, and Intimacy" (Beacon Press), edited by Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi

There's the story of an actor whose father was chairman of his town's Islamic centre, whose mother was the Sunday school principal, and who was publicly outed as gay in a newspaper article.

There's a grad student who realizes his doctor — to whom he gave his sexual history and asked for an STD test — is the father of a woman he's falling in love with.

And there's a geeky college student who meets his soul mate at a conference on international crisis resolution and learns she has cancer.

These are some of the tales American Muslim men share in "Salaam, Love," a new anthology exploring matters of the heart. Editors Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi write that after their first anthology, "Love, InshAllah," by American Muslim women, the reaction they got from many men was: "Where are our stories?" This collection is their answer to that.

"Salaam, Love" is impressively inclusive. There are stories from gay Muslims, conservative Muslims, secular Muslims and converted Muslims, and the topics run the gamut from infidelity to infertility.

Where the anthology falls painfully short is in the overall quality of the stories and the storytelling. Many of the pieces come across as stream of consciousness writing. Several are meandering, overwrought, amateurish. Far too many appear to have missed the essential steps of editing and refining.

A handful of the stories are excellent — engrossing, poignant, memorable — but they're in the minority, especially in the first two sections of the book. (The final section is the strongest, if you manage to power through.)

The anthology's premise was promising. Its execution is disappointing.

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