by MARCIA Z. NELSON and JANA RIESS for PUBLISHERS WEEKLY on OCTOBER 3, 2014:
One rarely uses the term booming in publishing these days, but it’s fair to say that academic publishing about Islam is doing just that. New books are diverse in subject matter and house of origin, as this major religion’s world-shaping influence is being more closely examined.
University of North Carolina Press has three installments in its Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks series. Sahar Amer’s What Is Veiling? (Sept.) will be joined in April 2015 by Ebrahim Moosa’s What Is Madrasa? and Bruce Lawrence’s Who Is Allah? Elaine Maisner, senior executive editor at the press, says more books are in the works to join this series. “Islamic studies is continuing to trend,” she notes. “We are interested in Islamic studies beyond the conventional link with fundamentalism, and we are finding some interesting work in the area of lived religion, and of progressive Islam.”
For publishers that can successfully hit the sweet spot in books on Islam in America—they need to be fresh enough to merit scholarly attention, but also mainstream enough for course adoption—the rewards can be great. At NYU, the 1998 title Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas has sold nearly 20,000 copies and was reissued in 2013 in a 15th-anniversary edition.
Oxford University Press has long had a deep list on the subject, and several key themes characterize its new titles in the field. Senior editor Theo Calderara says OUP’s newest releases investigate the history of Islam (In God’s Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire by Robert G. Hoyland, Oct.) and consider the complex relationships of Islam and politics (What Is an American Muslim? Embracing Faith and Citizenship by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, Feb.). In addition to producing its signature hefty handbooks on aspects of Islam, the press is adding to its Qur’anic studies program with such titles as Feminist Edges of the Qur’an by Aysha A. Hidayatullah (May).