My fourth novel, Stage Daughter, is nearly complete. Yet never before have I felt such trepidation about releasing a work of fiction. Even with my first novel, Later With Myself: The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz (which portrays—albeit somewhat fictionally—the freak show that was my childhood), I did not feel such angst as I do about my latest multicultural undertaking.

In Stage Daughter, protagonist Sonya Schoenberg haplessly conceives a child with a devout Muslim man through a night of drunken (on Sonya's part), unprotected sex. For the next thirteen years, she struggles on her own as a single mother, only to find herself doing emotional battle once her daughter, Razia, begins to morph into a rebellious teen. Desperate to maintain her fragile hold over Raz, and unprepared to “own” her connection to Razia’s biological father, Sonya gets an unwelcome dose of “baby daddy drama” when Razia locates her dad—a man whose fervent Islamic views threaten Sonya’s way of life.

Aziz Qureshi is equal parts successful business owner, paternalistic A-hole, and religious zealot. And while he can be calculating and controlling in his dealings with the women in his life, he genuinely wants to “step up” and take responsibility for his illegitimate child—motivated as much by the teachings of the Koran as by the stirrings of his own muddled heart.

My readers and friends know my novels to be gritty and controversial. Through my characters’ challenges with discrimination, domestic abuse, toxic family histories and now unplanned parenthood, I try to explore important social issues in an entertaining and non-threatening way. Stage Daughter, while somewhat tamer (in that it lacks graphic sex scenes), is no exception. But in doing research on Islam for my latest book, I was astounded by the passion and sheer volume of hate speech plastered throughout the Internet. I haven’t checked to see whether similar hate speech is so prevalent (and seemingly tolerated) against other groups, but I found the abundance of hateful, small-minded, anti-Islamic comments to be both chilling and eye-opening.

Don’t get me wrong—the 9-11 terrorist attacks were a truly horrific thing. But so was the calculated genocide of Native American and Jewish populations; the enslavement African Americans for 90-plus years; and the invasion and oppression of countless nations and populations for political and economic gain. Examples of human cruelty are endless and seem to know no bounds. Clearly, Muslims as a group do not hold the exclusive on terrorism and brutality.

Nonetheless, Sonya Schoenberg feels strongly that Aziz’s firmly-held Islamic beliefs disqualify him from helping to raise her child (especially since he makes no secret of the fact that he ultimately wants to see his long-lost daughter become a Muslim). I will leave it to readers to decide whether they agree. Stage Daughter will be available August 1st. In the meantime, if you haven’t caught my first three, Later With Myself, An Unexpected Exile and The Floater are all available on as e-books for just $1.49 apiece.