Skip to main content

Cut from the Same Cloth? Muslim Women on Life in Britain

So many times while reading this book I found myself nodding and saying ‘YES!’ I hadn’t realised how very rarely I come across a book, writers, voices, that speak to the entirety of my existence as a British Muslim woman; finding that book, those voices, was like letting out a breath I’d been holding, or feeling the relief of relaxing aching facial muscles that had been stretched in a smile all day. There was no need to pretend, no need to explain, no need to justify. What made this anthology of essays so different from the usual ones, was that they are not teaching or preaching, nor do they try to cater to an external gaze. These are British Muslim women writing their experiences and thoughts for women like themselves; women like ME.

The essays in this book have been collected by Sabeena Akhtar, and include pieces by figures such as Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, Shaista Aziz, Yvonne Ridley and others. All of them are different in tone, style, and subject – some are academic or discursive, others are more creative and expressive. While each of them offers an abundance of insights, with incisive or exquisitely evocative writing, I was particularly blown away by the narrative style and nostalgia of Mariam Ansar’s ‘Youth in the Time of Madrassahs,’ the emotion in Suma Din’s ‘A Cartography of Motherhood,’ and the rage and weariness of Sophie Williams’ ‘On Therapy.’

But if I had to pick out a common thread or theme running through them all I think it would be this: the importance of no longer seeing ourselves as others see us. These pieces are all about the struggle to let go of the perpetual burden of ‘breaking stereotypes’, or ‘representing the faith,’ or fulfilling roles in relation to others – daughter, mother, wife, employee, boss. They are about the struggle to just be women on our own terms, while dealing with racism, prejudice, mental illness, disability, intergenerational conflict, motherhood, grief and everything else life throws at us. I think this quote from Marguerite Bennett’s ‘InSEXTs’, at the beginning of Sofia Rehman’s essay ‘The Gift of Second Sight’, sums it up perfectly:

‘If you are never to see yourself depicted…Not in story, nor song, nor poem, nor painting, nor prose…no shred of a tale by some distant kindred soul who saw and knew and felt then as you do now, and else another who bore witness…Never see yourself except as crude caricature, mythical beast, or Magdalene penitent…You believe no other like you ever existed. Unquiet women, defiant women – we live invisible lives…We will take up and take back the tools to tell our stories as our own.’

And that is what each of the writers of the essays in this collection has done – told our stories as our own.

A celebration of the resilience, talent and heart of British Muslim women, and one of my top reads of 2021.

Brown Bronte rating: 5 Stars


Thanks to @RandomTTours and Unbound publishing.

Follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Join the conversation at The Brown Brontë's Book Club .


Comments

  1. Huge thanks for the blog tour support x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome, as always! Thanks so much for organising it 🤓

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

50 Years of Bangladesh

 Today is the 50th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh. Growing up, my sisters and I would hear stories from parents and relatives about the War of Independence of 1971. We would go to community events commemorating Bangladesh Independence Day, Victory Day, Language Martyrs Day, and listen to veterans and members of the community who lived through that period, talking about their experiences. As they stood in front of rows of nodding elders and bored schoolchildren, the pain and pride in their voices rumbled through the microphone in their hands and filled the small community hall, along with the aroma of biryani stacked in boxes at the back, waiting to be handed round later.     Although we often had mixed feelings about sitting through those three-hour programmes, I've begun to realise that those parents who dragged their children along to those events knew that one day there would be nobody left alive who had witnessed that history.     As second or third generation di

Chatting with Kate Morrison, Author: A Book of Secrets

Something special on the blog today, readers: I'm thrilled to be chatting to Kate Morrison, author of stunning debut A Book of Secrets, as part of its Random Things Tour. Join us as we talk about historical research, women's independence and racism in Elizabethan England. "A Book of Secrets is the story of a woman named Susan Charlewood living in Elizabethan England. Born in what is now Ghana, Susan is enslaved by the Portuguese but later rescued by British sailors, who bring her to England. Once in England, she is raised in an English Cathoic household. When Susan comes of age, the family marry her off to an older Catholic man, John Charlewood. Charlewood runs a printing press and uses it to supply the Papist nobility with illegal Catholic texts and foment rebellion amongst the Catholic underclass. When Charlewood, Susan takes over the business and uses her new position to find out more about her origins.  A look at racial relationships at the beginning of the eve of the

Why Helen Graham is the Best Brontë Heroine

This month was Anne Bront ë ’s 200 th birthday, so I couldn’t let it go without writing a post in honour of it.  Anne Bronte, Project Gutenberg I don't think I'm alone in thinking that Anne was the boldest of her sisters. Her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall certainly is the bravest in rebelling against social expectations of women, and Helen Graham is by far my favourite heroine. Here’s why: 1.  She’s an adult, independent woman who has lived a full(er) life in society. Rather than living in the margins of society, in a state of arrested development, like Jane, Lucy, Agnes or even Cathy who never wanted to leave the moors, Helen’s previous life means she seems more like a well-rounded person. This might have made her story all the more shocking to Victorian audiences, as Helen’s social standing combined with her radical ideas would have been more likely to influence other people than those of a governess. She can’t be dismissed as just a naïve or unrelia