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 .


  1. Huge thanks for the blog tour support x

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


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

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

Five Strong Fictional Mothers

This time last year we were all in the first lockdown situation. Many of us were unable to go and visit our mothers but thankfully modern technology meant we could still keep in touch. This time around, hopefully more of us will be able to go and see our mothers - though there might still be a restriction on hugs. In the meantime, let’s talk about mothers in books. Here are my top fictional mums (in no particular order): 1.        Marmee, Little Women Marmee is the quintessentially perfect mother. She’s strongminded, principled, and teaches her girls the values she wants them to grow up with. As matriarchs go, she’s probably the most iconic one. Even if she comes across as a little preachy some of the time. OK, a lot of the time.   2.        Marilla, Anne of Green Gables Even though Marilla isn’t Anne’s biological mother, she provides all the love and stability that Anne has missed in her childhood before coming to Green Gables. She starts off being rather stiff and strict