Onion Tears talks of displacement in a funny manner. It does. At the same time, it also manages to convey what is wants to in a subtle manner and yet does not lose sight of the smaller incidents needed to live life.
I do not have a problem reading Women’s Fiction. In fact more often than not, I think it is more close to life and comes from a personal space, which very few male writers manage to achieve in their writing.
Onion Tears by Shubnum Khan is a story of three generations of Muslim Women living in Johannesburg. It is a simple story of life, loss and love. It is a story of identity mingled with that and of food thrown in for the soul.
The three women are clearly laid out at the beginning – Khadeejah Bibi Ballim is a hardworking and staunch first-generation Indian, who clearly longs for her homeland. Her daughter Summaya is trying very hard to merge and reconcile her South African and Indian identities. While on the other hand, Summaya’s eleven-year old daughter Aneesa has questions of her own about her father’s death, which adds to the suspense element. The three main characters undergo a change due to a single event, which will either get them closer or destroy them as a family altogether.
Each character in the book is in search of something – country, memories, a lost father and the elusive happiness that we all want. The book is character-driven. The voices are unique and will startle you at times. It is the unexpected that forms the crux of this book.
Onion Tears does the job of surfacing women issues in the not-in-your-face manner which very few Women Writers manage. The story is not just of Muslim Women and their place in society. It moves beyond that after a point and remains only a prop to propel the story. I enjoyed the book. It made me think of issues and made me smile at the same time as well.