Tag Archives: Pan Macmillan

It’s Not About The Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality, and Race. Edited by Mariam Khan

It's Not About The Burqa

Title: It’s Not About The Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality, and Race
Edited by Mariam Khan
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-1509886401
Genre: Essays, Anthology,
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

Since time immemorial, women have been taught to be silent, or forced into silence, or submission. We have been following that for centuries now, maybe earlier than that. Women are seen or heard through a filter, and for what it’s worth it is 2019 and we should be done with all filters. It’s Not About The Burqa – an anthology of Muslim Women by Muslim Women does just that. It is about voices unfiltered – bare and open, waiting to be heard.

The idea of the anthology occurred to Mariam Khan when in 2016 she read that David Cameron had linked the radicalisation of Muslim men to the “submissive nature” of Muslim women. And this led to Mariam thinking that why was she hearing this about Muslim women from a man, and that too who wasn’t Muslim? As years passed since this comment, she realised a lot of Muslim women voices were buried or drowned. She then decided to come up with this anthology.

What is also funny is that in the Western world, the Burqa is perhaps the only thing with which Muslim women are linked or identified. The title of the book says it all – that this book is much more and beyond that. Might I also add that the title is no way “just an attention grabber”. There is more to it, which is evident right from the introduction. Mariam Khan along with her 16 other contributors, bring you a collection that is trying to change the way you look at women, at Muslim women in particular and try and look beyond the stereotypes and boxes they are carefully placed in every single day.

The issues are several. They have chosen a few, that’s also because it is next to impossible to cover such a wide range of their culture, and the way they live. From an essay by Sufiya Ahmed (The First Feminist) that speaks of how she found her courage in the book given to her by her father, when she realised that the first feminist was actually Khadija – the Prophet’s wife and how that propelled her to making her own choices, to the first one in the book by Mona Eltahawy on how the time of revolutions has come, this anthology surprises, shocks, and in turns also makes you laugh and cry.

There are others that I loved: Not Just A Black Muslim Woman by Raifa Rafiq – handling the minutest minority – Black, Muslim, and a Woman. The honesty of the essay left me wanting more. There was another one on being a Muslim woman and dealing with depression – when you are told day-in and day-out that there is nothing known as depression. This essay by Jamilla Hekmoun had me gripped and choked.

I think what most people forget, and mainly men that women are so much more. This anthology in more than one way is a reminder of that. The essays, and to me each of them gave me a perspective that I couldn’t think of – some I could, most I couldn’t. I could sense the anger, and again, it’s time that the anger and passion comes through, which it does without a doubt in these essays. These women write about the hijab, about sex and the female pleasure, about divorce, the need for open conversations about sex and identity, and mental health among others.

Its Not About The Burqa is a call to everyone – to sit up, notice, and understand that you cannot reduce Muslim women to pieces of clothing. This book will not disappoint at all. You also need to go without any expectations and let all their experiences wash over you and be ready to listen. To listen to voices that do not get heard. To listen to a representation – even as a sample perhaps, widening perspectives and the need to be empathetic and above all the will to accept and understand.

 

Advertisements

The Favourite Sister by Jessica Knoll

40114286

Title: The Favourite Sister
Author: Jessica Knoll
Publisher: Macmillan
ISBN: 978-1509839964
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3 Stars

I did not think I would enjoy this book the way I ended up enjoying it. It is fast, breezy and extremely relevant to our times and the world we live in. Brett and Kelly are sisters who are the jewels of a New-York based reality television show called Goal Diggers. And this is where their rivalry begins. It is a show for the winning and there are three other competitive women participating in the show, besides the sisters.

This is where they begin to drift and all the secrets and lies and more secrets enter the picture, as expected. Till something happens (you guessed it right!) and things take a turn for the worst. The characters are etched well, though I did find some inconsistencies in some places, but that is all forgiven because the plot is so strong. The elements are the same – jealousy, money, fame, greed and control, which are the hallmarks of a good thriller.

Knoll builds the novel to a great climax and that is the beauty of this book. Sometimes it does feel like a drag but persist a little for the good parts to come. “The Favourite Sister” makes for a good flight read.

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness, From an Original Idea by Siobhan Dowd
Publisher: Walker Books, Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 978-1-4063-4700-5
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 237
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

When I started reading, “A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness, I did not imagine that I would be so taken in by the story, that I would be impacted by its plot to this extent, that I would cry at the end of the book or for that matter not stop thinking about it. I rarely cry when I read books but some of them just compel me to because of the connect we share in some way or the other. Books do that. So do movies. Music even. Any form of art. This one sure did.

“A Monster Calls” is about thirteen-year old Conor and his mother who is suffering from cancer and there seems to be no hope for her. Conor has nightmares which he cannot speak of. He cannot share them with anyone, till one fine night a monster comes knocking on his bedroom window and his life changes drastically. The monster is the yew tree monster, who stands dull and strong in the daytime and arrives precisely at 12:07 am (on the first night and a couple of other nights as well) to tell tales to Conor, wanting to hear his last truth and tale. This winds up the book and answers any questions that the readers might have towards the end of the book.

Conor’s character is complex and yet at the same time he is like any other teenager, who wants things to be perfect and knows that they will never be the same. The monster is crucial to the story (but of course). Conor’s mother, Dad, and grandma along with his once best-friend Lily and other bullies at school, make for the rest of the characters of the book.

The book from the look of it is set in England. The landscape and the descriptions could have been a little more detailed to add to the book’s atmosphere. I was a little disappointed with that. I liked the narrative and the story. The idea originally belonged to, as Patrick also says, to one of the finest Young Adult Writers, Siobhan Dowd, who passed on due to breast cancer. Patrick was approached then to work on the idea and he has tried to be true to it.

“A Monster Calls” is human and above all describes loss, love, and redemption in the most beautiful manner. It could have been longer and I would have liked it to, but it is alright I guess. Patrick Ness is brilliant at his craft and as he has also highly recommended Siobhan’s works, my next new found author would have to be her.

Affiliate Link:

Buy A Monster Calls from Flipkart.com

Book Review: Embassytown by China Mieville

Title: Embassytown
Author: China Mieville
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
ISBN: 978-0-330-53307-2
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 405
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are very few authors who consistently write enthralling books month after month or year after year. China Mieville happens to be one of them. His books are of the “New Weird” genre and I am not kidding about that. I remember reading, “Perdido Street Station” a long time ago and completely taken in by his style and the magnificence of his writing. Since then I have read most of his books – from King Rat to The City and the City, Kraken and now “Embassytown”.

“Embassytown” for me was not an easy read. It doesn’t start off easy, being the hard-core sci-fi novel that it is. It took me quite a while to get into the book and enjoy it more so only after 100 pages or so. Let me now tell you something about the book.

The book takes place on a planet known as Ariekei. A colony of human beings has formed an improbable and unheard of alliance with an unusual species, the Ariekei, known by those who live on their planet as Hosts. What makes the Ariekei strange is the fact that they have a different language. Different in the sense that they utter each word in two distinct simultaneous voices, without any words, they cannot distinguish between the sounds they employ (I found this very fascinating), the meanings they intend therefore are not clear, and so they cannot lie or recognize meaningful speech (I found this quite futuristic and scary). The only pair of humans, who have been specifically modified for the purpose of coordinating their voices and their thoughts, can communicate with the Hosts. These paired humans are known as Ambassadors.

Avice, the narrator and protagonist of the story makes us see Ariekei right through her childhood and youth – portraying an urban existence so different from ours and yet deep-rooted in universal aspects of city life. In the first couple of chapters, Avice’s complicated history with different powers of Embassytown is detailed, leading to the one evening when everything changes. The overlapping sections are well-paced, revealing the narrative secrets one step at a time. Who is Avice? What happened to her? Why are she and her husband Scile back? What is the actual science fiction element of the novel? Mieville sure doesn’t serve anything to the reader on a platter. The mystery of Ariekei and Embassytown is revealed layer by layer for the reader. The suspense element is right high on the charts and makes you turn the page, wanting more.

Mieville weaves the story so well – taking something as common-place and often taken for granted, language and showing us its real nature – as a jumping-off point – the novel is not as much of ideas as it then becomes of images. The idea of a city in transit and the cultural clashes by synergizing humans and aliens is remarkable and scary at the same time. China Mieville makes the necessary paradigm shift required for the “science-fiction” novel, by bringing out the nuances and elements of the robust world-building and the distinct awe and terror required for such books.

“Before the humans came, we didn’t speak so much of many things. Before the humans came, we didn’t speak.” That is the crux of the book. Embassytown greatest strength lies in the fact that it speaks about the fragility and duplicity of language, about the meaning, its creation and how sometimes language just doesn’t remain a reference point. What I did not like about the book is that the brilliant secondary characters were not explored more. I would have loved to see them shape and have their own voices.

Embassytown is everything you wanted though in a sci-fi novel – weird, inventive and nail-biting intrigue. If you have the patience needed for such a book, then you will not be disappointed by it at all.

Affiliate Link:

Buy Embassytown from Flipkart.com

Book Review: The Third Reich by Roberto Bolano

Title: The Third Reich
Author: Roberto Bolano
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-0330535793
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Roberto Bolaño has always fascinated me with his works – absurd, odd, strange, surreal and brutal at times, he ensured that he left a legacy that his fans will never forget and from this emerges his new book, ‘The Third Reich’.
The Third Reich in bits and pieces did remind me of Ian McEwan’s, ‘The Comfort of Strangers’, but barring the basic plot was where the similarity ended. This book was discovered after his death and apparently quite complete, it is his early work. This work has been beautifully translated by Natasha Wimmer. There are traces of immense surrealism in this one, which Bolaño would later use and implement in The Savage Detectives and 2666.

The Third Reich centers on Udo Berger, a German in his mid-twenties, who is taking a vacation with his girlfriend in a beach hotel on the Costa Brava, where he has spent many a vacation with his family as a child. Together with another German couple, they engage in the usual activities – swimming, eating, drinking, sunbathing and making love. However, this vacation is not what either of the couple thought it would turn out to be. All is not well in paradise. They are involved with a local sinister group, called, The Wolf, The Lamb and El Quemado (the burnt one), a South-American immigrant who hires pedal boats on the beach. The four individuals are further taken in by acts of off-stage violence which results in a death and that changes the complete course of events.

The title of the book surprisingly (or not) comes from a game called, “The Third Reich” that Udo plays in a hotel room which becomes something more. I think Roberto Bolaño was obsessed with Germany in many ways. Many of his books deal with German Literature and he also deals with German History in a very peculiar manner.

The novel is delightful. It depicts the war-game scenario to the open, signaling its peculiarities in a poetic, stylistic manner. The book is strange and at the same time it does what it has to – entraps the reader into it. I would highly recommend this book to Roberto’s fans and also to the ones who have never read him.

Affiliate Link:

Buy The Third Reich from Flipkart.com