blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Match Made in Heaven – edited by Claire Chambers, Nafhesa Ali, Richard Phillips*

Star-studded and beautifully written, this collection of diverse stories about love and desire by South Asian-heritage British Muslim women authors, including Ayisha Malik and Shelina Janmohamed.

Although outsiders often expect Muslim women to be timid, conservative, or submissive, the reality is different. While some of these authors express a quiet piety and explore poignant situations, others use black humour and biting satire, or play with possibilities.

Still others shade into the territory of a Muslim Fifty Shades of Grey, creating grey areas where the mainstream media sees only black and white. If grooming-gang scandals grab headlines, characters are more scandalized by suitors’ sloppy personal grooming.

Finding the right crimson lipstick for a date or the perfect power outfit for meeting a cheating ex-husband are commoner preoccupations than the news.

Stylish but far from shallow, the stories also reflect on migration, racism, arranged marriage, gender differences, lesbian desire, bearding, and many other subjects.

ABOUT THE EDITORS

Claire Chambers teaches postcolonial literature the University of York. Her fascination with Muslim South Asia was sparked by a teenage year spent in Peshawar.

Nafhesa Ali is a sociologist and the lead postdoctoral researcher for the Storying Relationship project at Sheffield University. She researches gender, age, the life course, and methods.

Richard Phillips is a geographer and Storying Relationships’ principal investigator at Sheffield University. His research interests include contemporary multiculturalism and the world after Empire.

All three authors live in the UK.

My thoughts:

This was an interesting collection of short stories centred around love and the Muslim perspective, as written by women living in the UK.

Some of the stories are funny, some sad, one has a possibly demonic cat determined to cause chaos. Some of them made me think about my friends and the conversations we’ve had about sex and relationships.

There’s this weird belief that Muslim women have no agency of their own, and that they’re under mens’ thumbs, clad in hijab and niqab against their will and it jars so harshly against reality.

My Muslim friends are clever, funny, weird, silly and completely normal. Their religion doesn’t dictate their lives, some of them are married, some aren’t. Even among the married ones some chose their own spouse and others went for an arranged marriage (and unlike some people believe, they had a say).

Collections like this one help to redress the balance against the strange stereotype of Muslim women. Showing different facets of life, from writing erotica to pay the bills, finding a (second or third) husband, fending off annoying relatives or buying the perfect red lipstick.

Universal experiences that anyone can relate to, regardless of religion, bring us closer together and help foster better understanding and relationships.

I really enjoyed this book and have some new authors to investigate (although I spotted some familiar names amongst the included writers). The project that spawned this collection sounds really interesting and I hope similar ones produce more enjoyable and enlightening reads.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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