By Aaliyah Gohir
I thought I'd highlight a few British Muslim female authors who have written great novels you might not know about. I think it's important to share and promote the work of these women as they are inspiring and demonstrate that you can pursue your passion! Have a read of this blog and maybe you'll find the next book to add to your reading list! And if you read any of these or any other book, why not write a review on this Hub!
‘The Khan’ by Saima Mir (2021)
‘The Khan’ is a crime thriller novel that follows Jia Khan, a successful British-Pakistani lawyer, who is left to take her father’s place as the leader of a crime organisation after he is murdered. The female protagonist must exercise justice she’s not used to in the midst of a power struggle; the novel includes themes of racism, misogyny, Pashtun history and culture, justice, family loyalty, corruption and more! Saima Mir is an award-winning journalist from a Kashmiri background, who has worked with BBC and has written many insightful pieces such as ‘A Woman of Substance’ (2019) which features in her collection of essays titled ‘It’s Not About the Burqa’ which explores issues faced by Muslim women. Her work also explores topics such as social expectations, family relationships and more, while she openly addresses her experience as a divorcee and how it has been perceived by people from her culture. You can find more information about Saima here, as well as a review to her debut novel ‘The Khan’ for a more detailed insight!
‘The Family Tree’ by Sairish Hussain (2020)
Sairish’s debut novel ‘The Family Tree’ is a heart-warming story that follows a Muslim British Pakistani family as they navigate their way through life. The father, Amjad, is left to raise and take care of his children (Zahra and Saahil) after his wife dies. This poignant novel explores themes of family values and relationships, identity, grief, addition and homelessness. Many praise the book for it’s authenticity and honesty reflection of a regular British Muslim family - Sairish herself says “[she] was fed up with the usual portrayal of Muslims - oppressive fathers, oppressed daughters, militant young men… [she] wanted to show that life, and all of human experiences, happens to us too!”. The novel reflects her own family life and was written as part of her creative writing course at university and finished as her PhD, resulting in a two-book deal offered to her by Harper Collins. Sairish has been writing since a young age, but she also works part time as a healthcare assistant at the Bradford Hospital NHS Foundation Trust when she isn’t busy writing. Check out some reviews of ‘The Family Tree’ if you’re interested in hearing more about it!
‘Razia’ by Abda Khan (2019)
‘Razia’ is a novel that addresses modern day slavery; the female protagonist, Farah, is a strong successful woman who works as a lawyer and is set on a mission to rescue a Pakistani domestic worker, Razia, who she discovers is being enslaved. In attempts to save Razia and investigate modern day slavery, Farah travels to Pakistan where she uncovers further oppression and corruption and is faced with the reality of inequalities in Pakistani society. The book explores topics such as cultural pressure, gender inequalities, domestic and honour-based violence and brings to light issues which readers may not be aware of, but the author clearly feels passionate about. The author, Abda Khan, is a lawyer who runs her own law firm and is women’s rights campaigner; she felt that there was a lack of contemporary fiction relating to British South Asian and Muslim women which led her to write her first novel ‘Stained’, that covers topics such as rape. She then went on to write ‘Razia’ to highlight the problems of modern day slavery after coming across a shocking news report about it, leading her to do further research into it. Abda’s work has won her the Woman of the Year Award in 2019. You can find out more about her in this interview, as well as more about her book here.
‘Sofia Khan is Not Obliged’ by Ayisha Malik (2015)
Ayisha Malik’s debut novel ‘Sofia Khan is Not Obliged’ is a romantic comedy about a female protagonist who has recently become single yet is asked by her boss to write about the world of Muslim dating! The witty and sassy character Sofia is described as a ‘Muslim Bridget Jones’ by many, making her comedic and relatable to readers! Similar to the other books mentioned, this coming of the age British Asian novel reflects the lives of modern Muslims living in the West as opposed to stereotypical narratives portrayed about Muslims. The book explores themes of Muslim romance, marriage, family, online dating and womanhood, as well drawing upon the author’s own experiences as a Muslim woman. Ayisha Malik was born and raised in South London and completed a master’s degree in creative writing and writes full time. As well as being an author of contemporary fiction novels she is also known as the ghost-writer for Nadiya Hussain’s adult books and was also a former publicist at Penguin Random House. In 2016, Ayisha was selected as a WH Smith Fresh Talent Pick - you can find out more about Ayisha on her website. And if you are interested in ‘Sofia Khan is Not Obliged’, be sure to also check out the sequel titled ‘The Other Half of Happiness’.
‘Jasmine Falling’ by Shereen Malherbe (2015)
‘Jasmine Falling’ follows a female protagonist, who is half English and half Palestinian, as she goes on a journey of understanding her past to figure out her future. After her mother dies, she is left to claim her million pound inheritance but has 10 days find her father first, who has been missing for a decade. This means she must return to her homeland of Palestine, where she discovers her cultural roots and identity and learns about Palestinian history as she travels between villages and historical sites. On this journey, she pieces together family history, rediscovers Islam and meets some family members - this novel filled with themes of culture, identity and Israeli-Palestine conflict. Shereen Malherbe is of course British-Palestinian herself and wrote this novel to “capture [her] Palestinian history”. She travelled to Palestine in her 20s where she began discovering Islam and Palestinian culture and even settled there for a while before returning to live in the UK. She uses her experiences of living in both the East and West in her writing to create better understanding of the different cultures and bridge gaps between them to “make for a more harmonious society”. You can find out more about Shereen in this interview and more about her novels along with reviews on her website.
Raise your voice and get connected