Farzana Doctor comes to the blog with a story unlike others I have read, and uses complex issues of family, tradition, patriarchy and control with
The story follows Sharifa, her husband Murtuza and their seven-year-old daughter Zeenat. Sharifa and her husband are both educators, she’s also American-born, and they are members of the Dawoodi-Bohra community, a sect that I had never heard of, but is related to the Shia. More conservative and traditional, the opportunity while Murtuza is teaching in Mumbai gives Sharifa the opportunity to research her great grandfather, while connecting with her extended family and reconnecting with her husband.
While in India, Sharifa is confronted with many questions, and fewer answers that satisfy, about her great grandfather, and has her own exposure to the practice of khatna or female genital mutilation. This practice is prevalent in her own family tree, and the questions, horrors, and the disconnect between her westernized values of women, feminism and self-determination are brought into the mix as the author seeks to give us the story from those tied to traditions and those seeing these horrors for what they are. Many others have written about the conflicts and conundrums posed, but I found the novel so much more powerful for the writing.
Providing a history of both her family and their traditional practices, along with two sides to the argument for and against khatna (and yes, she handles this masterfully and thoughtfully) provide readers with a fuller understanding beyond the knee-jerk “OMG” that is sitting in your head as you read on. Additionally, these conflicts between tradition (and the familiarity and acceptance gained with the adherence to those principles to not ‘make waves’) brings Sharifa into several of her own questions and worries, and for this, we have her husband who is very supportive, perhaps a bit too much for what is expected of a traditional leaning man. As I have zero experience with the practices, but can easily imagine (and empathize with) Sharifa’s questions, upsets, and reactions, the story allows readers to see perspectives not necessarily available in non-fiction, nor ones that cross / confront the family and their separation / conflict about the traditions. A wonderful read that isn’t for everyone –but is handled so beautifully and gently that Doctor brings us all into a little-known religious group and family and see where modern and traditional conflict and coexist, not easily but with a sense of ‘continuity’ that leaves everyone with a better understanding.
Author: Farzana Doctor
Genre: Contemporary Fiction - Adult, Contemporary Woman's Fiction, Family Saga, Grief, Historic Elements, Mental Health, Political commentary, Setting: India, Sociological Relevancy, Vocabulary and Customs, Woman's Fiction
Published by: Dundurn Press
Published on: 1 August, 2020
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 12 Hours: 1 minute
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
A rich, soulfully written novel about inheritance and resistance that tests the balance between modern and traditional customs.
When Sharifa accompanies her husband on a marriage-saving trip to India, she thinks that she's going to research her great-great-grandfather, a wealthy business leader and philanthropist. What captures her imagination is not his rags-to-riches story, but the mystery of his four wives, missing from the family lore. She ends up excavating much more than she had imagined.
Sharifa's trip coincides with a time of unrest within her insular and conservative religious community, and there is no escaping its politics. A group of feminists is speaking out against khatna, an age-old ritual they insist is female genital cutting. Sharifa’s two favourite cousins are on opposite sides of the debate and she seeks a middle ground. As the issue heats up, Sharifa discovers an unexpected truth and is forced to take a position.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.