06 May, 2019

#BookReview :: Hijabistan by Sabyn Javeri

A young kleptomaniac infuses thrill into her suffocating life by using her abaya to steal lipsticks and flash men. 
An office worker feels empowered through sex, shunning her inhibitions but not her hijab ... until she realizes that the real veil is drawn across her desires and not her body. 
A British-Asian Muslim girl finds herself drawn to the jihad in Syria only to realize the real fight is inside her. 
A young Pakistani bride in the West asserts her identity through the hijab in her new and unfamiliar surroundings, leading to unexpected consequences. 

The hijab constricts as it liberates. Not just a piece of garment, it is a worldview, an emblem of the assertion of a Muslim woman's identity, and equally a symbol of oppression. Set in Pakistan and the UK, this unusual and provocative collection of short stories explores the lives of women crushed under the weight of the all-encompassing veil and those who feel sheltered by it. 



This book has been on my timeline all over and I have been hearing only good things about it. So, it was with certain expectations that I picked up this book.

The book is a collection of sixteen stories about women who wear hijab and their emotional journey. The ‘hijab’ is the common element in all the stories but that is about it. Each story puts forth a different woman, a different personality, a different struggle and a different angle on what the hijab means to them. A sex worker, a student, a married woman and a young girl – all have the hijab as a common thread. Yet adultery, forbidden love, fighting for or against jihad are the threads that distinguish their struggles.

The author’s narrative style and language is simple and easy to get into. I liked a couple of the stories and that is the only positive thing I can say about the book. There is a story where a girl is forced to wear hijab against her wishes, but soon she finds ways to turn this forced thing into a boon for herself. I liked the story because we do not always have the strength to rebel and fight, as an individual, against the age old customs that are forced on us. But even then it is up to us to either live with it as a burden or find a way to turn it to our advantage. The other story I liked was that of a girl who finds a way to inspire others to find acceptance through her own acceptance and grit.

I could see through certain stories that the author started writing these stories with a vision but she lost her way about mid-way playing into some of the stereo types. While hijab is forced on some women, some women gladly adopt it too. Not all women who wear a hijab is oppressed or oppressed only sexually. ‘Hijab’ in itself is not oppressive; it’s the forcing of hijab that is oppressive. In some of the stories the author has tried to show that the women were oppressed and the only way they could break the binds was to explore their sexuality. Do not get me wrong, I am all for every person exploring their sexuality – but my question is why can’t people break out of this clich├ęd stance? And since the book is being called feministic, I’d like to interject that this book delivers a bit of ‘Veere di Wedding’ brand of feminism which according to me isn’t feminism at all.

I would recommend people to give the book a try as some of the stories are really good and people may have different takes on the remaining stories.


Review Copy received from Harper Collins India



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