Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for this review copy.
I very much enjoyed this novel – it was both amusing and educational. I’d not heard of the author but reading the blurb and the idea that this novel focused on the author’s upbringing, and some of the challenges along the way, interested me.
The author’s parents arrived in Toronto, via Liverpool and Pakistan. As Muslims in Toronto they were part of an active and busy Mosque, and there was a real sense of community evidenced in her writing. She explains some of the challenges attending a non-Islamic school – her mum preferred her to wear more traditional hairstyles and clothing for example (plaits in her hair, courdroy trousers etc) whereas she was keen to dress similarly to her classmates, in short skirts and styled hair. Attending Mosque she felt more part of the community but quite clearly wanted to challenge attitudes, including the separation of men from women, and the subjects covered at Muslim Summer School.
When she finished school her Dad had been keen for her to become a Doctor but her grades weren’t up to it. Her parents didn’t resist when she got a place on a journalism course and again she persued important issues she felt worth challenging (this part of the story is set around the time of 9/11). Her mother was keen to see her married though. She’d avoided marriage earlier due to education, and despite her parents trying to find a suitable match, she engineered a meeting with her brother’s friend who she deemed a more suitable husband.
With her husband she moved near her parents-in-law to their much smaller Muslim community. She was still perusing her journalism but began branching out to film media. Again she tackled important issues through her work, including her TV show. I’ve not heard of Little Mosque on the Prairie but this TV show ran on CBS for 6 seasons. It met with a mixed reception in her community, possibly because of the satirical elements.
Whilst part of the story is her journalism career there is much focus on the importance of family. Her Mum is a key figure in her life and she appears close to both parents, despite the general craziness (which felt very familar to me). She’s quite an amazing woman managing her career and four children (four pregnancies in four years!). I liked her character and spirit – she was desperate to provide the feast at the end of Eid but her planning went a little awry with amusing consequences and this is just one example. In another example she’s on the phone to a TV exec whilst she’s feeding one child and breast-feeding another – she’s a perfect example of a multi-tasking woman!
This book is amusing – the anecodotes are told in a light manner but you also get a good sense of how important Islam is to her. I was also fascinated by her explanations of Hajj, and the Five Pillars of Islam for example. I’d recommend this read, and I’d be interested to see the TV shows she made, if they ever aired in the UK (they may well have done without me realising).