Book Review by Farah Shroff
This is a beautiful book that gives the reader a glimpse into the thoughts of Skeena, a Muslim girl who grows up in a village in Punjab. We see her daily life and the interaction between her and her elders, family and friends. We learn about the social hierarchies and power imbalances between men and women. We stay with Skeena for 30 years as she grows and moves to BC.
Rafique covers a vast landscape of ideas in this book: violence against women, religion and male domination, migration, war, racism, piety and more. Each of these huge topics is dealt with honestly and delicately. The notion that “a good woman is an obedient woman” is taken up throughout the book. Flowing from this is the notion that a good wife bears children, particularly boys: childless brides experience diminished social status.
Skeena does not live completely according to convention and is shunned to some extent for it; the reader accompanies her on the often difficult and emotionally traumatizing journeys of her transnational life.
Rafique skilfully weaves one woman’s tapestry in this modern, inter-connected world. Not shying away from the complexities and contradictions that most of us manifest, the novel is bold and refreshing.
In this post 911 world we need more work like this to help us all understand from the inside of people’s mental frameworks—how are we all similar as human beings and how do we differ? With CNN, CanWest Global and the most of the rabid anti-Islamic media telling us lies about how Muslims live, this kind of book speaks to us urgently about understanding, solidarity and building a better world.
Farah Shroff presented this review at the Vancouver launch of Skeena on April 10, 2011.