A Pair of Book Reviews
It’s Not About the Burqa
Edited by Mariam Khan
A Book Review
My number one takeaway from this book was, ‘I have no right to enforce my opinion, based on speculation, onto a group of people who I don’t identify as’. In a world full of misrepresentation and mis- or disinformation – with little way to distinguish between the objective facts and subjective opinions – it is so important to gain what you learn from the people who it affects.
This book was written because the editor, Mariam Khan, felt that everything we hear about Muslim women comes from anyone but a Muslim woman. I agree with this completely; I thought about it but I cannot think of a single article I have read which disproves this statement. I loved how rich this book was with experiences, reflections and authors – there was a long list of contributors with every 10-15 page chapter by a different female writer. It covered a lot of perspectives (each chapter heading nodded to what that focus would be) including their relationships with their hijabs, arranged marriages, the media’s portrayal of Muslim women, being part of the LGBTQ+ community, struggling with mental health, their experiences in school and children’s attitudes towards their culture, being black and Muslim, what Islam actually expects of women versus the extremity of the patriarchy… There were, remarkably really, still a few stories I wanted to hear by the end but, for one book (which didn’t claim to cover everything), the editor and authors did an incredible job.
I believe it to be so important for us to make the effort to learn about and understand each other’s lives. With so much negative representation of Muslim people and Islam as a religion, it was wonderful to read about these women’s first-hand experiences from their point of view.
Straight Expectations: The Story of a Family in Transition
By Peggy Crydon
A Book Review
This story had such a clear focus but lent itself to much more. It was about mothering a transgender son, but I learnt about becoming more attuned to your human experience, trusting your instincts and exploring paths that feel right to you, no matter how much background noise there is telling you that you’re wrong.
Straight Expectations is an autobiographical story of a woman who has two sons: one is transgender and they are both gay. It’s a short book so is quite straight to the point, focusing most on the facts and how everyone involved felt and reacted over the journey. This may make it sound too simplistic but I wasn’t craving more description or for Peggy to bulk out the chapters more – I liked its conciseness. It turns what was a very complicated family dynamic and layered storyline into something readable, understandable and accessible. For a parent of an LGBTQ+ child, I can guarantee that this book will offer you support and clarification. To anyone who still has reservations or areas of confusion about the LGBTQ+ community, Peggy answered most questions someone could have. To someone who is cisgender (identifies with their birth sex), it further helped me understand the breadth of internal conflict someone can face when they battle with their gender.
By the end of the book, I had a very clear, enhanced picture of what it means to be loved. Without being explicitly said, it made me realise that being accepted is not enough. Being embraced with open arms and made to feel wanted rather than just welcome is crucial to everyone’s experience of life. That’s the feeling that we get when we are surrounded by people similar to us, but it’s the feeling we also want to get from those who are different to us.
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