Review | Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

514pg6W7kCL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTITLE: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged
: Ayisha Malik
: Twenty7
: September 3, 2015
: Adult Fiction, Contemporary Romance
: 456

Consider this the Muslim Bridget Jones’s Diary.  British Muslim writer Ayisha Malik uses an iconic romance formula to respond to misconceptions of her culture.  Fresh and funny, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged is sure to warm hearts and broaden perspectives.  

Sofia Khan has a great job in publishing and a family hellbent on getting her hitched.  Unhappily for them, Sofia is fed up with marriage.  Her boss convinces her to channel her frustration into writing a ground-breaking exposé on the Muslim dating scene.  Can Sofia please her family, friends, boss, potential husband (??), and herself?

There are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes and, if you’re Punjabi, a big, fat wedding.  Time-honoured tradition in the shape of fried pakoras and henna-painted hands are to be revered, apparently.  And in this quagmire of multiplying majors and increasingly intricate henna patterns the person for whom – to whom – you’re doing all this becomes fuzzier.  The elastic boundaries of cultural tradition are stretched and stretched.  You just never know how far it can go before it (and you) finally snaps – page 320

In this reimagining of Bridget Jones’s Diary, Sofia is a less self-loathing version of Bridget.  Unlike Bridget, she remains levelheaded during chaos and catastrophe, and has a clear sense of self outside of her relationships with men.  Also unlike Bridget, Sofia struggles daily with racists and do-gooders alike who trivialise or sensationalise her culture.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged addresses countless preconceived inaccurate notions people hold of Muslim culture.  However, this book never feels political.  Since Sofia’s culture is at the core of her lifestyle, readers are immersed in her experience.  From this point of view, cultural elements that we typically find foreign become easier to understand and accept.  That said, we are also involved in Sofia’s struggle with the traditional values of her culture.  Some aspects – wearing a hijab and praying three times a day – she chooses to incorporate into everyday life, while others – arranged marriage and polygamy – she rejects for her own wellbeing.  We have to remember that everyone’s experience is unique.

This debut novel is a brilliant rom-com.  Cool and current, its dialogue-driven plot will keep you guessing and giggling.  You wouldn’t except such a fun book to so successfully address Muslim culture, gender and sexual equality, religion, racism, political activism, marriage, and maybe even love…  


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