In January I sent out my first newsletter, reproduced below. I’m hoping for it to be a monthly affair. If you would like to receive them in your inbox, do subscribe via this link.
Some of you know that last year was pretty exciting for me. For those who don’t, this is my way of sharing it. Sceptre Books are publishing my first memoir! The book is titled My Past is a Foreign Country and is set to be published in 2019 in sha Allah. You can read more about it here. This book deal was a dream come true and I’m grateful to have this opportunity so early in life. I understand the power of our voices and I hope to use mine responsibly.
I’ve kept journals for a decade now and over Christmas I revisited some of my early notebooks. This was my first time reading them. I was struck by how passively I experienced life in my teen years (as was encouraged in young girls in my community then) and how my sense of self changed after moving away from home. This was strange to consider. Home, where I was loved and cared for. Home, where all my needs were met and I was financially secure. Home, where I was the firstborn, lording over my siblings. Home was good, then why did I continue to struggle? As with almost all existential questions in my life, the answer to this one is also “The Patriarchy”.
I didn’t know this then, but it looks like I was writing as an act of self-preservation. And writing about my early experiences for a larger audience is giving me a lot of space for healing, for letting go and for becoming a better version of myself. The other thing that struck me was the gaslighting. It’s so easy to accept the blame when it’s being placed on you.
The writing is also making me think about the books that have changed the way I think. For my first letter, I thought I would share some of my favourite reads in recent years, especially the books that centred me and shaped my feminism and faith.
1. Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde
2. The Book of Emma Reyes: A Memoir in Correspondence
3. Seeing Like a Feminist by Nivedita Menon
4. Women in the Qur’an by Asma Lamrabet
5. “Believing Women” in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an by Asma Barlas
6. Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection by Saron Salzberg
7. The Hour Past Midnight by Salma
I’m limiting this list to 7 because I could go on forever. If you would like a longer list of feminist books I love, please check my list on Lounge Books. And a bonus Twitter list of top books read in 2017. For those interested in new books, here’s my current to-read list for January to March 2018:
1. Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh
2. Misogynation by Laura Bates
3. Feel Free by Zadie Smith
4. The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy
5. Education by Tara Westove
6. Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
7. We: A Manifesto For Women Everywhere by Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel
I’m hoping to use this space to share more of my reading and to include people, websites, social media accounts etc. that I engage with on a regular basis. Last year I reached out to women to ask them about the impact of growing up in patriarchal families. I’ve found that talking about these suppressed emotions helps give them a language. And language is a powerful weapon against oppression. When we name our aches, when we recognise them, it becomes difficult to ignore them. And if we pay attention to them, we just might find ways to heal ourselves.
You might read this and think that it isn’t for you, that you aren’t suppressed. If this is the case, I’m so happy for you and I urge you to use your voice and your privilege to elevate those who are not able to speak up for themselves. Our privileges don’t exempt us, in fact, it’s much the opposite. I’m not suggesting waging war against the social constructs that limit us all (though, why not?), just asking that you question your intentions and actions a bit more and not settle for ‘this is how we always did things’ as a good enough answer. We can do better, together.