I‘ve never been a huge fan of Mohsin Hamid. I loved “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” initially but was disappointed and irritated by the end, I enjoyed his essay collection “Civilization and Its Discontents” and I couldn’t get through the beginning of “How to Get Filthy Rich in Asia.” His latest book though, “Exit West” is magical. I’m almost done and hoping that the ending doesn’t let me down. Read below for one of my favourite passages from the book.
Almost a year ago, I started making Youtube videos (or booktube videos) about what I was reading. One of the first books I reviewed was a romantic comedy called “Sofia Khan is Not Obliged”, which featured a Muslim protagonist in her early thirties trying to find Mr.Right and balancing her career, her family and her friends at the same time.
The sequel to that book, titled “The Other Half of Happiness is now out.
My full video review below!
The first time I read a novel with Muslim characters, I was 21, and the book was “Does My Head Look Big in This?” by Randa Abdel-Fattah. The main character was sixteen years old, and even though the drama of being in high school and being the only person in a hijab was something I had experienced several years previously and had largely processed by then, it was affirming to read about a character who looked like me.
It was a lesson that women in hijab have stories worth telling.
“And I know the job market is competitive, and I know everyone finds it hard, but I can’t help thinking: What did I do wrong? Was I crap at the interview? Am I crap, full stop? And if so..what am I going to do? A big black chasm is opening up in my mind. A scary dark hole. What if I can’t find any paying job, ever?” (Sophia Kinsella My Not So Perfect Life, p.183)
I had so many dreams. I used to lie on my bed and study the tube map and imagine becoming one of those fast, confident people I’ve seen on day tripst to the capital. People in a hurry, with goals, aims, broad horizons. I’d imagined getting on a career ladder that could take me anywhere if I worked hard enough. Working on global brands; meeting fascinating people; living life to the max.” (Sophia Kinsella My Not So Perfect Life, p.172)
When I am sick in bed, there are two things that make me feel better – television and books. Last week I was home from work, and because there wasn’t anything in particular I wanted to watch, I read Sophie Kinsella’s new book “My Not So Perfect Life” from start to finish. The book follows the story of Katie, or Cat as she’s known in the London ad agency where she works, as she tries to figure out how to advance in her job and get noticed so she can get to do the kind of work she wants to do. The story is relatable and I thoroughly enjoyed Kinsella’s depiction of surviving a difficult commute, stay with a tight budget, battle dreadful roommates and try to make friends, figure out who you are, and decipher your love life at the same time.
Instead of Kinsella’s normally fun but completely unfamiliar books, this book resonated and I found Katie to be her most likeable character that she has written to date. Where this book frustrated me though, was in its depiction of male characters.
I’ve been thinking a lot about work and careers recently. After living in Johannesburg, South Africa for almost two years, I started a new job in an unfamiliar field in 2017. That job involved a country change as well, and because of my new role and new home, I’ve been thinking a lot about how my identity as a female, visibly Muslim, person of colour shows up at work, how to do well at work, how to find energy for projects that I want to pursue, and how to balance and manage the projects I want to do with family life and relationships given that “making things” often requires solitary focus and lots of time. It’s hard to find one book that addresses all those questions, so I’ve been reading different books for different purposes.
I love reading interesting business books. I’m not an entrepreneur myself, but there’s something about reading honest stories about the development of companies (there are plenty of books that are simply PR brochures for specific companies and I have little patience with those) and lessons from their mistakes and successes that interests me. Some favourites of mine include Starbucked, Delivering Happiness (about the shoe company Zappos), and “One Click” about Amazon. I work in the nonprofit and education sector and I think there is a great deal that public and private sector can learn from each other.
The past few months for me since November’s election results in the US have been a time of feeling bewildered, confused, angry, despondent and fiercely determined. Reading has been a way to make sense of my confusion, and here are four books that have helped me make sense of the world.
These four books are:
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla
- The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
- Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak
Watch the video below for my take-aways from each book!