The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write You edited by Sabrina Mahfouz
A collection of writings from British Muslim Women, including poems, short stories, and plays.
My Rating: 4.25/5
The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, edited by Sabrina Mahfouz, is a collection of writings centered around the idea of shattering the stereotypes surrounding Muslim women. This anthology includes authors that have been short- or long-listed for Orange Prizes, Man Booker Prizes, and countless other awards.
Including writings from Fadia Faquir, Amina Jama, Chimene Suleyman, Aliyah Hasinah Holder, Kamila Shamsie, Imtiaz Dharker, Triska Hamid, Nafeesa Hamid, Ahdaf Soueif, Seema Begum, Leila Aboulela, Shazea Quraishi, Shaista Aziz, Miss L, Aisha Mirza, Hibaq Osman, Azra Tabassum, Selma Dabbagh, Asma Elbadawi, Samira Shackle, Hanan Al-Shaykh, and Sabrina Mahfouz, this anthology features a variety of writing genres that focus on a myriad of topics, but all focused on chipping away at the narrow view that exists about Muslim Women. Some of the stories focus on war, some on relationships between men and women, and some are personal reflections about diversity and history, having two national identities or how they feel living in a society that casts them as other even in the land they call home.
There are so many different genres being represented here, and many, many authors, so I’ll keep my review broad as I consider the overall topics discussed in this volume. I love the premise of this book. Mahfouz wanted to bring together writings from Muslim women living in Britain to address the climate of hostility and prejudice towards people of Muslim descent in the Western world.
Many of the works provided here are powerful and moving and do a good job of breaking down stereotypes that many have about Muslims. The stories, no matter the genre, focus on relationships between people, whether they are of Muslim decent or are living in a mixed society. Many of the stories are social commentary or are attempting to give voice to those that have so often been voiceless in the past and still are. There are works of fiction and works of non-fiction, offered up from a variety of award-winning authors.
Literary Value: 4/5
Because this is an anthology and, therefore, contains many authors and a wide range of genres, including plays, poetry, short stories, and essays, I will focus on the editing of this anthology in this review. Mahfouz, the editor, did an excellent job in selecting the writings to be a part of this book. Pretty much every author found in this anthology has won an award or awards for their writing, including some prestigious awards such as the Man Booker Prize. As a complete work, I think this is a well put together anthology and the talents of these individual authors really shine. I didn’t feel there were any weak stories here and the coverage of topics is wide enough that I didn’t feel any stories were redundant or retreading material.
Entertainment Factor: 3/5
I read this book to complete one of my reading challenges, so I feel I can safely say that I would not personally have chosen to read this book on my own. That being said, I’m glad I read it. There were so many good stories in here and I found myself really thinking about what was being relayed. It’s a very thoughtful book and I found many of the writings really stuck with me and had me thinking about them even after I had finished reading them. I won’t say I enjoyed every story in here and so I have given it a more average rating in the entertainment area. Overall, it is a good collection and the majority of the stories are very poignant and heartfelt and got me thinking.
Cover Art Rating: 5/5
I have to say, this is one of my favorite covers I’ve seen so far this year. I love how vibrant it is and all the small details included in here, like the quill pen and the hands. It’s just very beautiful and it really speaks to my personal aesthetic style. It’s a very eye-grabbing cover and I think it is matches well with the subject matter of the book.
Overall Rating: 4.25/5
This book was so good! I don’t read a lot of anthologies, but I was very happy with this one. All of the authors included are so skilled and their stories are brutally honest, raw, and packed with emotion. I felt myself thinking about this or that story even after I had finished reading it and that speaks to me as the sign of good writing. This book would be great for any book club or discussion group. It has so many topics that are heavy and need a lot of unpacking to grasp. I would love to have read this when I was in college and been able have a classroom discussion. I think there are so many ideas and thoughts in here that should be talked about and more, which is the point of the book in the first place.
Many of the stories focus on the division between Pakistan and Israel and hostilities faced. I found these stories to be some of the most compelling. The poems included in this book vary in their impact – but many are, I believe, meant to be performed/spoken aloud, in which case I might have been more drawn to them if I were viewing these poems performed rather than reading them off a page. As a whole, I think this anthology is powerful and artistic and I very much enjoyed reading the different selections.
I think this book does help break some of the stereotypes that are attached to “being Muslim” and especially to being a Muslim woman. Cultural identity and feelings of being other are discussed as well as the idea of being free to be whatever we want to be. There are many moments of meaningful discussion within these pages and I would definitely recommend this book to those who would like to learn more and be a part of the discussion of diversity and acceptance.
Open discussion below!
Let me know what you think! If you’ve read The Things I Would Tell You, share your thoughts! Are you a member of Emma Watson’s “Our Shared Shelf” book club? If so, let’s talk about this amazing selection!
If you’d like to see more books like this or in the vein of feminism, check out Emma’s book club here on Goodreads!
On to the next adventure!