Book of the Week: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik
by Pratika Yashaswi
CliffsNotes: Sofia Khan, a British Muslim publicist has just broken up with her possible-marriage-partner-to-be ("Shouldn't there be a word for someone between a friend and a potential husband?") because he refuses to move out of his hole-in-the-wall family home; and everyone from her parents to her boss, Brammers, seems be crazy about it.
Sofia was ready to renounce men for good, at least until Brammers and a lucrative book deal persuade her to write a tell-all exposé on the 'Muslim dating scene'. As she capers about in search of stories, she's catapulted into the said dating scene for, erm, research purposes. Cue marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and odd online daters. Amidst all this, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be... falling in love?
Written in the format of a series of diary entries, Sofia outlines her funny world, comprising her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents in a book; that is fun chick literature as well as a serious commentary on British Muslim life.
Get a taste: In Sofia's early rants in her diary, she reflects on the patronising nature of Imran, her ex sort-of-boyfriend's affection.
'Remember one of the first times we went out?' he said. 'You were pissed off because no one offered an old man a seat on the train and you forced someone to get up for him?' He finally cracked a smile. 'Everything you say, everything you do, there's fire in your belly. And you wear a hijab.' He glanced at me. 'You should never change.' That made something constrict in my chest. I don't care for I love yous: they're for people who don't know any better. 'You should never change.' is the culmination of all your flaws made necessary: the imperfect sum of an imperfect past, which turned out to be a good thing for someone. 'Do you really think you'll find someone who adores you as much as I do?'
Thanks. I hadn't realised I was a puppy. Sigh.
Author 101: Ayisha Malik, like her book's protagonist is also a hijabi British Muslim and was a publicist with Random House at one point. She insists, however, that Sofia Khan... is mostly fiction. She is now managing editor at Cornerstones Literary Consultancy.
Similar reads: Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding, The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot.
Sofia Khan is Not Obliged (Twenty7) is out now