Title: Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged
Author: Ayisha Malik
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Published: September 3rd 2015
Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
‘Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.’ Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. ‘Are your parents quite disappointed?’
Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.
As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love . . . ?
Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged was such a delight from start to finish. Light-hearted, humorous and extremely relatable, it’s so refreshing to read a story with Muslim characters that doesn’t revolve around or focus on oppression and/or terrorism.
The diary entry format was initially very difficult to follow, with the short snappy sentences making it feel rather disjointed. However, the sarcastic tone of the first person narrative allows the reader to really connect with Sofia, and understand that she isn’t your conventional Muslim protagonist. Though I am praising this book for challenging the Muslim stereotype, I also want to note that Ayisha Malik mentioned how strange it is to speak of the book being subversive when Sofia probably represents the majority and not minority of Muslim women. We are not a monolith and we are flawed! For me, Sofia’s circle of friends and the women in her family really demonstrated these differences.
“DON’T MARRY A WHITE PERSON BUT DO TRY TO LOOK LIKE ONE.”
As a member of the South-Asian community, this book was so freaking relatable. I haven’t yet reached the peak age for marriage talk but that doesn’t mean I never hear the M word. Every single day, there is a conversation involving marriage, whether it be about finding the ideal husband for my older female cousins or gossip about someone’s in-laws. I really felt like I could relate the experiences of both Sofia, her friends and her sister to people I know, and I loved the diversity of relationships that was portrayed i.e. interracial and polygamous.
Furthermore, I admired the way in which the author did not sugar-coat prevalent issues within South-Asian communities, such as colourism. That being said, there were some problematic comments regarding eating disorders, suicide and fatphobia that I think could have been avoided. I also wish there was more positive representation in regards to the Asian men Sofia met for research purposes. But then I’m being completely hypocritical because I would have made the exact same choices she did.
Overall, this was such an enjoyable read and a complete page-turner
which totally makes up for its daunting size. I rarely read contemporary novels that have sequels, but I’ll definitely be picking up The Other Half Of Happiness as soon as I can!