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Review: Love InshAllah edited by Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi

February 14, 2012

Love InshAllah coverTitle: Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women
Editors: Mattu, Ayesha and Nura Maznavi
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Religion, Love, GLBTQ
Publisher / Year: Soft Skull Press / 2012
Source: From the editor for review.
Rating: 4.5/5
Why I Read It: The themes and topics sounded really interesting.
Date Read: 18/01/12

This is one of those collections where I really just don’t feel that my attempt at a review can do it any kind of justice. The essays cover a wide variety of topics and experiences and is impressively inclusive. While it contains no transgender authors, it does include authors with varying personal interpretations of Islam, authors who have been married for years, authors who have been divorced, authors who have children, authors who don’t, and authors who identify as lesbian. (edited to add 2/16/12: The editor of this work, Ayesha Mattu, emailed me to let me know that they did reach out to the trans community but did receive any submissions. It is her hope that there will be more participation on the website and in the future. How awesome and inclusive is this collection??)

In the introduction the editors talk about how everyone has an opinion of Muslim women, especially those who haven’t met one. They talk about these ideas and misconceptions about how Islam oppresses women and all Muslim women are suffering and can’t live their lives as they wish. This collection was pulled together to directly confront these stereotypes and show some of the myriad lived experiences of Muslim women in America. I will say in advance that I think they met their challenge and no one reading this book could maintain any stereotypes they may have held – always great to get a few more people out of their bubbles!

Through the collection we have sections focusing on different types of love – love as a life changing event, first loves and experiences, international love, divorce and re-marriage, and the ways that social networking has affected dating and love. In each section we have essays from completely different lives and experiences and this really shows how generalizations and stereotypes are impossible and completely wrong.

In a collection like this, including writers ranging from full-time to first-time, there can often  be some essays that aren’t quite as good as the others but in this case I really enjoyed all and found them all really well-written. Each essay really pulled me in and made me think. They made me believe in love in a way that many stories about love and relationships often don’t. I won’t talk about any individual stories because I really loved them all, but will direct you to A Muslimah Writes for a great and more complete review (which I’m really looking forward to reading myself now that I’ve written my own review!).

Given that stories about Muslim women, whether they live in America or elsewhere in the world, are rarely so full of life and love as these are, and so rarely show the full range of human experiences that they experience. I highly recommend this collection of true stories as a book to dip into to learn more about living as a Muslim, to learn more about living as a woman, or simply to read some really great stories.

29 Comments leave one →
  1. February 14, 2012 10:40 am

    I didn’t really want to add another non-fiction book about religion to my need-to-read list, but you’ve convinced me that this one is a must.

  2. February 14, 2012 11:07 am

    A great review, fitting for Valentine’s Day! Thank you for linking to me. And good point re not having transgendered individuals, that hadn’t occurred to me.

    • February 18, 2012 11:36 pm

      Yes, I asked if I could do my review on V day specifically WriterlyMuslimah :) and re the transgender contributors, I was really happy to see the response I included above :)

  3. February 14, 2012 12:04 pm

    This sounds very good! Americans certainly harbor a lot of stereotypes about Muslims, and it’s always good to see more material that shows the nuances of Islamic societies. Thanks as always for your enlightening reviews!

    • February 18, 2012 11:36 pm

      You are most welcome and thank you for the kind words Jill!

  4. February 14, 2012 12:30 pm

    I heard about this book a few weeks ago, and I’m so glad you’ve reminded me to check into it. I’m mostly interested because I lived with a Muslim host family for my two year Peace Corps service. It was a great…ok, the BEST…opportunity to get a very close look at the lives of women who, in this case, had arranged marriages. I think a lot of people back home are surprised when I tell them about my family, because they don’t look like the “typical” Muslim – that image that we’ve had in America, that’s been so dominant at least in the last ten years. I can’t wait to read this collection – going to see if it’s available as an ebook now!

    • February 18, 2012 11:38 pm

      It is an ebook on amazon, Ellen! I hope that you live it. Sounds like a truly fantastic experience you had!

  5. February 14, 2012 1:23 pm

    I love that this collection is filled with essays from such a wide variety of writers who all come with different viewpoints. I bet this would be quite something to read, and I am glad that you loved it so much! Great review on this one today!

  6. February 15, 2012 10:23 am

    I would love to read this collection. Indeed, we harbour a lot about the muslims, and particulary the muslim woman. It is refreshing that they are prepared to let the workd know what goes on behind the veil. The myth has to be shattered.

  7. February 15, 2012 12:26 pm

    Amy, I love reading your blog because I always come accross interesting-sounding books that I hadn’t heard of before! This one is no different and sounds really engaging, I think I’d like it a lot. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. :)

  8. February 16, 2012 3:21 am

    This sounds really interesting!

  9. February 16, 2012 5:59 am

    Because muslimah view love and marriages as the ultimate be all and end all in life (I’m not saying it isn’t for other women), it often takes up their entire lives. Also there is certain stigma and prohibition of how far they can take up initiative to pursue their love is heartbreaking. I hope I find a copy of it here in the UK. Thanks for recommending it!

    • February 18, 2012 11:40 pm

      Yes the collection certainly pushes against those ideas JoV. A great read, I hope you can find it.

    • February 29, 2012 1:51 am

      JoV, the UK release date is March 1st. It is, however, already available as an ebook from Amazon. Enjoy! :)

  10. February 16, 2012 9:18 am

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful review, Amy!

    Just a note that we did reach out to the trans community but did not receive any submissions. We will continue building trust & relationships with that community & others we would like to hear from, and hope that some of their stories will be shared in the fall when our site opens to reader-generated stories from around the world.

    Warmly,
    Ayesha & Nura

    • February 18, 2012 11:42 pm

      Thank you so much for the opportunity to read this one, and for the further information. I can’t wait to see more from the project!

  11. February 16, 2012 10:20 am

    books as these always help to water-down the stereotype syndrome. I’m one person who hates it when people tag people with all sorts of descriptions. It’s shows a lack of reading and understanding, it shows our own parochialness. Most of the time we judge people by our own standards and not by any other as if ours is the ultimate standard.

  12. February 26, 2012 9:28 pm

    This sounds like a really interesting book. I used to be in an interfaith bookclub with Christian, Jewish and Muslim women and I think this would be a great choice for them! I’m going to pass it along to the organizers. Thanks for drawing attention to it!

    • February 29, 2012 1:56 am

      We had our first interfaith reading a few days ago. A Jewish man, a Lithuanian-Catholic woman & a Palestinian Christian man all told us that they saw their lives reflected in ‘Love InshAllah’. The topic of love & relationships opened up a whole new level of personal conversation & connections.

      For anyone choosing the book for their club, we offer a Skype session with one of the editors to answer any questions you may have. More details here:

      http://loveinshallah.com/book-clubs/

    • February 29, 2012 4:18 pm

      That sounds really interesting Marie, I hope you do give this a read – you’d like it.

Trackbacks

  1. Valentine’s Day media roundup! « Love, InshAllah
  2. Valentine’s Day media roundup! « Love, InshAllah
  3. Review: Rebels by Accident by Patricia Dunn « Amy Reads

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