Review: Love InshAllah edited by Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi
Title: 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.
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.