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Sofia Khan is Not Obliged: A heartwarming romantic comedy Kindle Edition
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This is a truly unique story of a young Muslim woman in London, who is trying to live the way she wants - which is a rather complex challenge given her surroundings. Grown up in today's London, she dresses in skinny jeans and works for a publisher, however she is someone who started wearing hijab in the aftermath of 9/11 - a gesture of determination and protest, or a rebelliousness in her part, which goes against all waves and expectations of the time and the society. She is called a "terrorist" in her commuting train by a stranger, and her immigrant parents that constantly pressure her to get married "like a good daughter should" despite the fact that they had never demonstrated a model of happy marriage, also want her to take off her hijab - just so she could show off her beauty, and catch a husband. And then, she somehow ends up writing a "Muslim datebook" for her publisher, and gets on the Internet date site. What Sophia finds in the cyber space leads to much more than a date book but a truer-than-true love, but in a most unexpected way.
A damn interesting and fun read. And if you have ever wondered what's under the hijab of a Muslim woman in today's London - or Paris or New York - this is a must-read.
Sofia was exactly what I expected: the snarky, honest, hilarious narrator who keeps it real. The story is told in journal form, like Bridget Jones, where Sofia recounts her frustrations being constantly stereotyped for both being brown and hijabi, and her dealings with a smattering of unsuitable men.
What I loved about Sofia is that she defies categorization. Yes, she prays five times a day, and yes, she talks a lot about her scarf—but she’s also sassy as hell and refuses to be pigeonholed by strangers or even by her parents. Her daily life is filled with hilarious moments, and I liked the inclusion of bits of the Muslim dating book she’s writing. Her story provides a window into immigrant Muslim culture, but Sofia’s relationship to religion isn’t all that different than what mine was when I was a practicing Christian. We need more books like this that both provide information without making it their job to educate (white/Christian) folks.
There’s a lot of nuanced discussion about the intersection of religion and ethnicity as well. Sofia and her friend Hannah practice Islam and wear the hijab, but their friend Suj isn’t practicing—but she still has to deal with white people stereotyping her simply for being brown. I liked getting to see the different sides of things.
The story is incredibly relatable for anyone who’s ever been in her 20s or 30s, the parental pressure to get married regardless of ethnic background. Obviously it’s more intense for Sofia, and I enjoyed getting to see some of her culture, the normalization of living with your parents until marriage—something we unnecessarily shame in American culture for sure.
While the book falls into a lot of formulaic rom-com tropes, it still kept me guessing. There’s obviously the trope of the Wrong Guy here, but there’s a lot about Sofia figuring out what she wants and what she doesn’t want—which felt incredibly real. Love is complicated, but ultimately she learns that you can’t help who you fall in love with.
While I appreciate what I view as good Muslim rep (although I’m not Muslim, so that’s not really my lane), I did find a couple problematic comments sprinkled through the book. Sofia (like Bridget Jones) talks a lot about her body and her weight. While it reads as part of her character, it did strike me that it could be frustrating or triggering for some readers (although, again, this is not my lane). There are also a couple problematic mental illness references: Sofia makes a joke about bulimia and another joke about self-harm. Granted, these are small mentions, but I thought it was worth pointing out—because neither of those things are funny to me. Additionally, Mason on Twitter pointed out that there’s a passage erasing asexuality (which you can check out here).
Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged is a light-hearted rom com that sheds light on Muslim culture in a way that is much needed. Although there were some problematic comments, I did still enjoy the book. I was able to put the comments into their comedic context, and it didn’t really affect my overall reading. That said, everyone is different. I’m ultimately giving this 4 stars because of the Muslim and hijabi rep that just felt so real and refreshing. This is by no means a perfect book, but definitely an enjoyable one.
The friendships here are a lot of fun, but it was the familial relationships that I loved.
I've read a few things recently about how to accurately write bilingual characters, and this seems like a good example to me. There are a few words (especially transitions and words for emphasis) that are always in Punjabi (and maybe Urdu, based on something said about Bobby?) when certain characters are speaking. There are situations where entire conversations are in Punjabi and situations where they aren't.
There were a few things early on that were very uncomfortable to read as a person on the asexuality-spectrum, and then later on there was (pretty predictably) some "just friends" language that is mildly aromisic. Also note negative language about fatness, with reference to clothing sizes.
Most recent customer reviews
I LOVED this novel. It was a bit slow to start but then it picked up and I couldn't put it down. I can't wait for the sequel!!