Rummanah Aasi
  I've always been a fan of multicultural and immigrant reads. When I read the synopsis to Jennifer Zobair's Painted Hands, it hit close to home and I knew I had to read it. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for a chance to read an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Description (from the Publisher): Muslim bad girl Zainab Mir has just landed a job working for a post-feminist, Republican Senate candidate. Her best friend Amra Abbas is about to make partner at a top Boston law firm. Together they've thwarted proposal-slinging aunties, cultural expectations, and the occasional bigot to succeed in their careers. What they didn't count on? Unlikely men and geopolitical firestorms. 
    When a handsome childhood friend reappears, Amra makes choices that Zainab considers so 1950s--choices that involve the perfect "Banarasi "silk dress and a four-bedroom house in the suburbs. After hiding her long work hours during their courtship, Amra struggles to balance her demanding job and her unexpectedly traditional new husband. Zainab has her own problems. She generates controversy in the Muslim community with a suggestive magazine spread and friendship with a gay reporter. Her rising profile also inflames neo-cons like Chase Holland, the talk radio host who attacks her religion publicly but privately falls for her hard. When the political fallout from a terrorist attempt jeopardizes Zainab's job and protests surrounding a woman-led Muslim prayer service lead to violence, Amra and Zainab must decide what they're willing to risk for their principles, their friendship, and love.

Review: Marketed as The Namesake meets Sex in the City, Jennifer Zobair's debut novel Painted Hands is thankfully much of the former than the latter book. Though the story follows three different women's journeys, at its very heart, Painted Hands, is an exploration of what it means to be a Muslim woman in the post 9/11 world. Though I was drawn to the subject matter because I closely identify with the characters given my own personal background, I was also a bit concerned on how the characters would be written and how the tricky subject of religion is discussed. I'm happy to say that the book went beyond my expectations. I loved and cared for the characters so much that I compulsively read it in one sitting. 
  Zobair creates a cast of characters that give a wide ranging and for many a new look at Muslim-American culture from a female perspective. Within her story about navigating love and life while balancing Muslim religious and cultural beliefs with an American way of life, Zobair provides an array of characters covering the spectrum between devout followers of Islam and those who reject the beliefs of family and childhood.
   The story is very simple as it follows a group of friends for more than a year as they juggle careers, political differences, the trials and tribulations of love and prejudice. Zobair deftly captures the conflict all women face between the desire to be true to themselves and their own beliefs and the struggle to meet the expectations of family and friends. I think it's super important that Zobair made these women intelligent career women who think critically and logically for themselves and are assertive. While I may not agree with some of their decisions and/or actions, I felt the characters were authentic and not caricatures that I've met over and over again in other multicultural reads.
  Even though I was wrapped up in the lives of her characters, what kept me glued to the pages is how Islam is explored, defended, and supported in the book. Zobair's characters aren't afraid to raise questions and think outside of the traditional box. It gave me a lot to ponder. I also very much appreciated on how the characters varied in their devoutness to Islam without any suggestions of whether they are good or evil, which probes the reader to think about the Muslim identity.
  Painted Hands balances a story of women without overdoing it on the politics and religion. It allows readers to be exposed to the lesser known and good side of Muslim-American culture and the politics of being Muslim in America. Ultimately, I think the book shows that no matter the differences we share, we all are trying to achieve the same goals.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and sexual situations discussed. Recommended for mature teens and adults interested in exploring contemporary literature featuring Muslim protagonists.

If you like this book try: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee by Meera Syal
3 Responses
  1. Great Review! Sounds like a lot going on in this one, but really great too. I think I could learn a lot about the Muslim culture reading this one.
    Thanks for reviewing it!


  2. This one sounds pretty interesting, Rummanah. It's nice that the characters are authentic and that you get to see different perspectives of what it means to be a modern Muslim woman without judgement.

  3. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it, sounds a good book. Your review made me feel I must get this book. :)

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