Author: Saadia Faruqi
Published: June 3rd 2015
Rating: 4 STARS
Fiction | 200 pages | Published by FB Publishing
Mini Review: A moving collection of stories with universal themes that reflect the tragedies, flaws, talents, hopes, and ambitions of Pakistan’s people.
Many westerners harbor misguided or uneducated opinions of developing countries. South Asian and Middle Eastern countries in particular are often maligned, misunderstood, and stereotyped. When was the last time you thought about Pakistan? You probably don’t recall. What do you know about Pakistan? Probably only rudimentary history and facts. I admit that I’m not much better. The last book I read about Pakistan was Malala Yousafzai’s memoir and before that I knew embarrassingly little about Pakistan.This mis-education or under-education is why stories like Saadia Faruqi’s “Brick Walls” are vitally important for our world’s people and cultures.
I came across “Brick Walls” by chance. I visited my local independent bookstore’s website and looked at their upcoming author events and saw that Saadia Faruqi would be speaking about her debut short story collection. I immediately decided to attend. The subtitle promising “hope” and “courage” caught my attention during a time in which I needed to read about such things.
The seven short stories that comprise the set each represent a challenge or issue that people may face, a “brick wall” if you will. Some are tragic and heart-wrenching, yet hopeful in realistic way. These are the stories of everyday people: a young girl who wants to play cricket with the boys on Sundays, a mother who feels rooted in Pakistan despite her children having left the country, a young musician who uses music as a way to heal and inspire. All these stories serve to remind us that no matter what preconceived notions we may hold of Pakistan, its people have the same flaws, talents, hopes, and aspirations as anyone else.
I want to discuss two standout stories, “Paradise Reinvented” and “Bittersweet Mangoes.”
“Paradise Reinvented” places us in the shoes of a young man, Faisal, who by all accounts should have a promising future. He is intelligent and has a prestigious college education, but even the most optimistic of people can lose hope after three years of joblessness. Rejection and disappointment drive Faisal to a profound low, to the abyss of depression and suicidal thoughts. But a religious extremist “saves” him. This story is poignant and controversial. Ms. Farqui admitted that “Paradise Reinvented” became an obstacle to getting published because American publishers didn’t believe the public would want to read a story that portrayed a “terrorist” in a sympathetic light. Fortunately, the story was published because it is exactly the kind of story I want to promote at Read Diverse Books. One that is bold in its proclamation to be heard and in its demand that we expand the narrow boundaries of our comfort zones.
“Bittersweet Mangoes” follows Rabia, the daughter of a politician, royalty and a celebrity in her own right. It starts out as a tale of forbidden love. Rabia falls for Pasha, a college mate from a lower social and economic class who runs a small organization that aims to help and support the local community. The tale takes unexpected twists and certainly does not have a happy ending, but like in every single one of these stories, there is hope and admirable displays of courage and optimism in the face of adversity.
I’m sure you’ve heard the 2009 TED Talk The Danger of a Single Story before. Unsurprisingly, this idea still rings true today and the need for complex stories from around the world is as urgent as ever. Saadia Faruqi aptly described her writing a form of activism, for it is through storytelling that we can begin to fight the dangerous and intractable “single story.”
Meet The Author
Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, speaker and interfaith activist. She writes both fiction and non-fiction, teaches cultural sensitivity, and is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a journal for Muslim art, poetry, and prose.
Visit her website at www.saadiafaruqi.com.