Chosen by Farhana
Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik is a bold, breezy and hilarious romantic-comedy that charts twelve months in the life of South Londoner, Sofia. It navigates her newly-single status, her relationships with her loveable (and equally frustrating) family and friends, her job in publishing, and a hastily proposed and reluctantly accepted new project - to write a book about the Muslim dating scene...
Marketed as ‘the Muslim Bridget Jones’, it follows a similar, very readable diary format to Helen Fielding’s modern classic, and is also peppered with excerpts from emails, social media messages, and Sofia’s work-in-progress. But what makes this novel unique is the way that Sofia’s religious and cultural background and practices are seamlessly and matter-of-factly weaved in to reflect her particular reality as a hijab-wearing Pakistani-Muslim woman from Tooting, with the universal search for personal and professional fulfillment, love, and lemon puffs.
The book doesn’t shy away from less pleasant matters, either. Lazy and harmful cultural stereotypes, racism, Islamophobia, death and heartbreak all rear their heads, but these are handled with a lightness of touch that is both thoughtful and funny. For example, there aren't many novels that take a pretty common occurrence if you’re a Desi girl – such as considering whether or not to move in with the prospective in-laws – and not only make it an entertaining narrative trigger, but put such a refreshing spin on it.
But don’t just take our word for it. Met with critical acclaim upon its publication in 2015, the book went on to be selected as last year's pick for Cityread London (an annual celebration of reading that takes place across the capital), and its author Ayisha Malik has gone on to publish and contribute to several other books. In fact, Ayisha has been a WHSmith Fresh Talent Pick, was shortlisted for the Asian Women of Achievement Award and Marie Claire’s Future Shapers Awards, and is also the ghostwriter for The Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain. Not bad, eh.
So, if you’re looking for a rom-com that’s as light as a lemon puff and as addictive as a jar of Nutella, then Sofia Khan is Not Obliged might be right up your street.
To find out more click here