Rating: 4 Stars
Hijabistan by Sabyn Javeri is a collection of short stories about women, with a common thread of hijab running through all the stories. As a rule, I’m not one for short stories. They always leave me feeling like I missed the point. These short stories just sucked me in and left their mark. It is entirely possible that I might be biased towards this collection.
These stories speak to me personally because I have been through the struggle myself. This push and pull of wearing the hijab or taking it off has been a part of my life for most of last 15 years. Of course, it has never been as hard as it is for most of the protagonists in these stories, but I feel an affinity with most of them. There is no judgement about the garment itself here, just the people who use it as a weapon and those who let their views be coloured by it.
I liked almost all the stories in this collection, even those that might seem far-fetched to people who have no clue about how close to the truth they are. I will not talk about all the stories here, just my most favourite ones.
The Full Stop is about a young girl who gets her first period. It reads like a true story because it is the truth of millions of girls who are taught that menstruation is something to hide, something evil and disgusting. Girls are told that it is something to be ashamed of when they should be told that it is natural and something ordained by nature.
Only in London shows us a girl stuck between two cultures, not knowing which one to call hers. It is the dilemma faced by all immigrants, no matter where they come from. It is not easy to give up your old values and suddenly pick up new ones. When a person migrates to a new place, they inevitably become a mixture of the two, their country of origin, and their country of migration.
The Good Wife has to be my favourite story out of all. It is also the saddest. It tells us of a woman who covers herself because she wants to, who is not afraid of what others think of her, whose faith in her Creator is strong even if her husband’s is not. At the same time this woman loves her husband with everything in her and is not afraid to show her love as well. I was crying for that woman by the end of the story, and trying to make sense of our senseless world at the same time.
The last story, Coach Annie, is the sweetest and most upbeat story of the collection. I loved reading about Annie who has to wear the hijab at a tender age, yet she makes it her own, even when she is surrounded by men double her size. Annie makes me believe that women can do anything they put their minds to, regardless of how they choose to dress.
A great book about women and hijab that needs to be read with an open mind and a big heart.