Ayisha Malik read English Literature at Kingston University and went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing. She is a writer and editor who lives in London. Her debut novel, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, was released last month. (Interview by Jade Craddock)
Sofia Khan is Not Obliged is the story of a thirty-year-old Muslim hijabi in London who’s asked to write a Muslim dating book by her boss.
Sassy, flawed, a bit like Marmite.
They’re all fictional(ish), but some aspects reflect the real life Muslim dating situation.
Certainly a process of discovery. The plot changed about fifty pages in, which meant a lot of re-writing once the first draft was done. Happy days.
Absolutely. Several, in fact. Namely the idea that being Muslim and practising one’s religion is at odds with being a fully integrated part of society. I didn’t want a Muslim heroine who had the weight of the world on her shoulders, facing family oppression and all that nonsense. People seem to be very ready to categorise and put Muslim men – and women particularly – in this box, but I didn’t want Sofia to fit any mould.
I think UK publishers are quite risk averse and perhaps having a Muslim heroine is commercially precarious. However, I also think it’s because the idea of being creative within Asian communities isn’t, by-and-large, promoted. I feel this is beginning to change but there needs to be more encouragement from within communities and this needs to be equally supported by the industry.
Ummm…not really! Although you have books like Love in a Headscarf, but that is memoir rather than fiction.
It’s very hard to tell to be honest. I don’t think any publisher will say I’m turning this down because it’s ‘too Muslim’ – publishing is far too polite for that. But I understand that with a very global shift in how Muslims are perceived it will make publishers wary. However, there are of course others, like Twenty7, who are wanting to take a chance and bring fresh voices to the fore to challenge the structure of the existing publishing world.
Ha! Being asked how the book’s going! (Particularly my sister who on a weekly basis would ask: ‘Have you finished your story yet?’) I had quite a deep-seated fear that I’d never actually finish a draft but once I’d done that there was a huge sense of relief. However, I’ll be honest and say that each part of it had its own frustrations and anxieties.
Ah, it’s a whole new scenario. I won’t divulge exactly who we will and won’t be seeing, but you never know!
I think each will have their own struggle and I hope to explore the way in which marriage is not the be all and end all – how it can actually just be the beginning of life’s troubles.
I hope they get many things, but the key thing is for them to recognise a Muslim heroine as being a part of the fabric of the society in which she lives. If they fall in love with Sofia, all the better.