No Sex in the City by Randa Abdel- Fattah Saqi Books Pp. 384. 2014 PB. £7.99
‘A Christian, a Muslim, a Jew and a Hindu walk into a café…’ (p 379), and so begins the tale of the ‘No Sex in the City’ club which is a space created by Esma – the protagonist of Turkish descent in modern day Sydney – for her and her friends to vent, laugh and cry in their journeys to find ‘the one’ in the city.
This book attempts to be both, an insight into the love life of a Muslim woman in addition to a fictional novel and ends up falling short on both counts. It is like a Fifty Shades of – cringe worthy – Grey with your headscarf on. ‘I’m thinking that I don’t care what the movies or magazines or society says, sex is a big deal and being with someone who ‘saved’ himself for me is exciting and terrifying and thrilling all at once’ (p 358). The two just don’t fit together. If we are to talk about sex within Muslim communities, let us talk about it properly rather than half baked efforts from fictional accounts.
It is a tale of a clash of cultures and values that has been told before and as a result there are no surprises in the plot, the dialogue or the foregone conclusion. ‘Our parents’ generation is all about saving face. But things have changed. People our age tolerate and accept a lot more. (p 354) says Aydin to Esma, when they are disclosing their respective family secrets to each other before driving into the very predictable sunset.
The one redeeming aspect of the plot is how Esma keeps her father’s gambling secret from his wife. Esma has to retain a job in which she is being harassed in order to keep this secret safe. It is an interesting dilemma, of how children of immigrants – daughters especially – become breadwinners of traditionally patriarchal family structures. I wish that this theme is explored further in upcoming literature.
This book reminded me of Shelina Janmohamed’s Love in a Headscarf, which is a biographical account of her search of a soul mate and there is none of the clichéd feminine drama that ultimately ruins Fattah’s No Sex in the City.
As a Muslim and as a woman I do not like being stereotyped. Our love stories, our interests and lives are so diverse that any narrative that paints us as this one monotonous entity is unjust. All in all, this book could be useful for an outsider seeking to gain ‘a’ viewpoint, but by no means does it speak for all Muslim women.
Aasiya I Versi