‘Pride and Prejudice,’ eh? What if Jane Austen were Muslim Canadian?

Elizabeth Toohey in The Christian Science Monitor:

Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” has given birth to a cottage industry of sequels, variations, and modernizations, from “Bridget Jones’s Diary” or the Bollywood film “Bride and Prejudice,” to “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” Now comes an update set among Muslim Canadians, “Ayesha at Last,” the debut novel of Uzma Jalaluddin, who writes a humorous advice column on parenting for the Toronto Star. Does the world need “Pride and Prejudice and Muslims”? Indeed, it does – at least, it needs Jalaluddin’s version, which is full of wit and verve and humor. Like “Pride and Prejudice,” “Ayesha at Last” is not just about a heroine finding her man, but how she navigates her small community’s narrow expectations for women and her family’s foibles and financial struggles, finding strength in her voice.

“Ayesha at Last” is packaged as chick lit, with a silhouetted face with a dash of lipstick, around which swirls a purple hijab on its golden cover, but that’s just the book’s mask – and this is a book that’s all about the masks we wear to protect ourselves or please others. Where the novel shines is as “immigrant lit,” painting a nuanced portrait of an immigrant community and exploring themes like the intergenerational conflicts that can arise around tradition and assimilation. These become even more fraught in our current political landscape, with its rising tides of Islamophobia and nationalism. Yet “Ayesha at Last” is light and incandescent and deeply pleasurable from start to finish. You know it’s a good book when it’s obvious from the start who is going to get married, and yet you still can’t stop reading.

More here.