A Comment on "Muslim Bad Girls," plus updates




When I was querying my novel and trying to come up with a colorful, shorthand way to describe one of my main characters--Zainab Mir, a kick-ass, sharp-tongued, brilliant, successful Muslim woman--I immediately thought of what writer and activist Asra Nomani said in a 2005 op/ed for The Washington Post about Muslim feminists.

"To many," Ms. Nomani pointed out, "we are the bad girls of Islam."

This is, of course, different from "sluts," although certainly some people conflate women who speak out against patriarchal paradigms and women who exhibit so-called "loose morals" in an attempt to maintain the status quo.

Topic for another day.

And early in the process, one agent rejected my query/pages with the plucky lament, "I would have enjoyed this more if they had been truly 'bad' Muslim girls!"

Yes, well.

When I use the term "Muslim bad girl," I mean to convey something more along the lines of the slogan that women of my generation are apt to sport on tee-shirts and buttons and refrigerator magnets holding up school lunch calendars:

Well-behaved women seldom make history.

My embracing this term also probably suggests that if someone calls a woman "bad" for speaking out, for thinking for herself, for challenging social/cultural/religious gender norms, he/she and I might have some work to do.

I like this term so much that I closed my query letters by saying, "Like Zainab, I've probably been called a Muslim bad girl."

I mean, a woman can hope, right?

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The last time I did an update here, the little pink stick figure in this post was a strong contender for my author photo. It was a close call, but I've decided to go with this instead, with a debt of gratitude to Brian Ziska for putting up with me during two photo shoots and even enduring a bee sting in the process. Talk about taking one for the team!

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Last, but so not least, I was thrilled and honored to receive another lovely blurb recently. This one was from Anjali Banerjee, author of numerous novels including HAUNTING JASMINE, which I read a couple of years ago and loved, and ENCHANTING LILY, which is on my to-be-read pile near my bed:

An enlightening first novel, Jennifer Zobair's PAINTED HANDS dismantles the myths and stereotypes about what it means to be Muslim in American society today, Through interwoven stories of career-oriented women of Pakistani and Indian descent, navigating the tightrope of politics, personal ambition, and family expectations in modern Boston, PAINTED HANDS ultimately celebrates the redemptive, transcendent power of love and friendship.
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PAINTED HANDS, my debut novel about "Muslim bad girls," but not "truly bad" Muslim women, is now available for preorder.

15 comments:

  1. I can't wait to see the book. I pre-ordered it (OMG, so cheap for the hardback!) and I am excited for the day it shows up in my mailbox.

    I love that saying "well-behaved women seldom make history." We need more "bad girls" in the world if those are the ones who press for social change, for equal rights for all people. Power to anyone who demands we treat each other with dignity and respect.

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    1. Thanks, Wendy, for pre-ordering and for this comment!

      You know, from one bad girl to another.

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  2. I love Zainab for being just exactly who she is.

    Some characters stay with you long after closing a book. Zainab still feels like a friend to me. I don't know how you did that, but I know it has a lot more to do with complexity and completeness than any single phrase can hope to encapsulate. She's just Zainab. That's the beauty of the book. And I'm so looking forward to others having the chance to meet her soon, too.

    And I really, really love that blurb. It's perfect. :)

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    1. Thank you, Sarah!

      I love that you say that about Zainab. I think it's one of the best compliments you could pay this novel.

      And I love the blurb, too. :)

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  3. The blurb sounds fabulous.

    Not so sure about your choice of author photo, though. The pink stick figure has a certain charm, you know?

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    1. Thanks, Pete!

      And I know. That stick figure shot might have sold books all on its own.



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  4. I think you chose the right picture. I'd say that regardless of whether it was true, of course. But in this case it is true. Which, admittedly, I would say even if it weren't. Except it is. So far as you've been led to believe.

    I haven't preordered a copy yet. I'm waiting until PH is #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, whereupon I'll place my order and push it to #1. No, don't thank me, that's what friends do.

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    1. I'm not really sure I can believe this, Steve, until I know you've measured the stick figure's face?

      When PH is turned into a movie and wins some sort of red carpet-worthy award, I will stand on stage and sing your praises until the music plays and everyone watching at home curses your name.

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  5. I hope every one of these milestones — each blub, each change to your Amazon listing, this wonderful photo — is a celebration, and that you pop the cork on a, ummm, limited edition bottle of Mountain Dew.

    I hope you're having the time of your life.

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    1. Thank you, Richard!

      Here's a secret--I got the email about Anjali Banerjee's blurb while I was at my daughter's indoor field hockey practice, and I let out a little scream. I'm pretty sure my two sons took a few steps away from me.

      I still get that excited. :)

      And if there is such a thing as a limited edition bottle of Mt. Dew, you know I must have it.

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    2. Vintage Mountain Dew: http://tinyurl.com/awq8qcp

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    3. Straight to the birthday wish list.

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  6. I'm very glad to hear the book is available for pre-order. Of course, pre-order is less exciting that non-pre-order. But I suppose if I order it now I'll be surprised when it comes, and that will feel like Christmas, Muslim Bad Girl style.

    I also like your picture! That little kiss of pink in the back makes me nostalgic and excited. :)

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    1. Thanks for being nostalgic and excited, Davin!

      Pre-order is cool, but non-pre-order will make me scream and do a little happy dance. Which is all still very Christmas, Muslim Bad Girl style, I am almost certain.

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  7. It's already out of stock here in India. :) http://www.flipkart.com/painted-hands/p/itmdgh3sebttk8tt?pid=9781250027009

    I've added it to my wishlist, and I'm trying other sources that could get me the book at the earliest.

    I've always put you, Sarah and Wendy on my Spice Girls team. Bad girls, you.

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