Savoring Hijabi Butch Blues

Finished reading: Savor by Fatima Ali 📚 and Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H 📚

Two queer Pakistani memoirs in a row:

  • Fatima Ali, a former Top Chef contestant who by had a promising career in food media before suddenly receiving a diagnosis for sarcoma. Co-written by Tarajia Morrell
  • Lamya H, a religious, Pakistani butch who grew up in Saudi Arabia, navigating faith and love in New York City

Both books are very different. I liked the unapologetic, authentic insights into their lives. Both present aspects of faith and family with intimacy and tenderness.

Fatima Ali’s book in particular struck a cord with me: my wife and I have been deep into memoirs and articles that discuss death and grief (Sabrena is currently learning about grief in her college psychology program). What started as a an attempt to document her legacy and bucket list items before she passed turned into one where her condition worsened so much she couldn’t travel. Instead, we got a beautiful book about her life told from her and her mother’s perspective, that very much left you with a strong sense of who she was. She seemed to have been the sort of person I would have loved as a friend. I wish I followed her career more closely.

Lamya H’s book gives us a sense into how confusing and difficult it must have been to be a queer person in Saudi Arabia, especially so as a brown person there in their very classist society. She talks about friendships (or attempts at friendships) with Arab girls, growing up in a girls' school environment there and winning a scholarship to study in the US. Personally, I am usually skeptical / afraid of any ex-Muslim narratives that play to American bigotry; I was relieved to find that Lamya H deftly paints a portrait of who she is as a person and what she believes in, without needing to play off either side. Instead, she manages to weave her story about her life, country of birth, the place she grew up, where she lives now, her sexuality, her faith and family into an impressive, cohesive whole. I am thankful she published such an important book.

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Adrianna Tan @skinnylatte
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