Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Review: Painted Hands by Jennifer Zobair

In this groundbreaking debut novel, Jennifer Zobair expertly weaves together the friendships, careers, and romantic relationships of three Muslim women, illuminating the points of intersection with nuance, empathy, and a writing voice that shines. Painted Hands is a book for people who love richly drawn characters and tight, riveting storytelling.

As the novel's heart and soul, Amra has worked years of grueling hours toward achieving her goal of making partner at a prestigious Boston law firm, only to fall hard for Mateen, a childhood acquaintance who may have more traditional expectations for the woman he marries than Amra wants to acknowledge.

Amra’s best friend Zainab is a gorgeous, suffer-no-fools politico spearheading a Massachusetts Senate campaign, whose Islamic faith becomes a convenient target for Chase, the up-and-coming, conservative radio host whose lifelong ambition is checked by his growing attraction to the strangely familiar, and magnetic, Zainab. 

Amra’s law firm colleague, Hayden, has become an unlikely convert to Islam after years of being marginalized by men. While her new religion is a salve to her loneliness, Hayden has drifted into a more fundamentalist sect of Islam led by Fareeda, a woman who abhors Muslim feminists like Zainab and is all too eager to shape Hayden’s interpretation of what a “true” Muslim woman should be.

Throughout the novel, Ms. Zobair highlights the Pakistani and Indian practice of women dyeing their hands with henna before the wedding of a family member or friend. Amra and Zainab have maintained a lifelong tradition of embedding their dearest, most secret wish somewhere inside this intricate pattern of loops and swirls.

And that’s how reading this book felt: like a beautiful secret unfurling across the pages, drawing me nearer to these smart, vulnerable, and very human characters in a story as original as the women it paints, and as universal as the heart’s desires.

With Painted Hands, Ms. Zobair has lit one more light for hope and understanding in this fractured world. I highly recommend it.   

Buy Painted HandsAmazon, Barnes & NobleIndie Bound

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hearth & Home

I dreamed of a boy
in a fireplace.

Curled inside
its cold recess,

he slept the sleep
of the innocent

while I stood outside,

But the flames
wouldn't spark

and the boy slept on,

Perhaps he dreamed
of a birthday cake

or of a woman watching
the darkness at play.

Perhaps he was the smoke
poured from my addled brain.

For there are times it 
seems too sick a fate

to be a parent on
this cold, dark stage.

Where every lick
of what if
dances nearer upon
this matchstick life.


Did his failures follow him
into the ground

and, given lead,
did they lime him down?  

Or did the bitterness rise to
where he last dragged his eyes?

Like a blue balloon.

Like some endless, white flag.