Unusual tale of destiny

2010-10-27 00:00

THIS is a fresh and unusual novel that is beautifully written by a newcomer on the South African literary scene: Shaida Kazie Ali.

The novel tells us about the lives of two Muslim sisters, Salena and Zuhra. They are brought up by strict parents in a rigid, autocratic household but their lives pan out exceedingly differently.

Salena, the elder sister, is light-skinned and thus deemed beautiful. However, this leads to her life choices being dictated to and she is forced to leave school and marry a suitor. She bears children and unhappily conforms to her chosen destiny.

We hear her sad story in short anecdotes in the second half of the book. Her experiences mould her and eventually help her to come to a decision at the end of the novel.

The first half of the novel is narrated by Zuhra, the darker, free-spirited sister. Because of her perceived unattractiveness due to her pigmentation, she is not forced to marry. In a kind twist of fate this affords her the opportunity of studying, travelling and even choosing her own marriage partner.

Zuhra takes us on a quick, entertaining journey as she recounts her memories of growing up in an innocent, unprejudiced way and paints a frightening picture of her stern father, and strange mother and brother along the way.

Kazie Ali writes simply and beautifully. The novel is full of recipes, spells and fairy tales. Traditional fairy tales are given a modern, Muslim twist and this makes for entertaining reading. Kazie Ali’s novel deals with issues of colour and perception, still an issue for most cultures. She also gives insight into life in Cape Town during the apartheid era.

Qurasha Rajkumar


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