Countering the 'Oppressed, Kidnapped Genre' of Muslim Life Writing : Yasmin Hai's The Making of Mr Hai's Daughter and Shelina Zahra Janmohamed's Love in a Headscarf
This article, informed by interviews with Shelina Zahra Janmohamed and Yasmin Hai, examines their memoirs within the larger context of life writing by young writers of Muslim heritage living in the UK. While many life writing texts about Muslim women may be categorized as ‘misery memoirs’, describing the abuse, forced marriage, or kidnapping of the passive, oppressed Muslim female, Janmohamed and Hai produce contrasting accounts of their largely happy upbringings in British Asian families. Yasmin Hai’s The Making of Mr Hai’s Daughter (2008) is marketed in its blurb as ‘a fascinating story about immigration and identity’, and the author seen as a representative of secular multiculturalism. In contrast, marketers try to constrict Janmohamed’s Love in a Headscarf (2009) within a devotional world of prescribed and proscribed practices. Despite this, I suggest that these writers are challenging and subverting attempts to pigeonhole them, and that they and others like them are producing an oeuvre of life writing growing in quality and quantity about Muslims in Britain.