When you first come across The Shaytan Bride, you might think of it as a story with supernatural themes. The book cover, coupled with the title (Shaytan literally translates to the devil), will make anyone think that it belongs in Indigo’s horror section. But once it has lured you in, you see that it’s in fact a coming of age memoir of a young woman navigating the complexities of faith and healing, family dynamics and trauma, who she wants to be and who she is expected to be.
Our protagonist, Sumaiya Matin, migrated to Canada at the tender age of 6. Since then, she has battled Islamophobia, tackled the traditional moral codes and restrictions imposed by her parents, and has endured abuse at the hands of the ones who are supposed to love and protect her. Now, writing about one’s past trauma is no easy feat but it’s something that Matin does gracefully. One by one, she invites us into some of the most intimate moments of her life: from being imprisoned by her own family to being abused by the very man who claimed to love her.
I am particularly awed by the way she handles the topic of forced marriage. Using her own traumatic experiences, she explores traces of misogyny, sexism, and racism that are accepted as the norm in most postcolonial South Asian cultures. She says, “A forced arranged marriage is tantamount to legal rape.” It may sound shocking but the truth is rarely easy to talk about. After all, forced marriage is rampant in many nations, but how many dare to call it for what it is?
With that being said, what truly stands out is Matin’s resilience and steadfastness throughout her journey. No matter what life threw at her, she remained true to herself and emerged triumphant, transformed, reborn. At the beginning of the memoir, she explicitly states that “this is not a rescue story,” but I beg to differ. While this does not present your usual narrative of an oppressed Muslim woman being saved by a valiant Western hero, in my eyes, it’s still a story about rescue. A story where the woman rescues herself.
This is a memoir that will unsettle you with its vivid imagery, shock you with truths you have always looked away from, and prompt you to ask questions about what is right and what is considered normal. Rich with historical and political references, The Shaytan Bride beautifully contextualizes the experience of one individual within the larger socio-political landscape of the Bangladeshi community. Heavy at times, terrifying even, this book truly changed the way I look at marriages, cultural implications, and family obligations. If you are looking for a thought-provoking read to jolt you out of your comfort zone, then this book is for you.
Sumaiya Matin is a writer, part-time social worker/psychotherapist, and strategic advisor for the Ontario government, working on a wide range of public policy files, including anti-racism. She lives in Toronto.
- Publisher : Rare Machines (Sept. 7 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1459747674
- ISBN-13 : 978-1459747678