Tag Archives: Bangladesh

The Shaytan Bride: A Bangladeshi Canadian Memoir of Desire and Faith by Sumaiya Matin

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.

“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.”

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.

About the Author

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

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Noor Ferdous
Some Rights Reserved  

Home of the Floating Lily: Stories by Silmy Abdullah

At the heart of Silmy Abdullah’s debut, Home of the Floating Lily is an intimate portrayal of the Bangladeshi Canadian population. Through the eyes of ordinary people, Abdullah navigates the complexities of migration and its impact on relationships, be it between a husband and a wife or between parents and children. While these stories focus primarily on displacement, culture shock, and family dynamics, they are all driven by one constant theme–the universal longing for home.

Maya Angelou, in All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes, states, “The ache for home lives in all of us”, and Abdullah captures this perfectly in all eight of her stories. Beginning with “A Good Family”, we see a newly married Shumi struggling to adjust to her life in Toronto while her husband is largely absent because of his job. Drama unfolds in “All the Adjustments” when a man marries a woman from a different culture and brings her back to his hometown in Bangladesh. And “The Middle Path” tells the tale of a mother’s sacrifices for her two sons as they grow into adults and choose their own destinies.

“Abdullah uses displacement and migration to reveal experiences that are at once unique to Bangladeshi Canadians but also part of a shared human experience.”

My personal favourite is the titular story, nestled at the very end of the collection but by no means any less provocative. Reading almost like a novella due to its longer length, “Home of the Floating Lily” focuses on the fragility of relationships through the alternating perspectives of mother and daughter in the midst of family secrets and clashing ideals.

In many ways, these stories recall Jhumpa Lahiri’s 1999 short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies. Like Lahiri, Abdullah uses displacement and migration to reveal experiences that are at once unique to Bangladeshi Canadians but also part of a shared human experience. While the characters she created are very complex and have authentic Bangladeshi traits, they are all someone that we can relate to and in turn, sympathize with. In Tasneem from “Home of the Floating Lily,” we see our rebellious teen selves, striving to break free from our parents’ expectations and become our own person. In Shaila and Shahnaz, we see our mothers–all-loving, sacrificing, forgiving. Even secondary characters, like Syed or Rachel’s in-laws, bear resemblance to someone we know–be it our friends, cousins or relatives.

While the stories are intriguing and induce a mixed range of emotions, the constant reliance on overly dramatic plot twists as a means of moving the narrative along can get a bit tiring at times. But that’s a small flaw in an otherwise notable and ambitious short fiction debut. The stories, told in clear, lucid prose, may seem depressing to some but that is precisely the point. Each of the stories continues to linger in the reader’s mind long after the book is finished and in doing so, Abdullah is the very first to open a window to the rarely seen, rarely talked about Bangladeshi Canadian community.

Silmy Abdullah is a Bangladeshi-Canadian author and lawyer. Her legal practice focuses on the intersection of immigration, poverty, and gender-based violence. Silmy writes both fiction and non-fiction and Home of the Floating Lily is her debut collection. She lives in Toronto.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Dundurn Press (June 22 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 216 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1459748174
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1459748170

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This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Noor Ferdous
Some Rights Reserved