Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book Review- “Normal Calm” by Hend Hegazi

This book tells the story of Amina, a young Arab-American woman. Amina is ambitious and hardworking and leaves home to study at one of the best universities in America. Very early on in the book she is raped by one of her college friends and this sets the scene for the rest of the book. Not only does Amina have to deal with the ordeal of her rape, but she also has to live through the after effects, the biggest one being how her rape has affected her marriage prospects.

The author delves into the usual stigmas associated with rape and focuses on how this is interpreted and understood in the Arab American community. It was also interesting to be given some insight into how Amina’s rape affected her parents.

One thing I really liked about the book is how the author attempts to shed light on the other perspective by occasionally shifting the spotlight onto the thoughts of the other characters. She also briefly touches on the feelings of the rapist, after he had committed this heinous act. Although this focus was very brief, it nonetheless provided an opportunity for the reader to try to understand the thoughts and reactions of an attacker, something that most of us are not very willing to do.

The relationship that was the most emotional for me was the friendship between Amina, and her non-Muslim best friend Kayla. Although Amina has a close knit group of college friends, it is Kayla, her childhood best friend that she turns to in all her times of need. The respect and support the two women give each other and the love they share for one another reminds us that as human beings we have the ability to connect to each other, despite cultural and religious differences. This relationship in the book also brings about opportunity for religious dialogue, which is included in a coherent and natural way.

Amina’s relationship with her parents however is also a very interesting one. For me there was a shift or growth in their relationship from the beginning of the book until the end. For some people, Amina’s parents may be perceived as unnecessarily overprotective, however, it is slowly revealed how their protectiveness stems from their deep love for their only daughter. At times her parents reactions to her may seem harsh and unemotional, but as the book progresses it can be seen how her parents act according to what they think is in her best interest and finally towards the end we begin to understand their strong love.

Issues relating to love and marriage are of course the most vivid in the book, and while these issues are usually selling points, the context of Amina’s rape provides an even more interesting discussion. The age old debate of passionate love versus a mutual respect and understanding is brought to the fore as Amina grapples with trying to find the most suitable spouse for her.  

I experienced Amina to be a practical and level-headed character, who always looked for positivity, even when faced with the most difficult of trials. It was her honesty and insistence on holding on to her values that made her a strong character, someone who could easily be called a role-model.

The book was generally an interesting read, which shed light on cultural understandings of issues which are pertinent to all people. In my opinion it has opened up the dialogue on issues that are often swept under the carpet in Muslim societies. I would say that the educational value of this book supersedes the entertainment value, and I would therefore describe it as a book with vision and purpose. 

Image from here 

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  1. Asalamu alailukum,

    Interesting post, I know its been a while but death came knocking on the door.. Come have a read and make dua for all those who have lost their loved ones.

    Take Care

  2. iremi nisces

    Wa alaykum salaam, yes it has been a long time, I am sorry to hear that you have suffered loss, may Allah forgive all the deceased, fill their graves with light and grant them Jannat-al- Firdous, Inshaa-Allah.

  3. Feel free to add my "I love Islam" to your blog just copy and paste code from my blog. Oh and it was my friends mother Allah bless her.

  4. iremi nisces

    إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ (From Allah do we come and to him do we return), Yes, may Allah bless your friend's mother and give the family ease, Inshaa-Allah!