After reading Zetta Eliott’s review of Wanting Mor and reading another mention of the book at GA Novelty, I thought, Once again, a book I’ve read and enjoyed and not reviewed. I’m writing now though because Zetta and I have divergent views on the book. We’re both feminists and we share a lot of the same views but this time, we see culture and faith differently.
Wanting Mor is akin to a Cinderella set in Afghanistan based on a true events in 2001. There is no prince but there is maturation and freedom though I think in this book, it's not freedom in the way many of us would define it. I see women making choices and exerting themselves while Zetta questions why women willingly embrace restrictions placed on them by their religion and culture. Like Zetta, I’m very interested to learn how teen girls would interpret this story. There are great comments and observations at Fledgling. Do check them out.
I read this and like Doret, I see Jameela in the context of her circumstances and culture. I think the writer gives an honest and realistic, and in a modern setting by the way a view of how some Muslim women see themselves. I prefer this to a version that is more aligned with my Western views. This is Kabul after the Taliban and during an established US presence.
I concede Jameela is judgmental towards other women, but she does mature. She comes to love and care for her friend who does not share her conservative values or adherence to their religion. Jameela also breaks from her father and chooses an alternative life as a single, employed woman. Jameela chooses her destiny.
I see Jameela and her religious views very much in the way I know Christians have very different views of what it means to be Christian. Many follow Christianity but we all do not interpret our faith and live our lives the same way, and among ourselves we are judgmental. There are many of us who are Christian, but we are also pro-choice, we reject homophobia and we are Democratic and Republican. I think Khan presents different shades of culture and faith, a view of women who live in a Muslim country and how they unapologetically live and practice and reject it, too. I think this story reflects how some women see themselves. That is valuable to see.
Jameela emulates the strongest, most positive figure in her life. Her mother believed in modesty but that didn't mean her mother believed in abuse or that she didn't think for herself. She married a non-practicing Muslim but she didn't abandon her faith. She did not live as her husband did. Mor believed and practiced what mattered most to her and that is empowering.
I think that if we're going to use our own measuring stick for what it means to be empowered then we inevitably are going to find others coming up short often.
Many of us have rejected parts of our mother's thinking and living but many of these same women were also the strongest women we knew and we drew on their strength. Sometimes we saw how limiting a woman's life could be and we were steadfast in having a different life.
In much of the multicultural literature I read, I discover girls and women who find ways to exert themselves within the context of their culture and circumstances. They find purpose, love and happiness within what they know and I find that empowering. And as undesirable as we may find some customs, there are women who find comfort and joy in their traditions. Jameela liked how she looked in the mirror. She also liked being free of being looked at. There was no reason to cover her lip after the surgery but she felt wearing the burka was her way of choosing who and when others had access to her.
I don’t think it serves us to think women have to reject culture or religion completely in order to live a life a woman finds fulfilling. And I can respect and celebrate a life a woman chooses for herself in spite of finding aspects of that life personally objectionable.
I read Wanting Mor for Women Unbound and J. Kaye’s 2010 Young Adult Challenge. I also think this fits Social Justice: Religious Freedom. I encourage you to read this book. You might also be interested in Climbing The Stairs and Beneath My Mother’s Feet. These are stories about girls growing up in traditional, conservative cultures yet they make breaks as well.
What are your thoughts about the restrictions or freedom of culture and faith? Have you read stories that elicit similar conflicts for you?