Published February 26, 2019 at Words Of Hers.
“SahebaN is the feminist warrior I hadn’t realized I was missing.”
‘Being a Canadian woman writer of European descent, I came into Fauzia Rafique’s The Adventures of SahebaN without background knowledge of the role (Mirza) Sahiba plays in much of traditional Punjabi culture. The beauty of Rafique’s text however, is how my lack does not impact my understanding of how the narrative turns a cultural model for perfection (Sahiba) on her head to showcase the flaws of that very perfection, and (in particular) to show that a woman can be honourable, and pure, and loyal, without bowing to the restrictive ideas and expectations that society and religion place upon her.
‘Right away announcing her departure from the traditional “folk” Sahiba, Rafique creates her double in SahebaN, the Relentless Warrior. From the moment she is born, SahebaN questions those around her; but in a world where questions from a woman, and especially a brown one, are not taken seriously, she finds only silence. Readers soon recognize her universe as a barely veiled image of our own, led by none other than Civil Magicia, a “fantastical” governing head that perpetuates inequality, and which seems dedicated to controlling the natural chaos of humanity. Yet, as our uninhibited (and repeatedly misinformed) SahebaN rises and falls through CM’s imposed hierarchies, readers get the chance to rejoice through her struggle as she continually flouts the very authorities trying desperately to regulate her existence.
‘It is within this frame that I came to know SahebaN as the feminist warrior I hadn’t realized I was missing. She fights back against those who would dare oppress her by using her very femininity as her strength, at one point, literally pushing a bloodied menstrual pad into her potential rapist’s face! (Yes!)’
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Jessica Barratt is an author and editor who founded Words of Hers, the home of JBEditing and The (Almost) Daily. Visit her ‘Loving Edits’ Facebook page at the link below.
The Adventures of SahebaN:
Biography of a Relentless Warrior
A novel by Fauzia Rafique
Libros Libertad 2016
Art work by Shahid Mirza, Photo Mohammad Hasan, Design Iryna Spica.