Stay, Daughter

A Memoir of a Muslim Girlhood

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Pub Date 30 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 13 Feb 2023

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‘The setting is beautifully drawn, and its history comes alive. The book introduces many facets of Muslim life ... while showing just how radical seemingly small changes can be in a traditional environment. A loving and approachable coming-of-age story about generational change’ - Kirkus Review (starred review)

We did not stay in our houses. Not in the way our grandmothers had, or our mothers. We went out a little more and veiled ourselves a little less…

Suffused with love, humour and compassion, Stay, Daughter gives an intimate glimpse into a traditional Muslim community that has to balance the rules of Islamic orthodoxy with the freedoms and innovations of the Westernized modern world. The memoir follows the history of a community in Sri Lanka that, in the late 19th century, breaks with the traditions of the time to give girls a secular education and permission to go out of their homes. Before long, such independence and exposure to foreign ideas brings heartbreak to many families as their daughters move away from the customs that had once been the norm. Although the book tells the story of a single family, it draws on a situation that almost all Muslims struggle with as they negotiate a changing world where women are no longer who they used to be.

‘The setting is beautifully drawn, and its history comes alive. The book introduces many facets of Muslim life ... while showing just how radical seemingly small changes can be in a traditional...

Advance Praise

‘The setting is beautifully drawn, and its history comes alive. The book introduces many facets of Muslim life ... while showing just how radical seemingly small changes can be in a traditional environment. A loving and approachable coming-of-age story about generational change’ - Kirkus Review (starred review)

'It is an outstanding example of how a memoir format can be used to promote cultural understanding with thought-provoking insights ... it should be in every collection strong in Muslim community stories' - Midwest Review

‘Yasmin Azad's Stay, Daughter shows us the humour and heartbreak involved in the complexities and nuances of those born into a traditional world trying to negotiate modernity. It is a profound reflection on the dilemmas that Muslim women faced and are facing as orthodoxy and identity come up against freedom’ - Radhika Coomaraswamy

‘Easily the best piece of writing in English about Sri Lankan Muslims, in any genre including the academic, Stay, Daughter is a must read’ - Qadri Ismail, Professor of English, University of Minnesota

‘The setting is beautifully drawn, and its history comes alive. The book introduces many facets of Muslim life ... while showing just how radical seemingly small changes can be in a traditional...

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EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781800751392
PRICE £14.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

'Stay Daughter' by Yasmin Azad is a memoir of the author's childhood growing up in Galle Fort on the south west tip of Sri Lanka. During her childhood and adolecence Azad wrestled with the desire to become an educated woman while still remaining an acceptable member of her traditional community.

Filled with love and restpect for her family and an understanding, rather than a complete rejection, of why the rules for girls were the way they were, Azad's beautiful memoir provides insight into a subject that only a first-hand account could.

I would say that the whole book is missing a little bit of structure - things that are hinted at aren't given the weight that they should be while more interesting story threads are dropped as the author doesn't have all the facts. At times this leads to a dream-like quality in the writing that I didn't always enjoy, I would have preferred more structure.

Overall, this memoir shines a light at a small corner of the earth in the midst of change. It's a little bit lacking in structure but the book makes up for this with insight and honesty.

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Stay, Daughter a Memoir of a Muslim Girlhood by Yasmin Azad is a unique insight into the life of Muslims in a timespan from the 1870s to the late 1960s.
This book is a must-read for everyone with racial and religious prejudice. It is about feminism, emancipation, and how a slight change can have a big impact on such a traditional environment. I learn so many things and I think it is very important to know more. To understand. Because time changes and questions about what girls and women can are still very actual.
Thank you NetGalley and Swift Press for this opportunity to write a review for this amazing book!

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If you want to read a beautiful memoir about growing up as a woman in a muslim culture in the 1940s and 1950s, look no further! This is the book for you.

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What “Stay, Daughter” Is About
Yasmin Azad’s memoir starts in her childhood, with her growing up in Galle Fort, in Sri Lanka. She is lucky enough to have parents who are a bit more open minded than most so she is allowed to go to school. Until she is around the age of twelve (when she has to start staying indoors at all times – the moment she is not a child anymore, but becomes an unmarried woman) she can even play outside, ride a bike or have non-muslim friends.

Her story is not only her story. Through her eyes, we meet and judge her family, friends and muslim traditions. However, most of all, we observe how the western way of living creeps into everything, changing lives. In a way, I felt this is the main topic of the book.

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My thoughts
I enjoyed “Stay, Daughter” a little less than I expected, because of just one thing. I think it’s a great book, a fascinating one and I am so, so glad I read it, but I never became attached to the narrator.

The young Yasmin observes everything and keeps her opinions to herself. She didn’t have a voice as a child or as a young woman. In her environment, that is natural, but I feel she still doesn’t have a voice in this book. A memoir should read much more personal, but her feelings are nonexistent.

The interesting thing is that the book is still great. With or without a spectacular main character to root for, it has a lot of value. We get a perspective into a different culture. It is basically a very detailed comparison between two ways of living. Through this book alone I got a detailed understanding of traditions and how they have changed along with the women’s prolonging their education.

Another fascinating aspect were the muslim family dynamics. The narrator is able to detail intricate relationships, unveil layers of gossip, shame and “what will people say?” into a relatable story. Everyone feels reduced to silence at some point by some elder relative, everyone is concerned by what people they look up to will say… We get to see these universal feelings put in a different context, in a foreign country, 50 years ago and we can relate today. That is good writing!

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…On the Characters
I have already stated my opinion on the main character – Yasmin. She is the narrator. It is her story. She is also the one that remains an enigma for me. She tells us everything we need to know about the other characters – her family, even her family history in detail, yet we know next to nothing about her.

We see her as a child trying to fit in with a western family. She has a friend, Penny, who she is always trying to impress. She feels ashamed of her family whenever more progressive people are around. She hides her feelings, hides her thoughts. Ever so often, she wants something her friends have – like to ride a bike or to go to school. She pleads one time and then just waits. Whatever happens, she accepts her fate and what her family chooses for her.

This way of being – indecisive, accepting, mousy, bland… I just couldn’t get behind it. I completely see how it worked into getting her, in the end, whatever she wanted, it was definitely smart and, ultimately, the only solution she had, but it felt so weak to see it over and over in the book.

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Her father, on the other hand, he felt larger than life. It seemed to me like he was the main character. We see him in all his glory, we see him beaten down and aged. He is all powerful, protective and good hearted, yet he will uphold his family’s honour through any means.

Her mother is an interesting character as well. She has her own means of getting what she wants too. She stands up to society whenever she gets the chance, for anything she believes in. She is the one who actually helps Yasmin complete her education.

It is interesting how women are portrayed here. They all seem to have their means to get their needs met, as long as that won’t harm their families. They always see the limits and are relentless in trying to push them, just a little bit every day – too much and someone would figure them out. Bit by bit, they gain more freedom.

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…On the Writing
This was a fascinating read! I love learning about traditions and other cultures. The way everything was described here seemed so genuine! The details, the observations, seeing everything through the eyes of a person who understands two cultures so well was amazing! Experiencing the changes in a society is never easy. The way the narrator understands them and is able to translate them for a western audience is incredible. I can honestly say I loved everything about this book, except for Yasmin’s behaviour and even that, is, of course understandable.

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This book is perfect for a deep dive in a muslim culture. It was a fast and fascinating read and I absolutely recommend it!
The review will be available on youtube as well, in January.

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A very beautiful tale, the author writes truthfully and this made me both laugh and cry at times, a lovely heart warming book which I will recommend

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