Review: ‘The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write’

A few months ago, I found myself in Housmans. These days, I have a little word with myself before I step into bookshops – “Stop buying books, you little shit. You have enough – your room is practically a little bookshop! Besides…you can probably borrow these from a library?”.

Probably.

I wouldn’t know.

The little talks I have with myself don’t really work and on this particular day, it took all of sixty seconds for the “no buying books” rule to go out of the window.

You see I’d found a book (don’t I always?), but this one was different. When I opened it, I’d landed on a page of poetry written by an acquaintance. I stood there elated for her – here she was, aged just 19 at the time, writing alongside literary heavyweights, having her poetry being published!

It featured Amina Jama’s writing and was written by a group of British Muslim women – I had to buy the book, if only to support the cause.

But we’re a few months down the line now, and I’ve finally completed the book. And as much as I don’t want to say it: this book is rubbish. So much so that it’s currently sitting atop a pile of books ready to go to my local charity shop.

It was a disappointment, and a very big one at that.

In fact, I’d score it a 4/10 (and even then, I think that’s me being generous).

In general, I’m not a fan of anthologies and it didn’t really help that there wasn’t a single running theme that all the pieces were linked to. It was kind of like a mish mash of pieces, thrown about in a random order.

The vast majority of pieces were nothing remarkable, although there were a handful which were like nothing I’d ever read before. I felt that putting them together with the other very mediocre and just plain old dull pieces was almost an injustice of sorts.

My favourite pieces were:

Leila Aboulela – ‘The Insider’;

Kamila Shamsie – ‘The Girl Next Door’;

Amina Jama – ‘Home, to a Man and other poems’;

Hanan al-Shaykh – ‘An Eye That Sees’ and;

Sabrina Mahfouz – ‘Battleface’

What I liked least about the collection was the poetry. I felt as though a lot of the poems were comprised of unfinished statements and a lot of the time, I really didn’t understand where the poems were going. I felt that perhaps the objective of these unfinished, simple sentences was so that the writing came across as ‘deep’ but the writers, in my opinion, didn’t achieve the Rupi Kaur effect. As a reader, I just felt largely confused and very, very lost a lot of the time. I’ll admit that some of the poetry was so painfully boring and downright confusing that I even broke my ‘never skip pages’ rule.

In particular, I detested Nafeesa Hamid’s ‘This Body is Woman’ which left me feeling more annoyed than anything else. I felt as though in reading her piece, I was somehow meant to share this wanting to feel pity for myself for being a woman. It was very bleak and like a lot of the other poems in this collection, offered incredibly little hope.

Overall, I just want my twelve odd pound back 😂. This collection was rubbish, even with the very few pieces in there that were great, it’s just not worth the buy because the vast majority of pieces are trash.

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