Saturday, 22 November 2014

Book review: Normal Calm

Normal Calm written by Hend Hegazi is the story of how rape impacted Amina and her family’s lives. The subject of the book is an issue that transcends many cultures such as West African, Asian, and so forth besides Arab ones. Though Muslims are not immune to the statistical average of one in three or one in four women being sexually assaulted in her lifetime, this is a topic seldom touched upon in the greater Muslim community.

Amina is an Arab American woman attending one of the best universities in the US. During the spring of her junior year, Amina is raped by one of her friends, making her essentially unmarriageable in the eyes of her parents and, possibly, the entire Arab community. Eventually she falls in love with Sherif, but his reaction to her rape proves him to be unworthy. Deciding to forgo love, Amina focuses on her career. When her best friend introduces her to Mazin, however, she sees in him only good qualities. He is successful, kind, generous...but she feels no love for him. When Mazin asks for her hand in marriage, Amina struggles with the idea of settling for a man she does not love. Knowing that he, too, may abandon her when he learns of her rape is another burden she continues to bear.
Normal Calm is the story of how rape impacted Amina and her family’s lives. The subject of the book is an issue that transcends many cultures such as West African, Asian, and so forth besides Arab ones. Though Muslims are not immune to the statistical average of one in three or one in four women being sexually assaulted in her lifetime, this is a topic seldom touched upon in the greater Muslim community. It is inspiring to see Hend Hegazi as a Muslim author writing about this sensitive issue.
The struggles in this book are unfortunately very realistic. She expressed openly what is often considered taboo in Arab and Muslim cultures in general. Situations like these need to be highlighted so they can be tackled head on. The book was very engaging because it's very realistic as it addresses a hidden problem that some Muslim women struggle with but not often discussed. These sorts of novels are needed as it can provide a source of therapy for those who have underwent similar situations and can bring hidden situations like this to light which is the first step in resolving these traumatic issues. I hope more Muslim authors follow her example. 

The rape itself is not graphically depicted. Amina deals with it in a fairly pragmatic way, deciding to go straight into a group therapy programme so that she can get the support to finish her university studies. Amina reveals her ordeal to her close friends, her family but she finds it very hard to talk about her experience with potential spouses. 
Amina did not consent to losing her virginity, yet unfortunately in her community she is simply seen as no longer a virgin and therefore no longer marriage material. This creates a slippery slope for Amina: should she compromise her own integrity for people who essentially already have questionable values? Difficult situations necessitate strong support from family and friends. However, Amina’s mother’s reaction was very difficult to read. We hope that our family will support us through hardships, especially those inflicted on us by someone else. Interestingly, one of Amina’s strongest supporters is her non-Muslim best friend. The character, Kayla, is a great inclusion in the story. I liked the way the author, Hend depicted Amina’s da’wah towards her best friend. There is so much to learn from this beautiful novel.


Normal calm is a great read. I would highly recommend reading this beautiful book. If you would like to find our more about the author, you can visit her blog:  http://hendhegazi.wordpress.com/ 

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