Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – A book review

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – A book review

You all know how exciting it is for me to read a Pride and Prejudice retelling. Especially since I heard it was about Indians Muslims settled in Canada, I had wanted to check this one. So can we talk about Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin?

About the book

Cover Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Book Name: Ayesha At Last

Author: Uzma Jalaluddin

Genre: Fiction – Romance

Characters: Ayesha and Idris Shamsi, Khalid and Zareena Mirza, Farzana, Hafsa, Sheila, Clara,

Setting: Toronto, Ontario,  Canada

The plot

Ayesha Shamsi, a 27 year old aspiring poet, is on her first year as a substitute teacher in an attempt to pay off her family’s debt. Her extended family and the aunty brigade never stop reminding of her age and the fact that she doesn’t have a stream of ‘rishtas’ (marriage proposals) coming her way.

Neither Ayesha nor her mom are worried about her getting married right away but she is annoyed that her cousin Hafsa, whom Ayesha is overprotective about, is taking it too lightly. Hafsa enjoys getting marriage proposals and promises that she would not choose until she gets a hundred of them.

Khalid Mirza is conservative and quick to judgement, especially when it comes to fellow Muslims who are not as religious as he is. When a colleague introduce Ayesha to him in a bar, he quickly dismisses her.

What trouble befalls Hafsa and thus Ayesha when Khalid’s mother proposes the marriage between Hafsa and Khalid? Who ends up with whom form the rest of Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin.

My initial thoughts

Ayesha At Last is a modern day Pride and Prejudice with a bit of gender swap. It’s Khalid’s mother who acts like Mrs Bennett and all up in his business. I can relate some of the characters to the original but on the whole, you may not even realize it is a retelling (if you hadn’t known earlier).

I loved how South Asians and Muslims were not just a backdrop for the story, but their beliefs and customs were an integral part of Ayesha At Last. This is exactly why #OwnVoices matter. I was able to relate to their talks, language and family bonding well, as an Indian myself.

SPOILER While I love a good makeover, I don’t think Khalid should have had to change his appearance to appease the Islamophobics at his workplace and Ayesha. If we hate a woman changing herself to fit the society’s norms, shouldn’t we do the same for the guy?

What worked for me

  • I really liked that the characters were truly south Asian Muslim and not just a backdrop.
  • And kudos to the writer on keeping the narrative flow interesting without turning the explanations about the practices of the Muslims preachy or into a lesson.
  • I loved the author’s take on the different types of Islam followers and not harshly judging any of them (while her characters were having a hoot doing just that).

What may have been better

  • I wish Khalid didn’t have to change his appearance or behavior to fit into the western mold of normalcy.
  • Since there were many characters, we didn’t get the chance to delve into any other characters deeply. I am sure I would have loved to know more Amir or even Ayesha’s mother.

Bottom line

If you are craving for a good Muslim representation in a romance book, then Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin is a good choice. If you are a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice, you might be left wanting a bit more with Ayesha At Last, but still worth a read.

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Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – A book review

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – A book review

Have you ever picked up a book, and within minutes you know that it is going to stay with you for a long time? One such book for me would be Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Read my book review of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi to know how it fared for me.

The first time I heard about Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was in 2018. Immediately, I knew there was only two ways this could end for me – either I am going to hate it and DNF, or I am gonna find a book that would recommend the heck of it to everyone I know.

About the book

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi book cover

Book Name: Homegoing

Author: Yaa Gyasi

Genre: Fiction – Drama, History, Literary

Characters: Maame, Cobbe Otcher, Effia Otcher, James Collins, Quey Collins, Nana Yaa Yeboah, James Richard Collins, Akosua Mensah, Abena Collins, Ohene Nyarko, Akua Collins, Asamoah Agyekum, Yaw Agyekum, Esther Amoah, Marjorie Agyekum; Big Man Assare, Esi Assare, Ness Stockham, Sam, Kojo Freeman, Anna Foster, H Black, Ethe Jackson, Eli Dalton, Willie Black, Robert Clifton, Carson Clifton, Amani Zulema, Marcus Clifton

Setting: Ghana, AfricaAlabamaThe USA

The plot

The book begins in the eighteenth century Ghana where the slave trade by the whites is at its peak. Effia and Esi are half-sisters born in different villages in Ghana. And it is through the lives of their descendants that we get a glimpse of history of Black lives in Africa and America over the centuries.

Effia becomes the mistress to an Englishman and lives in the comparative comfort of his castle, where unbeknownst to her, Esi among thousands of other African slaves is entrapped and sold to the America.

Esi and her family form the American history as a part of Alabama’s cotton plantations, Civil War, the coal mining and the twentieth century’s Harlem dope houses, to the present day. On the other hand, Effia and her descendants stay back in the continent to initially take part in the slave trade enthusiastically to finally fight their enslavers over the course of generations.

To know more about this family saga coupled with the history of Black lives in America and the slave trade in Ghana, you will have to read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

My initial thoughts

First off I have to say Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is going to be painful, hard and intense. This plot driven multi-generational family saga has too many characters and many African words to be an easy read.

The chapters are quite short, as is the book itself, and for a few it might read like a collection of short stories.

Okay now that I have warned you about everything that could put you off and have done my part to cast away the weak hearted’s, let us talk about Homegoing earnestly.

The subject matter of this semi autobiography, a risk you take when reading an Own Voice book, is the history of slavery and the drastic mistreatment of the Blacks over the centuries. True to the nature of the subject, Homegoing is painful and makes you wonder if we have moved forward at all.

Homegoing follows the seven generations of Effia and Esi alternatively, over two continents Africa and America – that is fourteen perspectives with our 250 years cover ground. And Yaa Gyasi does it effortlessly and so intricately in about 300 pages that I can’t believe that it is her debut novel.

We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.

Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing

Personal rambling

I would go as far as telling that Homegoing had such an impact in me that I, not only had a book hangover for the next two days but also made me introspect on the effect of British oppression had on us as Indians and me as a person, in such a way that I had never thought of before.

My heart broke when Marcus tries to find his ancestors and could only reach till his grandfather H. I wished I could tell him the tales of his forefathers and that he finally reached his place in Ghana. Rarely, I get all emotional over books and I keep it objective and the point in my review, but guys, this book!!

In reality, that is literally what was done to him and the other millions of Blacks, we have uprooted them for personal gains, erased their history, not to speak of the atrocities their ancestors had to go through as slaves and second and third class citizens, and now we are still shooting them cuz of the color of their skin.

What worked for me

  • I loved how each story connected to the next generation so that we don’t miss the flow at all. I loved how the stone traveled generations to reach the other half of the family.
  • The writing was simple but yet so empathetic. It was so realistic that it made me feel like I know Ghana and the coal mines in Alabama, personally.
  • The way the slavery and colonialism, racism and the violence of it all were written made an impact in me that my history texts never it.
  • I loved that everyone I know who read this book had a different favorite character. Each of them were so well written that I can’t pick one how much ever I tried.

What may have been better

  • I wish the stories of the recent generations were little bit longer. Obviously, they were great as they are but I just wanted to spend a little more time knowing them.
  • If you are not a fan of plot driven books, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi may not work for you.

Bottom line

If you are mildly interested in knowing the history of slavery, British colonialism or history of Black slaves in the USA, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi should be your choice.

This historical fiction about seven generation family saga will satisfy both your fictional and history thirst! I will be reading more from the author definitely.

Go pick Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi already. Get your quota of reading towards Black lives matter and books by BIPOC about BIPOC or whatever other counts you have, but READ THIS BOOK.

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Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – A book review

Paid to Proofread: Indie Guest Post

It has been a hot minute since I had my last guest post by an indie author, right? But don’t worry, I am not going to make you wait any longer, for we have Sue Gilad writing about “Paid to Proofread”, which happens to be her book’s name as well. Let us get reading shall we?

Say hello to Sue!

Paid to proofread Cover

Balancing a career as a producer, a mother, and a professional proofreader, Sue Gilad is a living example that you can have full-time income without having a full-time job. Gilad began freelance proofreading to subsidize her acting career, and has proofread over 1,200 books.

Gilad’s proofreading endeavors evolved into copyediting and content editing, eventually becoming a full-service editing company. Her client roster of book publishers includes Random House, Simon & Schuster, John Wiley & Sons, St. Martin’s Press, Oxford University Press, Workman Publishing, and Kensington Publishing, among others.

She is the author of COPYEDITING AND PROOFREADING FOR DUMMIES and the co-author of THE REAL ESTATE MILLIONAIRE.

Let’s get on with it shall we?

Do you feel as though the stress of a nine-to-five work ethic takes too much time out of your day? The time that you would like to use for reading books or discovering new pieces of literature based on your favorite genres? Or perhaps you are now realizing that you want a career where you can work from wherever, yet still have the ability to make a six-figure income?

Well my friend, if you said yes to any of these questions, then it looks like you are on the right path to becoming a paid proofreader. And guess what? We are here to be your three-step guide.

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I’m going to share all the information you need to start proofreading professionally so that you can get paid to read all day long. So let’s get started.

1: HOW to do the job

Just like me, you may be thinking, “But where do I even learn how to become a paid proofreader Where do I begin?”. The simple answer to this is to just START.

Sure, you can spend money on classes and read endless “how-to” books, but you won’t get the practice you need until you just do it. As my favorite teacher once said, “the best way to learn is to do.”

Let’s be real here. Not everyone gets the best proofreading jobs right off the bat. Your first few proofreading gigs may not be as prestigious or lucrative as you’d like, but remember that it’s EXPECTED and ALRIGHT to be in this starting level.

Believe it or not, these small gigs are super important because they are there to add experience and worth to your resume to then get those big paying/incredibly interesting proofreading gigs.

2: WHO can get you the job

Reaching out to friends and family is the place to begin in any experience-building adventure. To put this in simple terms, it’s all about networking. This is the most productive and successful form of spreading your name in order to land opportunities that’ll inch you closer to getting that dream proofreading gig.

Reach out Paid to proofread

Who knows, maybe that aunt that you haven’t spoken to since she drank a little too much wine at the family get-together is a friend of someone who works at your favorite publishing house! Maybe that friend can land you your first big proofreading gig.

It’s also super important to focus on lending a hand to people that work within fields that require any form of writing. This act exercises your skills and adds to the strong portfolio you are trying to build.

Reaching out to friends in the business, law, and/or creative industry is a great starting point when offering your services. Even the simplest task of looking over a business card can take you a long way.

3: WHERE to get the jobs

Reaching out to friends and strangers isn’t the only way to network. Put yourself on blast by using social networking apps. Post Instagram stories that focus on telling your followers that you are now pursuing a career in proofreading.

You can screenshot and share that post so that your proofreading services get spread around. Write up a nifty Facebook status or Tweet on Twitter that highlights the proofreading services you are willing to provide.

Even a goofy TikTok that showcases your proofreading skills can go a long way!

Paid to proofread Network

Profile building on job-networking sites is also a good free advertisement. LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, Handshake, you name it! Apply, apply, apply.

Send a warm email to the company in order to inform them of your interest in proofreading for them. Make sure you are aware of current events, such as having COVID-19 etiquette during the current pandemic. Make sure you are both friendly and professional.

I had some fun reaching out to potential proofreading companies: I liked to add at the end of my missives: “P.S.: Forgot to mention, I never make mistakes.”

Don’t be afraid to cold call/email companies even if they aren’t hiring. Don’t hear back? Email or call again. This is a standard business convention.

Paid to proofread

So there you have it, three easy steps to get you on the right proofreading professional track. Always remember that the internet is your oyster. Building experiences means building referrals which results in more proofreading gigs.

Before you know it, you’ll be getting paid to sit on a beach and proofread a piece from your favorite genre.

I wish you all the best in your journey to discovering the gifted proofreader within yourself starting with these three steps.

Thank you, Sue!

Paid to proofread Sue

And I am back to thank her for taking time off her busy schedule to write us a guest post. You can follow and contact her through these links.

If you have something to add to Sue’s story, drop a comment here or send her a word of thanks on the social media. Both of us would love that.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin | Pinterest |

Also, if you are interested in writing a guest post for the independent publishing community, write to me right away. I am still accepting guest post submissions.

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Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – A book review

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – A book review

How religious are you and how interested were in God as a teen? Our experiences may vary and sometimes our family gets a huge say in these things. There are things that we all have in common and then there are some gaps. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo talks a lot about religion and faith in these lines. Let us get on to my review, shall we?

About the book

Cover Poet X Elizabeth Acevedo review

Book Name: The Poet X

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo

Characters: Xiomara and Xavier Batista, Caridad, Aman, Isabelle

Genre: Fiction – Romance, YA, Contemporary

Setting: Harlem, New YorkThe United States of America

The plot

With an emotionally distant and a super religious mother, Xiomara Batista, a young teen, feels all alone in her questioning life, religion, on being a woman and her changing body. And boys.

Her Twin brother, who is a closeted queer, seem to know what their parents want and doesn’t have any problem in just doing that. Even if he has to hide things from them. Of course, he doesn’t get picked at by their mother or have so many restrictions as Xio because he was a guy.

Her best friend Caridad, is what Xio’s parents want her to be like. Soft, religious and obedient. But sadly, Xio was born ready to be a fighter, a protector and a spitfire.

Honestly all Xio wants is to be a normal teenager. Wear sexy clothes, meet boys, have a boyfriend, and to be kissed, all of which are forbidden by her religious, controlling and guilt tripping mother.

And Xio has questions. And doesn’t have anyone to help her figure them out. No one except her notebook that she has filled her poetry. Another thing she has to hide from her mother.

What happens when Xio finally finds someone or something where she could just be? Why would her questioning be so frowned upon by the religion. Read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo to know more.

My initial thoughts

Xio is a Dominican, twin, catholic, thick girl and a poet and the author makes sure that she stays true to all the identities – from what I hear. Even if I am not a part of those representations, I could still relate to her and her thought process.

As someone from a “religious but not super religious” family, where guilt tripping, blind faith, sexism and casteism are encouraged, I felt connected to Xio so much that I even forgot that we are not talking about the same religion. I suppose most religions have a lot in common.

Acevedo’s writing, especially the poetry, was so raw and vulnerable that I had to often take my eyes off the book and collect my thoughts, which rarely happens.

If you had not realized it by now, I loved Xio. I wish I were this brave and fierce as a teen myself. And that I was as body positive as she was and I hate that she had to undergo the catcalls, groping, ogling, leering and then be guilt tripped by her mother.

Things that worked for me

  • I loved Acevedo’s writing. LOVED.
  • Xio’s questions about religion and women are so spot on, that she may have picked them from own teen dairy.
  • I love the way the author built real, relatable characters. Xavier, Aman and even Caridad and of course, Xio.

Things that didn’t work for me

I wish I got to know more about Caridad, Xavier and even Aman, for that matter.

Bottom-line

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is a contemporary romance that focuses very less on romance. Written in a verse format The Poet X doesn’t shy away from intense themes like religion, women in religion, puberty, body positivism, and parental control. Good recommendation, even if you are not into Young Adult books.

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Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – A book review

Joy luck club, The – A book review

I reading about China in The Joy luck club last year without knowing that I would be spending a month in Macau (a country that is still a part of Chinese government) soon after I finished it! Has this ever happened to you? So how did it fare on my chart? Let us find out.

About the Joy luck club

Book Name: The Joy luck club

Author: Amy Tan

Genre: Fiction –  HistoricalDrama

Characters: Jing-mei (June) Woo, Suyuan Woo, An-mei Hsu, Rose Hsu Jordan, Lindo Jong, Waverly Jong, Ying-ying St. Clair, and Lena St. Clair

Setting: San Francisco, The United States of America and China

Plot Summary of the Joy luck club

Following her mother’s death (Suyuan Woo), Jing-mei (June) Woo replaces her in the monthly Mah jong game. Suyuan and her friends started this tradition years ago when they moved into San Francisco as way to keep in touch with their Chinese culture and history. Through the years, the four mothers share their festivals, their daughters’ birthdays and achievements during the game.

While the mothers tried to preserve the culture, their daughters chase the American dream and lifestyle. They do not have the patience or interest in knowing their mother’s history and they scoff at the Chinese superstitions. Despite living under the same roof for years, the mothers and daughters live a life separated by their culture and life experiences. 

The harder their mothers are on them, the harder the daughters rebel in their own way, without realizing unwittingly they are following their mothers’ path. They also are quick to leave behind their Chinese culture just like their mothers had. 

During their game, Jing-mei finds out that just before her death Suyuan had traced her two other daughters that she had to leave behind during the World war II. And her mother’s friends urge her to take her mother’s journey to meet her long lost relatives who are still in China. Did she take that journey and find her sisters forms the rest of the story in The Joy luck club.

Book review of the Joy luck club

The Joy luck club is one of those classic cult hit when it was released in 1989. While it does feel a little bit dated, her major themes on mother- daughter relationship and generational gaps, especially between the first and second generational Chinese-Americans still holds good. 

The Joy luck club contains sixteen short stories narrated by four Chinese born mothers and their respective daughters who make it a point not to learn Chinese over half a century! While it was fun to try to read this structure, the truth was it was a little difficult to remember all the secondary characters. 

I loved how the daughters who scoffed at their mothers and their traditions in their childhood and well into their marriages, turn around as they mature and even get closer to them. And how their mothers in turn, learn to adapt into their new roles over the years. To be honest, The Joy luck club made me stop a moment and examine my own relationship with my mother. 

Things that worked for me

  • I loved the friendship/co-dependency between the mothers.
  • The stories about the mothers before coming to the USA were haunting and so historically rich. I loved them.

Things that didn’t work for me

  • Did the author somehow help the strict, cold Asian mothers and absentee Asian fathers stereotypes?  (UPDATE: upon reading other reviews -YES SHE DID, AND FACED A SEVERE BACKLASH)
  • I wish the book’s structure was a bit easier to follow through.

Similar reviews you might like

Bottom-line

The Joy Luck Club is culturally and historically rich, even though it plays a bit to the stereotypes or even went to setting those stereotypes in the first place. If you are looking for a literary / historical fiction The Joy luck club by Amy Tan is a good choice. 

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