Uzma Jalaluddin is a teacher, parenting columnist and author based in Ontario. Her debut novel, Ayesha At Last, is the tale of a young Muslim woman who aspires to be a poet and must balance what her family expects of her with what she wants for herself. Things get tricky when she falls for Khalid, a young conservative man who is set to marry someone else.
Writing beyond the ‘immigrant experience’
“I knew I wanted to tell a story that was authentic to my own lived experience. I wanted to write something slightly different than other stories out there about South Asians and Muslims in particular. I read voraciously and widely — I’ve read and enjoyed so many books by different authors. But especially growing up as a child there weren’t a lot of books by diverse writers of colour. I always found books that actually spoke about the immigrant experience and people of colour were filtered through a condescending, sometimes erroneous lens.”
“This book actually came out of the ruins of another book which was going nowhere. I was out for lunch with a writer friend and she mentioned I could repurpose one of the characters from that book to build a new story. That was the character who ended up being the male lead, Khalid, in this book.
“I just had this funny image of this man who is an observant and conservative man in a big beard and wearing religious clothing with a skullcap. He just looks like the stereotypical ‘scary person’ and yet, he is a total romantic who has fallen completely in love with this girl. I thought it was so funny to look at the juxtaposition of people’s expectations of someone who looks and dresses like that versus his romantic heart. He jumped into my head and wouldn’t let go. From that character, the rest of the book sort of emerged very slowly, very painfully.”