‘Stay, Daughter’ – A memoir of Muslim girlhood by Yasmin Azad and published by Perera-Hussein Publishing House was launched recently. An utterly gripping and ‘unputdownable’ book, this is an absolute must-read in 2020.
The well-attended book launch took place on 11 January at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel. Among those present was Professor Maithree Wickramasinghe, Chair of the Department of English, University of Kelaniya, where the author had been a lecturer in the late 1970s.
Prof. Tissa Jayatilaka, former Executive Director of the Fulbright program, gave an introductory speech.
The author read an excerpt from the book which described love and marriage in the community and gave a humorous and intimate insight into some of the changes that have taken place in Sri Lankan Muslim society, taking the Galle Fort as a microcosm. The audience expressed great interest in the book and the entire stock of copies at the event was sold out.
‘Stay, Daughter’ serves up an intimate glimpse into the world of Muslims. Set in the colonial citadel of the Galle Fort, the story follows the history of a community 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 freedom and exposure to foreign ideas brings heartbreak to many families as their daughters break away from traditional norms.
Against this backdrop unfolds the story of a father and patriarch whose values are rooted in the conservative Islamic culture into which he was born. When in later years he has to negotiate a changing world where women are no longer who they used to be, tragedy unfolds.
Although the book narrates the story of a single family, it draws on a situation almost all Muslims struggle with: the challenge of balancing the rules of orthodox Islam with the freedom and innovations of the modern world.
Yasmin Azad grew up in the Galle Fort and now lives in the United States.
Pix by Samantha Perera