Muslims of Sri Lanka who, decades ago, grew up in communities that were moderate and broadminded often wonder why Islamic fundamentalism has come back with such force. What made a once-tolerant people want to set themselves apart from everyone else?
This question lies at the heart of Stay, Daughter, a memoir that gives an intimate glimpse into the world of Muslims as times changed and the impact of the modern and Westernized world was felt.
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. But in time, such freedom and exposure to foreign ideas brings heartbreak to many families.
Against this backdrop unfolds the story of a father and patriarch whose values are deeply rooted in the conservative Islamic culture into which he as 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.
Stay, Daughter. A memoir of Muslim Girlhood By Yasmin Azad
- Hardcover: 251 pages
- Publisher: Perera-Hussein Publishing House First Edition January, 2020)
- ISBN: 978-955-8897-32-4
Yasmin Azad who was educated at Sacred Heart Convent, Galle, was among the first group of girls in her Muslim community to go away from home to pursue a university degree. After obtaining a degree from the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya, and a brief stint as a lecturer in English at the University of Kelaniya, she moved to the United States, where she now lives. Living mostly in the Boston area, she worked for over two decades as a mental health counselor. Her memoir Stay, Daughter, draws on her experiences growing up in a close-knit, conservative society which, when it gave more independence to women, had to deal with the challenges of modernity. It is also informed by an understanding derived from her work as a counselor in the West, that the breakdown of traditional family values and structures comes with its own challenges, especially for women. Her writing has been published in “Navasilu” (Sri Lanka) Solstice Literary Magazine, (USA) and The Massachusetts Review (USA).
Some Responses to the book:
Radhika Coomaraswamy: “The complexities and nuances of those born into a traditional world trying to negotiate modernity can only be partially captured in any piece of writing. Yasmin Azad’s Stay Daughter shows us the humour and heartbreak involved in those negotiations. It is not a lighthearted novel about family life. It is a profound reflection on the dilemmas that Muslim women faced and are facing as orthodoxy and identity come up against freedom.
Stay, Daughter, is a gem in the genre of first person accounts of growing up in a Muslim family in a Muslim society. The author’s voice is enchanting and ought to take a place beside Fatima Mernissi’s Dreams of Trespass and Sattereh Farmaian’s Daughter of Persia. Much more needs to be told in this vein.”
Toby Huff, Chancellor Emeritus Professor, University of Massachusetts: “Easily the best piece of writing in English about Sri Lankan Muslims, in any genre, including the academic, Stay, Daughter is a must read.”
Qadri Ismail, Professor of English, University of Minnesota: “The absolute must read of 2020.”
More info and orders via https://staydaughter.com