Ayisha Malik’s Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged is marketed generally as a Muslim Bridget Jones, and it’s not a bad descriptor, if a little reductive. Personally though, I found Sofia much more relatable than dear old Bridget – and, believe me, I adore Ms Jones – but maybe that’s due to Sofia’s penchant for one too many chocolate Hobnobs (something I myself am partial to) despite my/our better judgement.
“I tried! I did! But what normal human being would ask another human
being to live with a cohort of mother, father, brother and sister-in-law with two children, complete with a sister and brother-in-law and three children next door,
and a hole-in-the-wall joining the two houses?
(Just writing that sentence about so many people confused me; imagine living with them.)“
Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged is the diary of the eponymous Sofia Khan, a 30-year old Londoner who works in publishing and just happens to also be a practicing Muslim who wears a hijab – something which a man on the Tube takes exception to, rather loudly, earning Sofia’s brilliant comeback “Oi, terrorists don’t wear vintage shoes, you ignorant wanker!” Such a comeback displays the tone and wit of Sofia Khan but also illustrates how unafraid Ayisha Malik is of discussing the prejudices that many Muslims face, even in twenty-first century London. After regaling her publishing colleagues with a story of how her would-be fiancé expects her to move in with him, his parents, and the literal hole in the wall of their home, Sofia inadvertently becomes the spokesperson for the Muslim dating scene in London, and begins writing a book on the subject, amidst her crazy household, constant questions of when she’s getting married, and a gruff, bemused Irish neighbour.