Review by Azima Patel
I had the pleasure of reading a collection of short stories penned by local authoress, Raashida Khan. Raashida is the winner of IRTIQA’s own 2017 South African Muslim Women’s Short Story competition and her well-deserved award-winning story Your Voice, My Strength is included in this ambitious collection of stories and holds the title of the book.
This centrepiece showcases the fighting spirit of a mother who will always stand up for what’s best for her child. Amina’s story stays with you as you ponder the power of love and the strength it takes to stand up to abuse that has been endured for so long. It gives courage to those who are in a similar situation to also take control and rise up.
The book is essentially a self-published collection of Raashida’s best short stories. While I usually approach self-published books with trepidation, given my past experience of these books lacking sufficient substance and basic editing, Your Voice, My Strength is a well composed and beautifully edited compilation that holds its own in the literary world.
Many of the tales included are previous submissions into different writing competitions which make for varied and entertaining reading. Raashida’s interpretations of the wide range of topics are unique, giving readers a glimpse into her vivid imagination. The topic, Forbidden Places, sees Raashida dipping her ink into the world of fantasy, taking us on a journey into an alternate dimension where unearthly beings live by a different set of rules. This short story is completely surprising and opens your mind to new worlds.
S’bu, the main character in The Bridge, left me wanting to reach out to the disadvantaged African youth who have much to endure in their daily lives with little or no resources and support to enable them to flourish. Raashida convincingly enters the world and mind of S’bu, leaving me cheering for him to overcome the adversity he faces.
In Ghost Writer Raashida empowers a grandmother to follow her own dreams and write her truth. She approaches this theme in a unique and playful way, showing us that getting older doesn’t mean leaving your own hopes behind.
She covers everything from science fiction to marriage and explores deep themes that need to be talked about in society such as, abuse, unfulfilled dreams, drug addiction and depression. She writes convincingly, getting into the shoes of her characters so that while we read the tales, their richly described world becomes ours.
My personal favourite was A Hundred Times Over which was published in the Womandla Anthology of Short Stories. The main character remains nameless, yet her psyche haunts you. The reader cannot help but put themselves in her position, experiencing a fear of loss for her offspring’s’ life. This story was a tear-jerker and one that will stay with me for a while to come.
With a busy schedule I often find it difficult to read full length novels. Having bite-sized stories on hand fulfils my love of reading and allows me to read at my own pace. With each story being independent of the last and ranging in length from 6 to 25 pages, the stories in this collection are the perfect fix for a book lover.
Raashida’s writing style is compelling and flows easily from one story to the next. As you glimpse into the characters’ inner lives, you are hooked! I fully agree with Fred Khumalo who has written her forward when he states, “Please, do yourself a favour, reach out for this smorgasbord of stories, an exquisite and welcome addition to the body of South African fiction”.