"When I sneaked a peak at the old man, I saw inside his nose and noticed long hair reaching out to curve around each nostril. Inch-long hair also poked out from behind the low-cut kurta and from below the wide pajama bottoms. I lowered my gaze, somehow feeling I had been improper to notice these things. Segregation between women and men had that effect on me. Since I was a child, my mother had tried to teach me correct behavior and I followed her wishes when she was watching -- covering my hair, hiding my legs, draping a scarf over kurtas to conceal the curve of my breasts, muffling my laughter, whispering, averting my eyes. I always knew I had to do these things because man, as Islam said, was the weaker sex, so it was my responsibility to keep him from becoming aroused. All these precautions were taken to prevent intercourse or, as Amme would say, so I would not fall prey to a man's desires. Naturally, then, when I encountered any man, young or old, in the theater, on the bus, passing by our car, rather than feeling chaste I felt more desire wrapped in the chador, more aware that I was a woman, and he, simply by the fate of being a man, wanted me. So I sometimes met their curious gaze, sometimes let them brush against me as they walked by, sometimes even followed them with my eyes, admiring their shoulders and chins, their chests and forearms, their hands. From what better place to notice a man's body than from behind a chador?" Two days before Layla's wedding to Sameer, her distraught mother takes her through the back alleyways of Hyderabad, India to visit an alim, a spiritual healer. Layla is not fit to go through with the marriage. She has arrived from the U.S. already pregnant with her American lover's baby. If her fiancé were to find out, she could be banished from her family and everything she knows. But the alim is unable to help and Layla is forced to go through with the wedding. Her husband is a handsome, ambitious engineer, and to Layla's surprise, he provides her with exactly what she has yearned for: a home. Yet on their honeymoon in Madras, as the monsoon rains drum ceaselessly down outside, she discovers that Sameer has a secret of his own. In this finely observed debut novel, Samina Ali intimately explores a girl's journey to self-possession. Ali's haunting prose and richly drawn characters lay bare the complex and hidden world behind the veil, differentiating, along the way, Islamic practices that are based in culture and patriarchy from those that derive from the faith. Madras on Rainy Days is a dazzling performance by an arresting new voice. “With her debut novel, Samina Ali makes a bold entrance on the scene of American immigrant literature. Ali is a compelling storyteller. In language that is at once lyrical and unsentimental, she explores both the upside and the downside of being a first-generation Muslim Indo-American woman. A must-read for anyone interested in understanding the multicultural fabric of contemporary America.”—Bharati Mukherjee, author of Desirable Daughters “A wonderful, wrenching family story.” -- Po Bronson, author of What Should I do with My Life?
Samina gives an overview of the book:
SAMINA ALI is the first Indian Muslim woman fiction writer to be published in America. A trailblazer and visionary, she has built a career as both a successful novelist and a widely popular speaker.
Her debut novel, MADRAS ON RAINY DAYS, was awarded the Prix Premier...