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John A. Stotesbury


Recent fiction produced by Muslim women novelists writing in English appears to explore and contest the continuation of Western images of Islamic women. Novels such as The Translator (1999), by the Sudanese writer, Leila Aboulela, writing from her experience of living in Scotland, and Sachs Street (2001), by the South African, Rayda Jacobs, who in 1995 returned to Cape Town after 27 years of Canadian exile, both posit complex personal relationships experienced by women whose identities are co-defined by Islam and the post-colonial condition. A third novel, A Mighty Collision of Two Worlds (2000), by Safi Abdi, originally from Somalia, is similar in plotting, in its concern with the reconstruction of an East-West marriage in terms of Islam. The aim of this paper is to trace some of the ways in which these romances construct a discourse within a generic framework readily identifiable with both the contemporary mass-market popular romance and also, in the case of Aboulela’s novel in particular, Jane Eyre. In that process, however, they appear also to challenge and refract the more predictable vagaries of the personal and sociopolitical desires of their Western generic counterparts.