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Painted Hands: A Novel

Painted Hands: A Novel - Jennifer Zobair Zainab Mir is already pushing against cultural expectations by working for a Republican senator and things only get more complicated as she befriends a gay reporter; is featured in a suggestive magazine article; and falls for a Muslim-bashing member of the opposition. Amra Abbas also has a high powered career, dreaming of becoming a partner in a law firm. When she reconnects with a childhood crush she conceals her career ambitions until the point at which reconciliation might not be possible.

I was drawn to this book because of the ways the main characters were different from me. Learning about new cultures is one of the many reasons I enjoy reading and from the use of Hindi words to the inclusion of many Muslim cultural norms, this book definitely delivered on that front. However, what impressed me most was actually how relatable the main characters were. I feel like a lot of chick lit focuses entirely on relationships and is too fluffy to spark a conversation about any serious issues. Women’s fiction on the other hand often focuses on issues that interest me, but aren’t relevant to my life yet. This book filled that gap.

Both Zainab and Amra care about guys and spend a lot of time thinking about relationships. However, they also both have serious careers which they care about at least as much as they care about the men in their lives. Although I personally don’t have to deal with the cultural struggles they face, making my life much less complex than theirs, I still empathized deeply with their struggles balancing careers and romance. I might be biased since this being part of a dual-career couple thing is directly relevant to me, but I suspect this is an issue more and more women will be facing in the future. As that happens, I hope Jennifer Zobair and others like her keep writing these complex women who will help real women think about and discuss their own priorities.

This review first published on Doing Dewey.