x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Amal Awad blazes a trail for Muslim chick-lit

Debut book was a semi-finalist in this year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Amal Awad. Jeremy Ong
Amal Awad. Jeremy Ong

For Amal Awad, it was one encounter too many. The Australian-Palestinian writer figuratively threw her hands in the air after another failed "door knock appeal".

The term refers to the Islamic-inspired process where a suitor arrives at the family home to request the daughter's hand in marriage.

"They would come with their parents, friends, even a neighbour," she says. "After a few of those that didn't work out, I just decided to focus on something else."

Fortunately, Awad transformed that painful insecurity into Courting Samira, the deliciously witty debut novel she describes as "Bridget Jones without the sex and alcohol or Bend it Like Beckham without the soccer".

Courting Samira was a semi-finalist in this year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Awad says the novel deals with the phase most Muslims - be they male or female - equally relish and loathe: the courting process.

The book follows Samira, a 27-year-old editorial assistant in Sydney, attempting to balance her modern working life with age-old traditional family norms.

The novel describes how she spends her days working in the fast-paced media world, only to return home to undergo a long, painful procession of "meetings" with suitors in her living room.

"It can be really daunting," Awad chuckles. "I guess the book shows that awkwardness Samira feels and her struggle in gaining acceptance from a man."

She wrote Courting Samira as a form of "therapy and healing" and unwittingly created one of the first novels of its kind: Muslim chick-lit. "What I like about chick lit [books] in general is they are cosy and accessible," she says. "They are a guilty pleasure and I wanted to tap in to it."

For details, visit www.courtingsamira.com