Stained by Abda Khan was on sale on Kindle a while ago, and I finally decided to read this own voices book for the Asian Lit Bingo. There will be spoilers in this review.
Selina, a beautiful, British-born Pakistani young woman recently lost her father, and finds herself struggling to cope with life, in particular with some aspects of her studies. Matters go from bad to worse, when a trusted family friend from the mosque offers to tutor her, and rapes her instead. With the threat of dishonour to her family at her back, Selina goes to extreme lengths to avoid scandal, and prevent shame being brought to her widowed mother’s door. It will take all the strength and courage Selina can muster when her life travels down a dangerous path, from which there may be no return…
There are trigger warnings for rape, emotional blackmail, miscarriage, and murder.
Stained really wasn’t what I expected. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect – I’d not read much about it, and I’m always dubious about books which deal with rape because so often they’re done badly (in my experience). I’m very happy to say that (in my opinion), the rape scene was dealt with sensitively – it wasn’t overly described, or sexualised, or anything like that. That was a real relief to me, and after the rape had happened, I definitely trusted Khan a lot more as a writer.
I thought that it really showed the dynamics of British-Pakistani families and communities. Some of the non-Asian people in the book can’t understand why Selina finds family and the threat of family dishonour so important, but I think that it really explained how closely tied these British-Asian communities are. I’d read a couple of books that talked about this, but never to such an extent. There was also some discussion about Selina’s Muslim faith, but not too much – the main focus of the faith-based discussions was Selina’s arranged marriage. To be fair, there was a lot going on in the book, so I don’t think there really would have been room.
I have to admit, however, that the writing style wasn’t for me. For me it was a tell not show type of book, and I was hoping for something a little more stylised. I also found Selina to be a bit flat. She doesn’t really have much of a personality outside of her wish to become a human rights lawyer, which was a little disappointing. However, these were only minor faults, and after all, this is Abda Khan’s debut novel.
Overall, I would encourage those who can bear to read Stained to do so.
NB: This is my choice in the Asian lit bingo for a Asian Muslim MC, and contemporary arranged marriage for 2017 Diversity Bingo.