Saturday 19 August 2017

Review by Amirah Mohiddin of "Dividing Lines," edited by Farhana Shaikh with a Foreword by C. G. Menon

Dividing Lines is an anthology of short stories dominated by themes of divisions of caste, gender and race. This lyrical and haunting collection brings to the surface a deep appreciation of life as well as a fear of the future. Frequently dealing with conflicts based on oppression and betrayal, Dividing Lines is an evocative representation of Asian experiences.

My first impression of the short stories was full of excitement. It’s rare to see such a diverse collection of short stories, and each really gave a different view of culture. It’s difficult to find media representations which break down the walls of stereotypes. The themes of belonging and division are so strong in some stories such as Ashok Patel’s ‘Ninety Days’ and Serena Patel’s ‘The Other Side of the Bridge.’ These stories offer an insight into how racism can have devastating consequences for minority communities. 

The stories are not only infected by fear but also a psychological burden that emotionally cripples the mood of the society they are set in. ‘The Other Side of the Bridge’ takes us into a bleak future while ‘Ninety Days’ tells the story of Idi Amin’s expulsion of Asians in the 1970s. Two of my favourite quotations from ‘The Other Side of the Bridge’ were: ‘I didn’t belong there and maybe I don’t belong here’ and ‘I don’t seem to be here or anywhere else anymore.’ These powerful lines in an all-round heart-wrenching story quickly became my favourites because of the pain they reflect. The scary in-between where you’re lost and can’t go back or move forwards particularly reached out to me due to my own hybridity as a British Asian continuously trying to find the balance between the expectations of British society and my deep-rooted Indian values and heritage. 

Another story I really enjoyed was ‘Under the Same Sky’ by Farhana Khalique. I could relate to the soft and comforting childhood experiences and innocence. The use of space imagery and this idea that somehow we’re all connected through the sky no matter who and where we are added to its magic. I would definitely recommend the Dividing Lines anthology. It’s one of those collections that is an all-round emotional rollercoaster, featuring relatable characters and a wide selection of writing styles. 

About the reviewer
Amirah Mohiddin, born in Birmingham, U.K., is a BA English (with Creative Writing) graduate. She is an aspiring writer, a storyteller for young children, a volunteering editor for Seeing Ear. Her latest project is about a female warrior in a fictional middle eastern war-torn kingdom.

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