This article examines Shamim Sarif’s novel I Can’t Think Straight (2008), with occasional reference to the film of the same title, and in light of intersecting issues of ethnicity, religion, and sexuality in multicultural Britain. It argues that Sarif’s narratives, which depict the burgeoning romantic relationship between a British woman of Muslim heritage and a Christian Arab woman with ethnic links to Palestine, challenge the Western stereotypes of Muslim and Arab women as submissive and of their male counterparts as uniformly patriarchal, which have become all the more prevalent since 9/11. It also examines the collusion in British and cosmopolitan contexts, as evidenced in Sarif’s texts, of religious and Western medical discourses about homosexuality that denounce it as a disease. The article assesses these qualms as cultural values more closely aligned to social status and religious practice than to strict religious dogma. It also surmises that, despite Sarif’s configuration of same-sex desire in relation to the Western cultural model of “coming out”, which is shown as potentially homonormative, and in spite of the limited vistas offered by her narrow class perspective, her deployment of queer bodies helps to forge a clandestine countermemory challenging the contemporary Islamist erasure of female homosexuality. The article demonstrates that Sarif’s queer narratives act as a welcome antidote to the routine omission of the dissident perspectives of non-normative women of Muslim and Arabic ethnic heritage in dominant LGBTIQ discourses in the West, as well as in contemporary debates about British multiculturalism.
The Journal of Commonwealth Literature – SAGE
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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