ellie macieira-fielding

Editor’s Letter: TNF Bookshelf Special Edition

As you’re signed up to our mailing list I’m sure that you have come to understand what The New Feminist is all about – educating and empowering. We want to be a safe space for the people who are new to the movement, those who need a digestible and accessible source of information about feminism. I was a new feminist not too long ago and in many ways I still am, because let’s be honest – nobody is a perfect feminist. There are so many tangents of this movement that it keeps all of us in a perpetual state of learning. That is why The New Feminist Bookshelf is such an important project. 

The New Feminist Bookshelf is a new segment that we have launched this month. It’s our version of a book club. Every month we’ll be choosing a feminist book that you can read along with us and we’ll be rounding it off with a live discussion and Q&A with the author. This project means a lot to everyone here at The New Feminist. Not just because it’s the perfect way to learn more about feminism but because we get to do it together. 

For our debut, we chose to read My Hair is Pink Under This Veil by influential writer and Liberal Democrat councillor Rabina Khan. 

Despite having a degree in English and American Literature and running a literal magazine, it takes a lot for me to really sit down and get into a book. 

I used to be an avid reader, in fact, I think I read every Jane Austen book by the age of twelve. Perhaps the emergence of platforms like Youtube and TikTok have impacted my focus. Perhaps being forced to read books that I didn’t want to for four years has made reading less exciting – who knows? What I do know is that the book we read for our very first The New Feminist Bookshelf caught my attention from page one. 

My Hair is Pink Under This Veil is an eye-opener for non-Muslims and non-South Asians. It challenges anything and everything that has to do with prejudice in this day and age. Khan beautifully intersects stories of her life and childhood with valuable commentary on the strange ways that society, namely, white people view the hijab. She shows that rather than the veil being a symbol of oppression it is a symbol of the modern Muslim woman’s personal style and strength.

I grew up in Spain and when I was seven we moved to England. Growing up in Spain, our family friends were a diverse mix of ex-pats. Every race, nationality and sexuality. It was the norm for me. So when we moved to England when I was seven I had quite the shock.

I could go on and on about how much I struggled to fit into a British way of life, from reading and writing to food and customs. But what was the most jarring, to say the least, is being the only even slightly brown girl in my school (as you might have guessed from this my mum moved us to Surrey not London). 

For the first time in my life, my colour and otherness was a constant topic of conversation. I was forever correcting people and frankly, I have been ever since. The most common mistake people make is thinking that I’m Muslim. And although I cannot claim even a little part of the very real struggles that Muslim women face, I can say that I got a glimpse into it. 

I relate to Khan when she said that she has been called racial slurs on the bus and as a child, I had even been told to tell my parents that we should “go back to where we came from”. Which, for a Spanish kid, as you can imagine was very confusing. 

From then on, I hated when people would mistake me for being Muslim and I think a lot of this was out of fear. I detached myself from learning about different culture’s for a long time because it became a really dark and scary part of society for me, and I believe that I am white-passing enough to have had the privilege to do this. So reading this book was groundbreaking. It truly made me reconcile with my internalised prejudice, one that I did not know I even had. 

It was an honour to read such a powerful book, so I’d like to thank Rabina for being a part of our debut Bookshelf event. You’re an inspiration.

If you’ve been reading along with us this month or are just curious to see hear the discussion, make sure you come along to our Instagram live tonight with Rabina at 8 pm. We can’t wait!

BEFORE YOU GO...Have you read: Women’s charity founder: “Return of Taliban will leave women vulnerable to traffickers"

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