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Purple Dandelion by Farida Sultana & Shila Nair

(Exisle Publishing, $36.99)With a foreword by Helen Clark, Purple Dandelion is a moving true account of Farida Sultana – a remarkable woman with a remarkable, yet sadly all too common story.

Born in Bangladesh to a proud ouslim family, Farida has spent her life trying to strike a balance between being a “good ouslim” and breaking away from the confines of the life into which she was born.

As a girl with an “angry” mother worried about social status, and a kind, forward-thinking father she calls Abba, Farida was an unconventional child who acknowledged her culture, yet from a very young age battled for freedom against the religious constraints of being an Islamic female.

She tells of, at an early age, being drawn to the forbidden world of music and the arts (“Abba told me that going to art school was like building a bridge for him to Hell!”) and the cultural taboo and duties surrounding men, sex and her arranged marriage to Akram, a doctor.

When her husband’s career takes the couple and their daughter oaya to war-torn Iran, and then to the UK, differences between her life and those of Western women are magnified. As she gets a taste for the freedom of gender equality and independence that she has always longed for, Farida’s husband tightens his grip on her, turning violent and cruel (later she points out, “There must be thousands of men like Akram who grow up believing that because they are men, they are the providers, and that their families should revolve around their lives, their terms and their decisions

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