My Past is a Foreign Country by Zeba Talkhani

Zeba Talkhani's memoir is a hopeful story of casting off cultural and personal expectations, and fighting for the right to individuality

Book Review by Heather McDaid | 25 Jun 2019
  • My Past is a Foreign Country by Zeba Talkhani
Book title: My Past is a Foreign Country
Author: Zeba Talkhani

Zeba Talkhani was four when she ran away from home for the second time. This is how we’re introduced to My Past is a Foreign Country, and the inherent power in the silences of her life as much as the words that shape it. It’s within this discordance that she explores her journey to independence and living on her own terms as a Muslim feminist.

Following her childhood growing up in Saudi Arabia amid its patriarchal customs, through seeking personal freedom in India, Germany and finally the UK, Zeba navigates her relationship with her mother, and discusses the challenges she faced when she was younger through hair loss, to financial independence, and marriage – it’s the warmth and candour around such topics that truly welcomes the reader in. Still in her 20s, it's a shining example of why memoirs don't need to come later in life to have something important and insightful to offer.

Zeba's is a hopeful story, one of casting off differing cultures', and indeed other people’s, expectations and fighting for the right to individuality. This is a book of refusal – to be defined, to be told what to be, to be anything other than yourself. It’s a brilliant and fantastic memoir, with another refusal threaded throughout – to be put down before the last page is turned. 

Sphere, 27 Jun, £14.99