Our March book in World Literature Today was Just Another Jihadi Jane by Tabish Khair. It follows the story of Jamilla and her friend Ameena, two British girls born to Muslim immigrant families that choose to travel to Syria and join ISIS. The story is told from Jamilla’s perspective and is written as if she were telling the story to a reporter. It starts in her childhood, and you see her grow up and befriend the more rebellious Ameena. Feeling ostracized from the culture around them, they turn to the internet to find acceptance. Eventually, they become radicalized and make the decision to join the Islamic State. I don’t want to spoil any of the events that happen once they arrive there, but needless to say, it is heart-wrenching.
Just Another Jihadi Jane is a narrative answer to the question, “Why would anyone choose to join ISIS?” Some members of the WLT book club felt that the characterization of Jamilla and Ameena weren’t realistic. I didn’t feel that way while reading it, though I did have some doubts about Jamilla as a reliable narrator. I’m sure there are more rigorous answers to the above question, but I still feel that this book succeeds as a description of one of the many possible motivations for radicalization as well as having a compelling narrative. To conclude, I’ll include a quote from the back of the book that phrases some of its core themes better than I could:
It reminds a new generation that heroism and sacrifice are not limited to one side in a conflict, and that the first victims of a murderous regime are those who live inside it.