The Roles We Play

By Sabba Khan
Publisher: Myriad Editions
ISBN: 9781912408306

If I’m honest, I approached this book with some trepidation. A biographical tale about a British Pakistani woman’s struggle with identity didn’t intrigue me enough for me to dive straight in. For quite a while I put off starting it. Quite frankly, I wasn’t even sure what I was expecting, but I suppose I was worried I just wouldn’t engage with it. Which just goes to show what an idiot I can be.

The Roles We Play is an honest and encompassing account of Sabba’s journey to understand who she was and where she fit in, and she tells that story in an utterly engaging way. As a second-generation migrant, she has to wrestle with whether she is British or Pakistani, and everything that question then touches. Family, culture, values, relationships, travel, education and, ultimately, religion. Because of her honesty and openness, Sabba’s story is instantly relatable. To some extent, we all battle with how we fit in, but it’s just that the gulf Sabba needs to bridge is so much greater. But, through sharing her journey with us, we swiftly understand her struggle as she faces disappointments, barriers and, ultimately, a way forward.

From the story of how her family came to England to her personal experience of travel to Tel Aviv as a student, the book is full of hurdles that have to be negotiated. These are often coupled with an unjust or downright outrageous outcome that must be weathered. But each and every instance is a step along the path to who Sabba Khan really is, and it’s a fascinating story seeing her find out who that person is.

It takes a degree of bravery that I certainly don’t have to write and illustrate something so personal and forthright. The fact that it also manages to embrace a sense of humour just furthers how remarkable a book this is. I think it helps underscore that no matter what your background, beliefs or gender, ultimately we all share so much in common. It’s certainly a book I wish I’d had the courage to pick up sooner, and now I’ve read it I’m extremely pleased to have done so.

And if you liked that: Try Biscuits Assorted by Jenny Robins

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