'A journey of self discovery': East London GP publishes debut novel
- Credit: Attiya Khan
An east London GP has published her debut novel, telling a story of forbidden love and personal identity.
Dr Attiya Khan’s Ten Steps To Us tells the story of Aisha, a “fairly strict” Muslim teenager growing up in a part of Kent where few other Muslims live.
After new classmate Darren saves her from Islamophobic bullying at a bus stop, Aisha starts to feel attracted to him.
Knowing that she is not supposed to like someone who is not a Muslim, she tries various tactics to overcome her feelings, including fasting and praying.
When this fails, she devises a ten-step plan to convert him to Islam; but her scheme does not go quite as intended.
Attiya said: “The book is an exploration of personal faith. During the process of trying to convert this guy, it makes her question her own faith and her relationship with her hijab.”
In the book, Aisha begins to question her own faith when a family friend falls victim to domestic violence and women in the community encourage the friend to stay in the marriage.
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“It makes her question her own faith and culture,” said Attiya. “So she goes on this journey of self-discovery.”
Attiya said that she was “sick” of stereotypical Muslim characters in fiction and wanted to write a book with a Muslim protagonist her daughter could relate to.
She said she hoped the book had captured the “angst” of growing up as a Muslim in Britain, “not quite fitting in with white people, not quite fitting in with Asian people”.
Attiya currently lives in South Woodford and works as a GP in Dagenham, having previously operated in Seven Kings for eight years.
Her day job, combined with the work of looking after three children, meant the book has been six years in the making.
“It started off as a hobby, I just used to do writing as stress relief,” she said.
A literary agent’s interest in the story encouraged Attiya to finish the manuscript, and while they did not ultimately pick it up, the completed story saw her longlisted for the Undiscovered Voices 2020.
Ultimately, she found a publisher in Hashtag BLAK, which supports underrepresented voices in fiction.