This was an unexpected delight from Audible, as part of their Audible Originals series. Originally a stage play, this was performed by the writer (and actress) and as such the level of performance was pretty much set on eleven from the first step. It’s about sixteen year-old Shaheeda, a British Muslim teen and begins with her hurriedly packing and getting ready to take off.
Then, as she tells her story and tries to record a message for her mother, we find out why.
There are so many facets explored in this narrative that I found absolutely charming. Family gets a huge piece of the stage: the relationship between mother and daughter is very much the significant thing happening here, but also Shaheeda’s life as the younger sister (and, in her mind, very much the lesser sister in so many ways). There’s also a lot about friends and friendship here, and especially the breakdown thereof. First love, and the all-consuming feelings often created in those relationships. Religion, faith, and Pakistani culture and values—and how Shaheeda tries to balance this with her own sensibilities and experiences in Hounslow, a place she just wants to escape from.
What surprised me given the break-neck pacing and the often dark turns of narrative was also just how often this story was funny (and the language was phenomenal, it was like time-travel back to the UK for me in spots). It’s not a long piece—an hour and a bit—so perhaps novella or novelette length, but it’s absolutely full. Shaheeda rarely gets to pause and take a breath, and that just adds to the authenticity. I remember being sixteen, and how heightened everything was. “The Diary of a Hounslow Girl” captures all that and so much more, and does so with punch.