Uzma Jalaluddin’s Lecture: A Modern Take on Jane Austen

Bella White '23, Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor

“Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations are of secondary importance.” – Khalid Mirza, Ayesha At Last

Calling all Pride and Prejudice fans! On February 13, 2020, I virtually attended Uzma Jalaluddin’s lecture to the Jane Austen Society of North America, Pittsburgh Chapter about her novel, Ayesha At Last, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Her story centers around Khalid Mirza (the reimagined Mr. Darcy) and Ayesha Shamsi (reimagined Elizabeth Bennet), two South Asian Muslims living across the street from each other in Toronto. Mayhem and love ensue, and everyone lives happily ever after. Ultimately, Ayesha At Last, celebrates true love between two people who don’t commonly see love like theirs. During her lecture, I really enjoyed how Mrs. Jalaluddin talked through her process of changing the narrative surrounding Muslims. She spoke on how she wanted to see the friends and family she loved portrayed positively in literature. She found Pride and Prejudice to be the perfect framing device for her story because of both Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Progressively throughout Austen’s novel, Mr. Darcy proves himself capable of being more than a one-dimensional misinterpretation and eventually turns out to be the perfect love interest for Elizabeth. Similarly, Elizabeth has hopes and dreams, embodying the strong female lead character. This contributed to why Jalaluddin wrote the novel in a dual perspective. Instead of just portraying the story from the side of the female lead, she also wrote the perspective of the male lead. She wanted to provide a glimpse into the inner thoughts and beliefs of both the strong South Asian Muslim female lead and the underrepresented South Asian Muslim male lead. Finally, at the end of the lecture, she explained that despite some mentions of topics such as alcoholism, her community was thrilled to see themselves represented. Overall, I thought the lecture was not only informative but also very enjoyable and engaging! Next time she comes to or Zooms in to Pittsburgh to give a lecture, I highly recommend going to listen. Or, if you can’t wait, check out either of her books, Ayesha At Last or Hana Khan Carries On!

Other novels recommended by the author after the lecture: Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev

Other reads by this author: Hana Khan Carries On (to be published in April of 2021)

Independent North Hills Bookstore Recommended by Another Lecture Attendee: https://tinybookspgh.com/