UKZN alumnus Dr Quraisha Dawood has published her debut fiction novel called Stirring the Pot, an intimate look into the lives of a group of Muslim women who live in a block of flats in Durban called Summer Terrace.
The friendships between the women are as intricate as the curling patterns of henna tattoos. Meet old Aunty Ruki, who lives with her domestic worker, Joyce, an arrangement that ruffles many feathers. There’s Zaina, who has her sights on becoming an architect at an iconic university in Durban, and her single mother Rabia, a florist who has worked hard to provide a safer life for her daughter. Zaina hides a secret that could cause a rift in their relationship: his name is Imraan, and dating him simply isn’t allowed.
It’s a vibrant story of madams and maids, women and their husbands, secrets and lies, a wedding, a death, a theft, Ramadan, and delicious recipes for traditional cuisine.
The novel was born from Dawood’s Master’s thesis that explored the relationships between Muslim ‘madams’ and their ‘maids,’ focusing on how they navigate the space of the home and aspects of race, religion, identity and womanhood, especially in confined spaces like an apartment block.
Dawood described her research as fascinating, emotional and humorous. ‘I could not allow this rich piece of research to sit on a dusty academic library shelf – I wanted it to live; to ignite conversations about this Durban dynamic and allow readers to identify with some of the characters. Over time, I crafted a fictional tale around the thesis, bringing in aspects of cuisine, conflict and commonality as well as events in order to give readers insight into the research from a storytelling perspective. I am honoured that Penguin took this on with enthusiasm.’
Dawood has always leaned towards writing short stories or poetry because she felt that the commitment to write a novel was overwhelming.
‘I doubted myself so much along the way…but if you have a story to tell, just begin. Place no expectations or pressure on yourself and just enjoy the process. Do it for yourself. Then, if you are ready to share it with the world, approach a publisher. Whether it is published or not, write the story for you – we all have a story to share, and nobody can write it better than you,’ she said.
The novel is set to hit bookstores in March 2022 but can also be purchased online from TakeAlot, Loot, Exclusive Books, Wordsworth Books and Graffiti Books.
Dawood is a South African sociologist and writer. In 2002, she published an anthology of poems entitled Jewels of Faith: Poems for Muslim Youth. She has since been published in Reader’s Digest, Irtiqa magazine, Al-Qalam, Al–Ummah, the Sunday Tribune, Riding the Samoosa Express and Saffron, as well as academic journals. In 2020, she published Almost Me, an autobiographical account of her journey through miscarriage, postpartum depression and motherhood. She holds a PhD in Sociology from UKZN and is currently the research manager of a private higher education institution.