Painted Hands: A Novel

Hardcover | June 11, 2013

byJennifer Zobair

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Muslim bad girl Zainab Mir has just landed a job working for a post-feminist, Republican Senate candidate. Her best friend Amra Abbas is about to make partner at a top Boston law firm. Together they've thwarted proposal-slinging aunties, cultural expectations, and the occasional bigot to succeed in their careers. What they didn't count on? Unlikely men and geopolitical firestorms.

When a handsome childhood friend reappears, Amra makes choices that Zainab considers so 1950s-choices that involve the perfect Banarasi silk dress and a four-bedroom house in the suburbs. After hiding her long work hours during their courtship, Amra struggles to balance her demanding job and her unexpectedly traditional new husband.

Zainab has her own problems. She generates controversy in the Muslim community with a suggestive magazine spread and friendship with a gay reporter. Her rising profile also inflames neocons like Chase Holland, the talk radio host who attacks her religion publicly but privately falls for her hard. When the political fallout from a terrorist attempt jeopardizes Zainab's job and protests surrounding a woman-led Muslim prayer service lead to violence, Amra and Zainab must decide what they're willing to risk for their principles, their friendship, and love.

Jennifer Zobair's Painted Hands is The Namesake meets Sex and the City, an engaging and provocative debut novel about friendship and the love lives of American Muslim women.

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From the Publisher

Muslim bad girl Zainab Mir has just landed a job working for a post-feminist, Republican Senate candidate. Her best friend Amra Abbas is about to make partner at a top Boston law firm. Together they've thwarted proposal-slinging aunties, cultural expectations, and the occasional bigot to succeed in their careers. What they didn't count...

Jennifer Zobair grew up in Iowa and attended Smith College and Georgetown Law School. She has practiced corporate and immigration law and as a convert to Islam, has been a strong advocate for Muslim women's rights. Jennifer lives with her husband and three children outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Painted Hands is her first novel.

other books by Jennifer Zobair

Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay
Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Femi...

Kobo ebook|Jul 26 2015

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 8.47 × 5.93 × 1.16 inPublished:June 11, 2013Publisher:St. Martin's PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1250027004

ISBN - 13:9781250027009

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rich and layered Can I admit that I was emdubious/em? I read the first chapter of emPainted Hands/em with skepticism fully engaged. Second chapter, too. But somewhere around the third or fourth chapters, Jennifer Zobair’s emPainted Hands/em transformed my doubt into something akin to astonishment. I was reading a book about attractive, accomplished women juggling careers and families and husbands and lovers, and enjoying that book immensely. I didn’t expect to do so. Sure, a href=""Jennifer Zobair/a’s a friend, and I admire her way with words, but I started emPainted Hands/em hoping — at best — to emmaybe/em enjoy a book that was outside my comfort zone. I ended up loving it — and wondering how in the hell that happened. It begins with a tight storyline and accomplished storytelling, and then combines several imaginative characters, and a deep, yet gentle immersion into a lovely, colorful and occasionally opaque culture that most of us know too little about. The plotting in a href=""emPainted Hands/em/a is intricate, but not to worry, for the author keeps the pace brisk and fluid. The story follows the lives of three Muslim women -- Amra, Zainab, and Hayden – during a volatile time in their lives. The stories weave together gracefully, like the gorgeous henna designs lovingly painted on a South Asian bride’s hands on the day she is to marry. Amra, the book’s sweet center, has worked for years to garner success, and now sits on the cusp of partnership at a prestigious Boston law firm. But when a childhood friend returns to her inner circle as a successful and handsome businessman, she’s not ready for the waves of emotion that engulf her. That he finds her charming, but doesn’t know about the sacrifices she’s made to have a career, is just the beginning of their story. He also carries secrets, including a more traditional view of Islam than she expects. If Amra is the novel’s sweet center, Zainab brings fire and spice. She’s the book’s most complicated character, and her scenes spark with electricity. She’s working a Massachusett’s election campaign for a smart, but incautious, post-feminist businesswoman who actually answers questions from the media. Zainab must be brilliant and occasionally ruthless to keep pace, and she’s constantly switching play books to keep her candidate in the race. At one point, she turns to a highly-educated — and occasionally racist — right-wing radio host for a favor, and finds that Chase Holland is far more complicated and intriguing than he appeared at first blush. Hayden is the book’s lost soul, the woman who makes many wrong decisions, and through whose eyes we see a vision of religion as filtered through a fundamentalist prism. I found so many things to like in emPainted Hands/em. The story is smart and topical, and the characters are richly, and lovingly drawn. I loved seeing Islam through Jennifer’s eyes, and learning more about what it means to be a Muslim in America today. It all works seamlessly because Zobair’s prose is subtle and refined, and so many scenes are touched by nuance that you might very well want to read it again.
Date published: 2013-06-09

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Editorial Reviews

"Taut and well written.this contemporary tale is reminiscent of Jumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, which focuses on the immigrant experience and assimilation. Ms. Zobair centers her story on the dilemmas of succeeding generations. She has integrated the quandaries of young career-oriented men and women and incorporated the human values of friendship, family, and love. Anyone who has grappled with personal traditions and found themselves in conflict with religion, family--and even with themselves--will relate to the issues that surface in this substantial and provocative work of fiction." -Diane Brandley, New York Journal of Books"A debut with an original and refreshing premise-Jennifer Zobair's novel is about high-flying Bostonian women who struggle with their demanding careers, relationships, friendships and families, and who also happen to be Muslim. A positive portrait of modern Muslim women, prominent in their professions and at large within their communities, written with affection and detail." -Roopa Farooki, Orange Prize finalist and author of The Flying Man"In Painted Hands, Jennifer Zobair lifts the veil on three American Muslim women, taking readers into a world that will challenge their assumptions. Her debut novel is an important addition to the canon of ethnic fiction, showcasing the difficulty of being both American and Muslim." -Anne Cherian, author of The Invitation and A Good Indian Wife"An enlightening first novel, Jennifer Zobair's Painted Hands dismantles the myths and stereotypes about what it means to be Muslim in American society today. Through interwoven stories of career-oriented women of Pakistani and Indian descent, navigating the tightrope of politics, personal ambition, and family expectations in modern Boston, Painted Hands ultimately celebrates the redemptive, transcendent power of love and friendship." -Anjali Banerjee, author of Enchanting Lily