Black-Marketer's Daughter Cover

The Black-Marketer’s Daughter

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Suman Mallick
Category: Contemporary / Literary Fiction / Multicultural
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Date of Publication: October 13, 2020
Number of Pages: 166


The Black-Marketer's Daughter cover

Zuleikha arrives in the US from Lahore, Pakistan, by marriage, having trained as a pianist without ever owning a real piano. Now she finally has one-a wedding present from her husband-but nevertheless finds it difficult to get used to her new role of a suburban middle-class housewife who has an abundance of time to play it.

Haunted by the imaginary worlds of the confiscated contraband books and movies that her father trafficked in to pay for her education and her dowry, and unable to reconcile them with the expectations of the real world of her present, she ends up as the central figure in a scandal that catapults her into the public eye and plays out in equal measures in the local news and in backroom deliberations, all fueled by winds of anti-Muslim hysteria.

The Black-Marketer’s Daughter was a finalist for the Disquiet Open Borders Book Prize, and praised by the jury as a “complicated and compelling story” of our times, with two key cornerstones of the novel being the unsympathetic voice with which Mallick, almost objectively, relays catastrophic and deeply emotional events, and the unsparing eye with which he illuminates the different angles and conflicting interests at work in a complex situation. The cumulative effects, while deliberately unsettling to readers, nevertheless keeps them glued to the pages out of sheer curiosity about what will happen next.

“Mallick offers an impressively realistic depiction of a woman caught between tradition, family, and her own sense of empowerment.”
Kirkus Reviews
The Black-Marketer’s Daughter is a key-hole look at a few things: a mismatched marriage, the plight of immigrants in the U.S., the emotional toll of culture shock, and the brutal way Muslim women are treated, especially by men within their own community. Titling it—defining the heroine by her relationship to a man rather than as a woman in her own right—suggests how deeply ingrained that inequality can be.”
IndieReader Reviews
The Black-Marketer’s Daughter is the portrait of a woman who endures violence, intimidation, xenophobia and grief, and yet refuses to be called a victim. In this slender novel, Suman Mallick deftly navigates the funhouse maze of immigrant life in contemporary America—around each corner the possibility of a delight, a terror, or a distorted reflection of oneself.”
Matthew Valentine, Winner, Montana Prize for Fiction; Lecturer, University of Texas at Austin
Image of The Black-Marketer's Daughter cover on tablet, smart phone, and paperback.


Clueless Gent’s Rating for The Black-Marketer’s Daughter

4 star rating

The Black-Marketer’s Daughter brings to light some nuances of a culture unknown to many of us. Its theme is somewhat dark, taking on the subject of spousal abuse and its aftermath.

Zuleikha, the protagonist, begins as a young woman from Pakistan. She has just undergone an arranged marriage in her native country, and she now arrives in Irving, Texas, with her American husband, Iskander. She seems to adapt nicely to an American lifestyle. Her new husband dotes on her, and she soon gives birth to a son. The only thing really missing from her marriage is love. She eventually finds it – or rather, it finds her – but the man is not her husband.

That storyline may not sound all that original, but then it gets ugly. Iskander learns of her infidelity while she is pregnant with their second son. In an instant, he explodes into a fit of rage that will forever change their lives.

Despite one scene of violent spousal abuse, the author did not indulge in gratuitous violence. One scene was enough. However, the author does go into detail with the aftermath. We learn of Zuleikha’s feelings of shame, and how her relationship with her young son now seems different. I know that shame is fairly common in situations like this, but this story takes it further by including other abused women, of her same culture, and of somewhat similar circumstances.

Mallick includes enough description to make a scene vivid, yet he doesn’t include superfluous details. I enjoyed that. Music has a large part in the story, and the author did a good job of explaining what it meant to the protagonist.

One thing that sort of threw me was the inclusion of Muslim-oriented things. For instance, describing a man’s appearance can include words I’m unfamiliar with. “The Imam wears stylish, wire-rimed round glass, a bright orange and red chapman tied with a kerchief at the waist, and a tubeteika perched atop his jet-black hair.” The same was true with the attire of women.

The was a very interesting story, told very nicely by someone who knows more about this than I do. Even though the theme is dark, the author put some light at the end of that tunnel, so don’t let that discourage you from reading it.

I received a free copy of this book from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review.
Image of paperback sitting on top of a cracked piano keyboard.
Bookstagram courtesy of Christena.

the Author

Suman Mallick Author Photo

Suman Mallick received his MFA from Portland State University and is the assistant managing editor of the quarterly literary magazine Under the Gum Tree. He lives in Texas.

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