Diary of a Guji (short for Gujirati) Girl has reached fandom status in South Africa. The blog where the book originated from received over two million views, and the novel sold 500 copies in its first week. The author, Qaanitah Hunter, is a hard-hitting political journalist in South Africa and began the blog as a light-hearted, somewhat tongue-in-cheek collage of people and events she’d encountered along the way. To some extent, blogging offered her a distraction from her fast-paced and hectic life as journalist, and she was astounded by its popularity. People would share new posts via email and instant message as everyone was looking for their daily fix of the next part in the series. At one stage, seemingly everyone and anyone were talking about the blog, even that aunty at your local halaqah.
The story revolves around the character Amina, a naïve young woman who hails from the small town of Newcastle in Kwa Zulu Natal. She comes from a cultural Indian background and arrives in Johannesburg to study teaching. Armed with a few cooking skills and modest dress sense, she regards herself as ultimate marriage material. This is her definitive goal for studying at university. She aspires to find the perfect “nice rich boy” who she can show off back home, while living the life of a pampered, rich, spoilt wife. Why else would a small town girl come to the big city to study? She meets her match in Moe, but he comes with some serious headaches – things are not as smooth sailing and easy as she thought they would be.
The book moves at a rapid pace as Amina goes from being a narcissistic, materialistic girl with small town ideologies to someone who questions who she really is and emerges somewhat more confident and less judgmental.
The book also gives us a glimpse into Muslim Indian communities in South Africa, while addressing the prejudices surrounding class culture and wealth from within. Coming from an Indian background, I must admit that I am grateful for parents who put religion before culture. I was astounded at some of the practices and prejudices I read about in Diary of A Guji Girl. It was all foreign to me but judging by the response to the blog, I am guessing these problems are normal for many people.
I must admit I never read the blog so this book was read with no expectations on my part. Qaanitah has an impressive, easygoing writing style that I loved. I can see why she attracted two million hits to her blog. It was good clean fun and entertained me for the most part. I loved that she tackled certain stereotypes we have in our communities with humour, honesty and a touch of sensitivity. I also think she is brave for doing so. I found myself laughing aloud at certain parts at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. The story had me gripped at some interludes and at times, I was just frustrated with the main character’s gumption or lack thereof. But Amina grows on you and pretty soon, you are rooting for her and you hope that after everything that happens to her, she emerges unscathed from the ordeal.
An excellent and entertaining read, let’s hope to see many more of these kind of novels, edited with just the right type of tenacity which made for a fun, engaging and uplifting story. It’s the perfect holiday read!
The author’s background is interesting. Qaanitah Hunter is a political reporter at the Mail and Guardian in South Africa. When she is not talking to politicians, she’s also a tear gas dodging hijabi. She is a graduate of Madressa Islaahul Muslimaat and studies political science at the University of South Africa. I hope she writes another novel – she has exceptional talent.
Her book is available to order online at Kalahari.co.za
Fatima Bheekoo Shah is a wife, mother food blogger, foodie and breastfeeding activist. She is also finally answering her calling to be a writer.