Muslim bad girl Zainab Mir and her best friend Amra Abbas have thwarted proposal-slinging aunties and cultural expectations to succeed in their high-powered careers in Boston. What they didn't count on? The unlikely men who shatter their friendship, including a childhood friend who turns out to be more traditional than he let on, and a right-wing politico with career-threatening secrets of his own. When the personal and the geopolitical collide, and a controversial prayer service leads to violence, Zainab and Amra must figure out what they're willing to risk for their principles, their friendship, and love.
Praise for Painted Hands
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
Reviews for Painted Hands
“Painted Hands is easily the best book I’ve read all year, and the best book I’ve read in a long time. Because no other author has so nailed the different directions we are pulled in life: the power of a strong faith community, the essence of family, and also the importance of ambition and friendship.
This is a novel that will give you a more complete picture of the world around you — and of yourself." Read more.
— Laura Farmer, Cedar Rapids Gazette
"While there is much information about Islam, there is little in the way of polemics. Instead the story is taut and well written, with each character going through his/her own epiphany.
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." Read more.
— Diane Brandley, New York Journal of Books
"There are so many novels that feature the plight of Muslim women in war-torn countries, but what about what Muslim women face in the United States? Jennifer Zobair's debut Painted Hands tackles that very subject, introducing us to characters we could relate to and identify with. Amra has trouble balancing work, life, and the expectations that come from being a Muslim woman, while Zainab finds that she has to apologize for her status as a Pakistani-American Muslim woman every time she's put in the spotlight because of her work on a political campaign. It's thought-provoking, well-written, and entirely enjoyable."
"I devoured this page turner of a book which grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go until the very end. Zobair brought such a unique perspective to a world where there isn’t much written. Painted Hands is a book that will start dialogues between people. It touches all the points of fear and hate that arise from Islamic faith and terrorism in America, and what it is like to be a Muslim-American living in a culture that is so wrapped up by these fears. The beauty in Painted Hands is the delicate line Zobair walks in exploring these issues and creating compelling, lifelike characters. Her writing is flawless and I was emotionally invested." Read more.
"Painted Hands is a thoughtful examination of what it means to be a modern-day Muslim woman living in the United States. Zobair does an excellent job looking at the difficulties that these women face, and she manages to tell the story in such a way that Zainab and Amra’s experience are broadly applicable...From family to career to men, no subject is off limits, and while that may make this novel seem gossipy, in truth it’s heartfelt and easy to dive into. The cultural aspects and discussion are fascinating and readers will enjoy this glimpse into a world that isn’t often portrayed in novels." Read more.
"The practical upshot of all this: Painted Hands is one of the best books I’ve read all year...one of the first rules of storytelling is to make the reader/viewer care. Jennifer Zobair did this with every character she created...Painted Hands is an excellent introduction to Muslim-American culture, wrapped in a great story." Read more.