Thursday, 7 July 2022

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by: Zarqa Nawaz

 Genre: memoir 

Published: June 24, 2014 by: Collins 

Pages: 256

Reviews: 5/5 stars 

CW: islamophobia, sexual harassment  

Zarqa Nawaz is the creator of the hit Canadian tv series "Little Mosque on the Prairie," which follows a tight-knit Muslim community in rural Saskatchewan. Such experiences are not far from Zarqa's own life, as she too experienced what it's like to be Muslim in Canada's west. This memoir follows Zarqa's life from being born in England to Pakistani-Muslim parents, and moving to Canada, where she grows up and eventually moves to Regina, Saskatchewan with her family. Along the way, Zarqa deals with islamophobia brought on by 9/11, having differing viewpoints compared to other people in her religion, and using the best tool she has to cope with it all: humour. 

From what I've learned about Zarqa Nawaz, I've concluded that her content can be very polarizing for both Muslim and non-Muslim individuals. She tends to use a lot of satire in her works which can be jarring for people, and sometimes Muslim reviewers point out how she tends to prioritize more liberal viewpoints of Islam as opposed to conservative viewpoints. There are a bunch of own voices reviews of this book on Goodreads which I really enjoyed reading, and I would encourage folks looking to read this book to do the same. It was beneficial for me to get a wide range of opinions on this book just to see what Muslim readers thought of it. I ultimately really enjoyed the book and its use of humour, but it's important to note that my opinion is that of a non-Muslim person, and reading own voices reviews can be a very important task. With all this being said, here is my review of the book: 

I was intrigued to read Nawaz's memoir because of her new fiction book that just came out: Jameela Green Ruins Everything. I wanted to learn more about Nawaz before picking up her book, as she seemed like such a cool, funny person and is a really important figure in the Canadian media scene. I much prefer funny memoirs to serious memoirs as they are easier for me to read, and Nawaz did a great job at talking about serious topics while integrating her signature wit, sarcasm, and a little bit of satire. I can see that Nawaz very much uses humour to cope with the things around her, and such humour really stood out in the memoir. 

Nawaz does a great job at educating the non-Muslim reader about Muslim traditions and religious observances, especially in relation to the Hajj. Her methods of explanation may be untraditional, as of course, almost every line is laced with humour, but I think I left the book with the overall feeling that I had learned more about Islam that I had known going in, which is a good thing. The book is well-organized and well-paced so that I was kept interested throughout. I really found myself turning each page wanting to know what happened next in Nawaz's life. I think she does a great job at turning herself and the people in her life into full-fledged characters, so it feels like I'm reading a well-developed story from beginning to end. 

Nawaz is very talented in her storytelling abilities. I can see why she had much success in her career, and I would even love to begin watching Little Mosque because if it's anything like the entertainment that she incorporates in her own writings, then I think I would really enjoy it. With the successes of Canadian tv shows as of late like Schitt's Creek, it's about time that more Canadian shows get the recognition they deserve. I think Nawaz brings something special to the Canadian writing scene because of her ability to not hold back when it comes to humour while still staying true to who she is as a Muslim woman. 

Overall, I loved this memoir! I thought it was a captivating story full of triumphs for a talented Canadian woman writer. Even though Nawaz's type of humour can be sometimes hard to get into, I think she ultimately teaches her audience about the Muslim faith while also showing them that life doesn't always have to be taken so seriously. It was a very entertaining read. 

Have you read Laughing All the Way to the Mosque? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess


  1. I like funny memoirs too, something about the humor just adds something. It sounds fascinating, and honestly- it can be jarring to some when humor is mixed with serious topics like religion, but I often think it helps sometimes not to take life so seriously...

    1. I agree, Greg! I think the humour if anything shines a bigger light on why we should be taking these tough topics seriously.

  2. Nawaz' name hasn't really permeated this side of the Atlantic, so I honestly have no idea who she is.

    It's super-important to read and listen to #OwnVoices reviews ofc, although I would point out that the differences between liberal and conservative Christians, or various Christian denominations *should* be enough of a warning that religions can hold a wide range of viewpoints, and that some of those viewpoints shouldn't be considered tolerated by the wider religion at all - it won't be, because people, but it should be ;)

    1. Great points, Cee! I'm not Muslim so I'm not entirely familiar with all of the potential implications of portraying some aspects of the religion the way that Nawaz does, but I have been learning a lot from her writings and from the reviews too which is good :)

  3. This sounds like such an interesting read. I love memoirs, but I don't read enough of them -- the last one I think I can remember really getting into was Michelle Obama's Becoming , and that may have been a year or two ago.

    The ability to use humor to process and communicate hardships I think can be a mark of resilience and character! :)

    claire @ clairefy

    1. For sure! Nawaz has had such an amazing career and I think a lot of that comes from her ability to not hold back when it comes to humour. I haven't read Becoming, but I think Michelle Obama is a fabulous writer/speaker so that is definitely on my list.