Creating an Islamic-American Culture
Review by Layla Abdullah-Poulos
By Nasheed Jaxson
$6.99, 226 pp, Electronic
Desire can be a motivation for both noble and ignoble endeavors. Our pursuit of the people/things we desire often blinds us to their consequences. In HER JUSTICE, Nasheed Jaxson merges crime and romance to show that no matter how philanthropic or selfish the aspirations, our quest to realize them can lead to personal and social upheaval.
Jaxson constructs a love triangle involving main characters Audria, Justice, and Naimah. Audria is a successful businessperson who has fallen for her handsome Muslim therapist, Justice. Audria is convinced that Justice is the perfect match for her. However, there is the small impediment of Justice’s marriage that she must dissolve to get Justice in her bed. Accustomed to having what she wants, Audria is more than up to the challenge, and she sets out to manipulate Justice right out of matrimonial bliss.
Like many men engrossed in achieving professional success, Justice is pretty much clueless to Audria’s…pursuits. He is too busy working on becoming the hottest therapist in his profession as well as the go-to man in his middle-class Muslim community. His patients need him to see them through their psychological crises, and the Muslim community needs him to see them through their masjid’s expansion. Add a few pleas from the Imam to help the most recent Muslim couple with a shaky marriage, and Justice spends most of his time in the novel bouncing between the office and local masjid, trying to be everyone’s champion. That does not leave Superman with much time to dedicate to his home life.
Justice’s hero complex puts a strain on his marriage. Naimah, his loving wife, is not too fond of being left alone to play Susy Homemaker to an absentee husband in an empty house. Therefore, she decides to change her circumstance, which leads to a bevy of confrontations between her and Justice that threatens their relationship as well as to send Naimah over the emotional edge.
The desires of HER JUSTICE’s three main characters serve as catalysts for devastation for themselves, their relationships with each other, and those around them. Each character is convinced that their longings, the means by which they fulfill them and the wake of havoc left by their machinations are justified (pun fully intended). Jaxson skillfully interweaves passion with criminal subterfuge to keep the reader engaged while revealing how destructive things can get when one solely focuses on the ends and why blind ambition can strip a person of their sanity and humanity.
Deception abounds in HER JUSTICE, and Jaxson impressed me with the complexity of the characters he constructed. The reader can despise and sympathize with Audria and Justice in many ways. Jaxson did not oversimplify Adria’s passion for Justice by falling back on the “other woman” trope. By juxtaposing the character’s nefarious actions with her inner dialogue, Jaxson provides the opportunity to empathize with Audria as a representation of the loneliness and desperation we have all felt and a caveat of what can happen if we allow them to drive us.
Justice’s inner dialogue and actions had a similar effect. Justice is simultaneously chauvinistic and chivalrous towards the novel’s female characters. It is clear that he does not think too highly of the opposite gender, but he will use all of his clinical expertise and physical strength to protect them from peril. Although primarily heroic, Justice’s white hat does have a few stains, and he engages in questionable actions that, at times, rival Audria’s.
Naimah, who is probably the most “innocent” and loveable of the characters, also presents a darker side as she attempts to climb out of her personal abyss of lost identity and scramble to save her marriage. It is not simple to create a love/hate balance in a character. Jaxson did it with three, and I swerved between being unable to put my e-reader down and wanting to throw it against the wall.
The love scenes in HER JUSTICE were particularly interesting. American Muslim fiction is an emerging genre, and Native-born American Muslim authors maintain a distinctive niche. Their portrayals of love and romance speak to a unique American Muslim experience, and the intimate scenes are essential to providing a glimpse into the sexual dialogue of the culture. The love scenes also demonstrate how far Muslims authors are willing to open the “bedroom door” (if at all) in the genre. The intimate dialogue Jaxson constructed between Justice and Naimah is the best I’ve read so far from a Muslim author. The author proficiently combines sensual banter and sexual urgency in an Islamic context. As an avid romance reader, I hoped for more detail in the love scenes, but I understood why it was absent. Although I would have liked Jaxson to go a little further, I respect why he did not. Notions of sensual content in American Muslim fiction is a contentious issue, and Muslim authors, publishers and readers are still working on creating cultural parameters that appreciate artistic expression while maintaining religious convictions.
HER JUSTICE is brilliant American Muslim fiction, and Jaxson is primed to be an author that takes the genre to the next level. I look forward to seeing more from Nasheed Jaxson. I am glad that the novel made the NbA Muslims Anticipated Reads for 2016. It offered some gripping reading.
Jaxson has written poems, poetry plays and spoken word pieces that he’s performed up and down the East Coast of the States, winning and placing in poetry competitions, including the National poetry and literary festival in the UK. In 2009, a close friend encouraged and assured Jaxson, that he had what it took to write a movie. Months later, they produced “West End Story”, what hopes to be a blockbuster. Jaxson didn’t stop at being a screenwriter. His first novel is Her Justice, which is the first in Jaxson’s The Justice Series.
Facebook: Nasheed JaXson