One City. One Month. One Book.

This month sees the return of Cityread, the city-wide celebration of reading and London. Each year one book is chosen as the focal point for the festivities. London then becomes one huge book group as people read the book and attend events that bring the story and its themes to life.

The book for Cityread 2019 is Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, by Ayisha Malik. Richmond upon Thames Libraries are hosting 7 fantastic events based around the book. What’s more, Overdrive are making the eBook available to all library members with unlimited loans! This means that throughout May, you can go to Overdrive through our eLibrary or the Libby app and get your copy of Sophia Khan is Not Obliged without needing to wait – even if everyone else in the borough is already reading it.

The Book

Book cover for Sofia Khan is Not Obliged

Sofia Khan has given up on love. She broke off her engagement to her fiancé (with the hole-in-the-wall to his parents) and is absolutely focussed on becoming a better person. That is, until her boss asks her to write a book on Muslim dating. Sofia finds herself faced with finding juicy tidbits for her manuscript. After all, what’s a dating book without a bit of research?

Ayisha Malik has produced a thoughtful, witty and compulsively readable novel about identity, family, lemon puffs, and above all love. It’s fun, touching, and equally perfect to read during your commute or curled up in bed. The book is packed full of recognisable London backdrops and a variety of themes. The themes which our events will focus on are diaries and diarists; the Muslim world and Islamic culture; and romance.

The Events

Richmond upon Thames Libraries are lucky enough to have 7 fantastic events as part of Cityread this year. We’ll be starting on Saturday 11 May at the newly refurbished Whitton Library, where we are very excited to host storyteller Jumana Moon for a storytelling event – aimed at adults! Storytelling for an adult audience has been making waves across the country recently, with everything from true stories to folklore. People are rediscovering the magic of weaving a truly engaging tale, and that’s just what Jumana Moon will be doing. The Extremely Stubborn Slippers & other tales brings this unearthed tradition to Whitton Library, with its strong heritage and modern new building – the perfect venue for these folk tales from across the Muslim world. Look forward to trickster tales, a moon in a well and the girl who stood up to an Emperor.

While this event is aimed at adults, children over 10 are also welcome to come along. You can book your tickets now on our website here or at any of our libraries.

We continue our events at Richmond Library Annexe. On Wednesday 15 May Anita Chowdry will be giving an Introduction to Islamic Art. Islamic Art is renowned for its beautiful intricacies and highly decorative buildings. This lecture will look at how these styles developed and laid the foundations of Islamic Art as we know it. A seasoned lecturer and expert in Islamic Art, Anita Chowdry frequently gives talks and guided visits for Art Historical London. We are thrilled to have her giving this talk. Get your tickets here online or at our libraries.

Our third Cityread event will see author Sufiya Ahmed discussing the challenges of being a Muslim feminist in the West. On Tuesday 21 May, she will be at Richmond Library Annexe for the event It’s Not About the Burqa. This discussion will provide insight into misunderstandings that affect Muslim women in the West. Sufiya Ahmed contributed to It’s Not About the Burqa, a collection of essays from seventeen Muslim women that openly and frankly talk about faith, community, feminism, love, divorce and the realities of their lives. These essays are funny, warm, sometimes sad, and often angry. What does it mean to be a Muslim woman in the West today? According to the media, it’s all about the burqa. Here’s what it’s really about. You don’t want to miss this absorbing talk, so secure your tickets online here or at any of our libraries.

On Tuesday 28 May we return to Islamic art from a different perspective. Author, lecturer and garden designer Emma Clark will be at Hampton Library for a talk on The Islamic Garden as Sacred Art. Exploring the elements of the traditional Islamic garden as a sacred art form, this fascinating talk will look at how knowledge of the design principles and spiritual significance of these gardens can help lead to an understanding of the culture behind them. These gardens offer both spiritual significance, and opportunities in building bridges between communities through the universal appreciation of their beauty. The talk is therefore especially relevant to the themes of integration and understanding in Sofia Khan is Not Obliged. Make sure you book your tickets either online here or at any of our libraries.

The fifth event for Cityread sees the return of the ever-popular Nick Dobson, who on Wednesday 29 May will be at Teddington Library for The Moods of London: Through the eyes of the diarists. This event explores the diary format used in Sofia Khan is Not Obliged. It will be a whistlestop tour of London old and new, as told by those who witnessed and recorded the city. See London as a shining jewel at the centre of the universe, as a grimy labyrinth saturated with crime, and everything in between. An actor will join Nick and will perform diarist readings from celebrated chroniclers and unknown scribblers alike. This promises to be a vibrant and entertaining event. Tickets can be booked online here or at our libraries.

The penultimate event in our Cityread offerings is a special event looking at all aspects of diaries, including those who keep them and their great importance to 21st century questions of identity and understanding. On Thursday 30 May we are lucky enough to host Dr Polly North and two diarists from The Great Diary Project. The Project rescues, archives and makes publicly available an enormous – and growing – collection of over 8,500 diaries. Housed in Bishopsgate Institute, this event will bring a taste of the Project to Richmond Library Annexe. The Great Diary Project: ‘Show and Tell’ with Dr Polly North and diarists will feature an exploration and sharing of this remarkable archive, and it is certainly not to be missed! Secure your tickets by booking online here or at our libraries.

Our final event will take place on Wednesday 5 June, when Twickenham Library will host a Love and Marriage Themed Quiz – including a fish and chip supper! The quiz will test you on all things romantic and matrimonial. The questions will cover history, literature, music and film. Rounds will also include general knowledge and word puzzles. This light-hearted night is sure to be great fun, whether you come in a team or join one on the night. Book your tickets here online or in person at any of our libraries.

Get involved

You can get involved in Cityread by reading the book and booking into any of our events. Whether you want to dive into the Islamic garden or be entertained by magical storytelling, join us in exploring the book’s themes. Remember to borrow your copy of the book or eBook during May so you can join London in reading it. We hope you enjoy Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik as much as we did, and we look forward to seeing you throughout the month!

[Iona, Librarian]