Egyptian writer Salma El-Wardany has published her debut novel. It is titled These Impossible Things and was published on June 7 by Grand Central Publishing. These Impossible Things was listed as a Marie Claire Book Club Pick for June 2022 and named a “Most Anticipated Book” by a number of major book and news sources like Bustle, Fortune, and BookRiot.
Salma El-Wardany is a writer, poet, and public speaker born in Egypt and based out of the UK. These Impossible Things is her first novel, however she has contributed to the It’s Not About the Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Raceand Crown Anthology (Lost Poets) collections. Many of her pieces speak to women’s rights, sexuality, religion, and relationships. So, it is very fitting that her first novel centers around a group of three best friends navigating these themes.
These Impossible Things follows the relationship between Malak, Kees, and Jenna, three Muslim women who have been friends since childhood. Each of the women are experiencing a serious life dilemma towards their end of college days.
Malak wants the dream: for her partner, community, and faith to coexist happily, and she wants this so much she’s willing to break her own heart to get it. Kees is in love with Harry, a white Catholic man who her parents can never know about. Jenna is the life of the party, always ready for new pleasures, even though she’s plagued by a loneliness she can’t shake.
Closing in on their college days, the three women experience one particular night that shakes their relationships with each other and threatens their bond. As they move on into their adult years, the story follows how they each navigate their own situations, but also work on the friendship they originally had. The novel comments on the difficulties on navigating tradition and expectations tied to the women —like about their faith, familial obligations, and marriage expectations— against what each woman truly desires and envisions for herself.
It is not easy to translate the experiences of familial tensions into fiction, but El-Wardany does so well. Throughout the pages, each of the women and their families are depicted in complex, nuanced ways. Oftentimes Muslim women in media are stereotypes or typecast in a particular box, These Impossible Things embraces just how delicate and intricate familial relationships, pressure, tension, and recuperation can be. In an article for Vouge Magazine Arabia, El-Wardany speaks to the importance of writing Arab and Muslim women in ways that work against the stereotypes attached to them.
We need to write Muslim and Arab women into literature, so their stories are told properly. To bring them out of the shadows and into the light. To give their lives the true depth and nuance they deserve. To bring their stories into popular culture and in doing so, shift the narrative, and create better lives for Muslim, and Arab women
If themes of love (through romance and friendships), exploring familial/societal expectations, close female friend groups, and a little bit of drama and messiness call to you, you should check out this book. Readers who enjoyed similar books, like Nikki May’s Wahala or Tomi Obaro’s Dele Weds Destiny (or some of these other booksabout female friendships) can find similar themes but a totally different story. Navigating friendships from childhood to adulthood is a common experience we all have, and El-Wardany’s book adds another voice and experience for people to relate to.
Buy These Impossible Things: Amazon