In this memoir, Lamya H (who uses both she and they pronouns) writes a series of essays about finding her personal truths through the scriptures of the Quran. While the vantage point of a Muslim faith and a conservative South Asian background might seem at odds with exploring queer sexuality and gender, Hijab Butch Blues brings them beautifully together.  

Lamya, usually bored in Quran class, is struck one day by sudden recognition in the story of Maryam: No man has touched her, so maybe she doesn’t like men, just as Lamya doesn’t like men… and likes women instead. Maryam’s story and others become places where Lamya sees a reflection of the person they might be, and a way to see themself beyond confusion and shame. Weaving these texts into their experiences, they continue to explore the possibilities for their spirituality and their own sense of self. 

It’s often a difficult path for her. Depending on where she is and who she’s with, Lamya is not Muslim enough, or too Muslim; not queer enough, or too queer. Family and friends want to keep religion or identity or politics separate. Everyone has their ideas about who Lamya should be, but gradually, she follows her curiosity and begins to understand how these parts of herself intertwine and are inextricably connected. 

The words of the Quran accompany Lamya through holiday gatherings, dorm living, bad dates, and camping trips, and the stories give clarity to their emotions. Their writing is keenly observed and infused with humor and passion. They open themself to the reader with generosity, so you feel like one of their friends in conversation, sharing the ups and downs of their life through their luminous prose. 

It’s easy to get swept into it, bristling with her frustration at being misunderstood, blazing with her rage at injustices in large and very close to home. And it matters because Lamya finds the joy that makes it worth fighting for. Despite the struggles of being brown, hijabi, nonbinary, and queer, there is joy in finding herself and her community, in being able to hope for a better world. 

Their memoir is a timely and necessary work; one doesn’t have to share their identity to empathize with their story and appreciate their triumphs. But for those who might see something in this book like Lamya saw in the Quran, it could be a vital awakening to a new kind of life. 

Hijab Butch Blues was initially published in February 2023; the paperback edition was recently released in February 2024. 

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