Tawhida Tanya EvansonMar 5, 2021
Book of Wings
Esplanade Books 2021
Book of Wings (Esplanade Books, 2021) is a stunningly mesmerizing debut novel by Tawhida Tanya Evanson. It follows the journey of the protagonist Maya across vast geographies, such as Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, France, and Morocco, as she reels from the end of a passionate relationship with her lover and partner, Shams. In this modern Sufi love story, Maya, a bi-racial Black woman, seeks Shams, her lost beloved, and this quest propels her on a spiritual search that unfolds in a physical return to her homeland in Morocco in North Africa; a return that is symbolic of the inner return to one’s spiritual origins, so modeled by the Sufis.
Evanson also draws from various Afro-Caribbean diasporic traditions such as spirituality, music, and storytelling. These intricate Sufi, Islamic, and Afro-Caribbean diasporic traditions appear through personalities that Maya encounters on her travels, namely figures such as Muhammad, Ali, Hassan, Husayn, Fatima, Hajar or saints, dervishes, ancestors, masters, and holy ones. The novel is textured with Sufi themes, symbols, and teachings, such as in how spiritual states of beauty and love are evoked or the summation to annihilate the ego. These appear not only in the storyline but also in the prose, such as the use of repetition as Sufi pedagogy and as a literary device. This exquisite and compelling novel would be a welcome text to incorporate into numerous courses that deal with a wide range of topics such as the hero’s quest and mystical journey or topical courses such as on Sufism, Islam, gender, sexuality, or Afro-Caribbean diaspora, Canadian literature, and much more.
Shobhana Xavier is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Queen’s University. More details about her research and scholarship may be found here and here. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter via @shobhanaxavier.