Book Blog Tour: The Black-Marketer’s Daughter by Suman Mallick



Suman Mallick

Category: Contemporary / Literary Fiction / Multicultural

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Date of Publication: October 13, 2020

Number of Pages: 166 pages


Zuleikha arrives in the US from Lahore, Pakistan, by marriage, having trained as a pianist without ever owning a real piano. Now she finally has one-a wedding present from her husband-but nevertheless finds it difficult to get used to her new role of a suburban middle-class housewife who has an abundance of time to play it.

Haunted by the imaginary worlds of the confiscated contraband books and movies that her father trafficked in to pay for her education and her dowry, and unable to reconcile them with the expectations of the real world of her present, she ends up as the central figure in a scandal that catapults her into the public eye and plays out in equal measures in the local news and in backroom deliberations, all fueled by winds of anti-Muslim hysteria.

The Black-Marketer’s Daughter was a finalist for the Disquiet Open Borders Book Prize, and praised by the jury as a “complicated and compelling story” of our times, with two key cornerstones of the novel being the unsympathetic voice with which Mallick, almost objectively, relays catastrophic and deeply emotional events, and the unsparing eye with which he illuminates the different angles and conflicting interests at work in a complex situation. The cumulative effects, while deliberately unsettling to readers, nevertheless keeps them glued to the pages out of sheer curiosity about what will happen next. 


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“Mallick offers an impressively realistic depiction of a woman caught between tradition, family, and her own sense of empowerment.” ~ Kirkus Reviews

“The Black-Marketer’s Daughter is a key-hole look at a few things: a mismatched marriage, the plight of immigrants in the U.S., the emotional toll of culture shock, and the brutal way Muslim women are treated, especially by men within their own community. Titling it—defining the heroine by her relationship to a man rather than as a woman in her own right—suggests how deeply ingrained that inequality can be.” ~ IndieReader Reviews 

“The Black-Marketer’s Daughter is the portrait of a woman who endures violence, intimidation, xenophobia and grief, and yet refuses to be called a victim. In this slender novel, Suman Mallick deftly navigates the funhouse maze of immigrant life in contemporary America—around each corner the possibility of a delight, a terror, or a distorted reflection of oneself.” ~ Matthew Valentine, Winner, Montana Prize for Fiction; Lecturer, University of Texas at Austin

Reading this book was a terrific way to gain insight and understanding of Muslim culture and traditions, and I really appreciated the opportunity to be immersed in a different way of life. I like this kind of story that helps broaden my worldview. It’s so important for us to understand each other and not just accept the stereotypes of people and cultures too often presented in news or on social media.

Zuleikha is not always a likable character if we look at her purely from the standpoint of how marriages operate in our Western culture. But as I read the book I realized I had to put aside my beliefs to appreciate why she acted the way she did.

The assault that caused her to miscarry was horrifying, but it showed so vividly the way women are treated in the Muslim culture. Zuleikha had shamed her husband by having an affair, and Iskander loses control, reacting the way men do in their home country. There, in Pakistan, she would be stoned for her transgression.

Even though I liked so much about this book I did think the writing was a little uneven in places. There was too much of what we sometimes call info dumping, where things were explained in such a way that it read a little bit like something one would read in a newspaper or magazine about the way the shelters for abused Muslim women are operated.

Other than that this is a really well done book. The writing is almost poetic in places, with a well-turned phrase that enables the reader to understand a character more fully or be immersed in the setting: “Zuleikha hurries into their house just as the winds begin to act drunk and disorderly, and then all of nature gets violently ill.” It was also very satisfying to follow Zuleikha’s growth as a character as she became stronger than she’d been at the beginning of the story. The conclusion couldn’t have been done any better.



Suman Mallick received his MFA from Portland State University and is the assistant managing editor of the quarterly literary magazine Under the Gum Tree. He lives in Texas.







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2 thoughts on “Book Blog Tour: The Black-Marketer’s Daughter by Suman Mallick”

    1. Expanding my worldview and gaining insight into other cultures is one of the main reasons I read. Thanks for stopping by and the affirmation of my review.

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