by Zadie Smith
Alsana Begum Iqbal
Alsana is the kind of person we might call feisty. She has an opinion about pretty much everything, and she's not exactly tight-lipped about it.
Alsana's parents arranged her marriage to Samad before she was even born, and she met him on the morning of the day they were married. She liked him okay when she first met him, but she grows to like him less and less over the years:
I thought he had a good face, a sweet voice, and his backside was high and well formed for a man of his age. Very good. Now, every time I learn something more about him, I like him less. So you see, we were better off the way we were. (4.109)
Thanks for the update on your husband's backside, girl.
Anyway, Alsana and Samad fight pretty much all the time. And when we say fight, we mean the usual yelling, screaming, and name-calling, but they also actually fight.
And like we said, Alsana ain't no chump; she stands her ground, whether she's arguing about about the rightness of her uncommunicative and unhappy marriage or the ways of the world. She knows very clearly what she believes in, which makes her a fun character to follow in this book.
For example, when Samad decides to send their son Magid away without Alsana's blessing, she punishes him for it:
Alsana had decided to stop speaking directly to her husband. Through the next eight years she would determine never to say yes to him, never to say no to him, but rather to force him to live like she did—never knowing, never being sure, holding Samad's sanity to ransom, until she was paid in full with the return of her number-one-son-eldest-by-two-minutes, until she could once more put a chubby hand through his thick hair. (9.19)
Alsana does exactly this for eight years. Which is pretty impressive, really.