IN PERSON - Feminist Journeys: Voices from Bangladesh Featuring Mehnaaz Momen, Elora Shehabuddin, and Gemini Wahhaj

Monday, June 6, 2022 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
2421 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005

Brazos Bookstore will be hosting Feminist Journeys in person on Monday, June 6 at 6:30 pm.

Three women writers from Bangladesh will explore feminism across the genres of memoir, academic trade writing, and short fiction.

Face Masks are required to attend the event.

Mehnaaz Momen, Associate Professor, Texas A&M International University, has penned a memoir of growing up in Bangladesh in the 1970s, recreating her home city of Dhaka as a space of secularism and tolerance. The book by Elora Shehabuddin, Professor, Rice University, presents a unique and engaging history of feminism as a story of colonial and postcolonial interactions between Anglo-American and South Asian Muslim societies. Gemini Wahhaj, Associate Professor, Lone Star College, and a graduate of the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program, has published a short story collection, Two Women, which explores the experiences of the global Bangladeshi diaspora, especially women, against the backdrop of imperial power, war, immigration, and poverty. 

The event will be organized as a conversation among these three writers who have long reflected, through their different lenses and life experiences, on feminism in Bangladesh. After brief pesentaions about their new books, they will ask each other about their work and the particulars of the feminist perspectives that undergird their writing, creating a stimulating discussion with the audience about transnational and intersectional feminism today.

Dr. Mehnaaz Momen teaches Political Science and Public Administration courses in the Department of Social Sciences at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU). She worked at a nonprofit organization in Bangladesh and completed higher education in Halifax, Canada and Cleveland, Ohio. Her book, The Paradox of Citizenship in American Politics: Ideals and Reality, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017, explores the meaning of citizenship in America from the multiple perspectives of history, politics, and policy. In her next book, Political Satire, Postmodern Reality, and the Trump Presidency: Who Are We Laughing At?, published in 2019, she tries to make sense of the contemporary media landscape and analyze how satire has evolved in American political culture and why it fails in the Trump era. She is currently working on a book called Space, Memory, Identity in Laredo: Anatomy of a Border City, which traces Laredo’s history and growth, and connects space, memory, and identity through pertinent urban theories and oral history. Her memoir, Living Dhaka, Leaving Dhaka (Jagriti Prokashoni, 2022) recounts the story of growing up during the heyday of chaos and change in the aftermath of liberation. She treasures the secular, tolerant, and vibrant environment that nurtured her. This memoir is an attempt to exalt those days and preserve the narration for the generations which are distant from the way of life that once defined Dhaka.

Elora Shehabuddin is Professor of Transnational Asian Studies and Core Faculty in the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Professor Shehabuddin is the author of Sisters in the Mirror: A History of Muslim Women and the Global Politics of Feminism (University of California Press, 2021), Reshaping the Holy: Democracy, Development, and Muslim Women in Bangladesh (Columbia University Press, 2008), and Empowering Rural Women: The Impact of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh (Grameen Bank, 1992). She has published articles in Modern Asian Studies, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Journal of Women's History, Südasien-Chronik [South Asia Chronicle], Journal of Bangladesh Studies, and Asian Survey, as well as chapters in numerous edited volumes. She co-edited a special issue of Feminist Economics on “Gender and Economics in Muslim Communities.” 

Professor Shehabuddin has received many fellowships, including from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the American Association of University Women, the Social Science Research Council, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Professor Shehabuddin currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Bangladesh Studies, as an Associate Editor of the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures (Brill), on the Advisory Committee of the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School, and as an elected member of the South Asia Council in the Association for Asian Studies.

Gemini Wahhaj is an Associate Professor at Lone Star College. She recieved her PhD in creative writing from the University of Houston. Her fiction has appeared in Granta, Zone 3, Cimarron Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, Chattahoochee Review, Apogee, Silk Road, Night Train, Cleaver, and Northwest Review, among others. She attended the University of Pennsylvania for her undergraduate degree in materials science and engineering and Princeton University for a Master in Public Affairs. She teaches English at the Lone Star College in Houston. She was senior editor at Feminist Economics and staff writer at The Daily Star in Bangladesh. An excerpt of her Young Adult manuscript The Girl Next Door was published in Exotic Gothic Volume 5. In Bangladesh, she was a regular writer for the Daily Star newspaper and weekend magazine. Awards: James A. Michener award for fiction at the University of Houston (awarded by Inprint), honorable mention in Atlantic student writer contest 2006, honorable mention in Glimmer Train fiction contest Spring 2005, and the prize for best undergraduate fiction at the University of Pennsylvania, judged by Philip Roth. Zone 3 Literary Awards winner in 2021. She is the editor of the magazine Forthcoming publications: Scoundrel, Valley Voices, Superpresent, The Raven’s Perch, Hypertext Magazine, and Concho River Review.


Living Dhaka, Leaving Dhaka: Memories of Bangladesh By Mehnaaz Momen Cover Image
ISBN: 9789849626213
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Jagriti Prokashoni - March 8th, 2022

This is the story of a girl growing up in Bangladesh during the turbulent post-liberation period, a time of enormous transition, as the country went through numerous social experiments ranging from socialism to capitalism, secularism to religious fundamentalism, and class hierarchy to upward mobility. It brings to life an increasingly forgotten perspective about what it feels like to grow up as a girl in a traditional society. Through the prisms of love, pain, and nostalgia, what emerges is the picture of a city where harmony, difference, and intellectual possibility prevailed side by side, allowing the people of Dhaka to weave together the kind of life they each favored as individuals.

Sisters in the Mirror: A History of Muslim Women and the Global Politics of Feminism By Elora Shehabuddin Cover Image
ISBN: 9780520342514
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: University of California Press - August 24th, 2021

Sisters in the Mirror shows how changes in women’s lives and feminist strategies have
consistently reflected wider changes in national and global politics and economics. Muslim
women, like non-Muslim women in various colonized societies and non-white and poor
women in the West, have found themselves having to negotiate their demands for rights
within other forms of struggle—for national independence or against occupation, racism,
and economic inequality. Through stories of both well-known and relatively unknown
figures, Shehabuddin recounts instances of conflict alongside those of empathy,
collaboration, and solidarity across this extended period. Sisters in the Mirror is organized
around stories of encounters between women and men from South Asia, Britain, and the
United States that led them, as if they were looking in a mirror, to pause and reconsider
norms in their own society, including cherished ideas about women’s roles and rights.
These intertwined stories confirm that nowhere, in either Western or Muslim societies, has
material change in girls’ and women’s lives come easily or without protracted struggle.

The stories in the collection Two Women explore the collision of people and empire–how war, immigration, and borders affect the lives of the characters. In “Mita,” a woman returns to Bangladesh to work in the development sector with the wrong motive and realizes her mistake too late. In “Wheels of Progress”, a chauffeur for a multinational company in Bangladesh learns how to see his community as thriving and not backward. In “Borders,” a single, young graduate student traveling back to her elite life in the US after the summer holidays befriends and then betrays a young, married woman traveling to visit her undocumented working-class husband in the US. In “Two Mothers”, Bangladeshi immigrants work in oil and gas companies in Houston, oblivious to the dangers of climate disaster, until a storm hits their suburb. And in “Father of the Nation,” development policy leaders decry trafficking of women, but one of them tells a story about the desire for migration that shames the room. All the stories explore how the intersection of race, class, and sexuality and disparate world events affect the lives of the characters in violent and painful ways.