Title: Diary of a Hounslow Girl
Written & Performed by: Ambreen Razia
Genre: One Act Play/ Drama/ One Woman Show
Length: 1 hr. 37 minutes
Producer: Audible Studios
Diverse Books from Audible Originals
I read a lot of audio books and I have been a member of Audible for over a decade. In recent years, Audible studios was purchased by Amazon. One of the new features that Amazon has started since taking over Audible is that now they are starting to create more audio books and audio dramas that they are releasing only on Audible. They call these productions, “Audible Originals.”
Audible members are allowed to choose two free Audible Originals from a small select list of titles each month. This month, I selected Diary of Hounslow Girl by Ambreen Razia and Jingle Bell Bop: How to Make a Holiday Hit by John Seabrook. Each title was under two hours but I enjoyed reading each of them.
I’m especially pleased that Audible studios has been investing audio versions of theatre productions. I have always loved the theatre but I have trouble staying up to date with stage productions. I don’t live near a major city and theatre tickets are expensive when you’re a young country clergywoman like myself. These free Audible Originals are a great way to help me to at least attempt to keep my eye on what’s happening in the world of theatre.
I particularly appreciate the fact that Audible studios seems to be making an effort to invest in diverse books and authors from diverse backgrounds.
My Review: Diary of Hounslow Girl by A. Razia
Let me begin by saying that I hope Audible will continue to invest in diverse books, especially ones like Diary of a Hounslow Girl by Ambreen Razia. This is exactly the type of book that I enjoy reading.
Diary of Hounslow Girl is a coming of age story about a young woman who is who is caught between the culture of modern working class London and her roots in Pakistan. The play explores universal ideas such as the relationship between a mother and her daughter, sisterhood, sibling rivalry, and the pain of feeling as if one will never truly belong.
“Don’t forget,” the protagonist’s mother tells her, “You might be British but you will never be English.”
My favorite part of Diary of A Hounslow Girl was the brief interview at the end with Ambreen Razia. Razia wrote and performed Diary of a Hounslow Girl. During her interview, she states that she was inspired by her work with young girls who were Muslim. I am fascinated by language and linguistics and I commend Razia for making an effort to authentically represent the language of young working class Muslim women.
The voices of young women, especially young women from marginalized groups, have frequently been silenced in literature. Razia is working to change that. She says that her goal was to write a piece in which a young woman who is Muslim is given center stage. Furthermore, she wanted to include a healthy dose of levity because frequently story lines that deal with people who are minorities can lack humor. She is right in her assertion that the voices of young women can bring a unique type of humor to otherwise deeply depressing situations.
The Diary of Hounslow Girl does not shy away from difficult or challenging issues. This brief play grapples with issues that many young women in today’s world will face, including: drugs, teen pregnancy, the termination of a pregnancy, religion, and the weight of the heavy expectations that are frequently placed on the children of people who have recently immigrated to a new country.
Sadly, as much as I enjoyed the disparate parts that came together to make The Diary of Hounslow Girl, the piece as a whole fell rather flat for me. I was not able to empathize with any of the characters. Furthermore, the main character particularly grated on my nerves. I found her to be selfish, self-centered, angst ridden, and completely deplorable.
I also have a really hard time empathizing with the nonchalant drug use in which the characters engage. i realize that drugs are a major issues and that many teens will face this problem; however, I know many young people from the working class who do not use drugs.
There were many times in this play I wanted to reach out and shake some sense into the main character. I found her incredibly frustrating and I just wanted to shout, “Think about someone else besides yourself for a change!”
Something else that really annoyed me about this play was the soundscape. The producers made the decision to record significant portions of the play to sound as if they were a video diary. The filter that they used in order to generate this effect made it challenging to understand the narrator’s voice.
Even the humor in the play fell flat for me. The parts of the play were meant to be funny simply made me cringe. I just felt sad for the characters and everyone involved. After about thirty minutes of the play, I found myself increasing the playback speed to 2.5x faster so that I could get to the end more quickly (Although this is not entirely unusual for me because with my low vision I read so much on audio that is is normal for me to read at 3x speed or higher).
I commend Razia’s work and I admire what she is doing. The Diary of Hounslow Girl is a familiar coming of age story cast in a new light. I recommend this play for fans of YA literature because Razia manages to effectively capture the “over the top,” angst of the teenage years; however, for me the play fell somewhat flat.
Are you a fan of audio books? Check out my recent review of another Audible Original, The Turn of the Screw!
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