Butterflies are often used as symbols of physical or spiritual transformation. At a time when women continue the quest for the Holy Grail of “equality,” the prospect of such a transformation remains tantalizingly out of reach for the Muslim women that dominate these series of short stories set in Paarl, South Africa. Human nature, with its recognizable betrayals, love, hope and dreams play out against a complicated backdrop of once-segregated citizens having to learn to find common ground as one nation. An unseen narrator tells the story of Mrs. Bhopal, the trophy wife of one of the few rich men who chose to live in the colored neighborhood on the wrong side of the train tracks (for mysterious reasons). The conniving Mrs. Patel, gossiper-in-chief of the neighborhood, turns out to be the glue that holds the shattered pieces of the other characters’ lives together. And young Sarah/Zuleikha illustrates what happens when a young girl suppresses her true nature to conform to societal expectations. Woven together, these stories of characters with lives as recognizable as our own, portray the Yin and Yang of human existence.
Zeena Nackerdien, a science writer, was born in Paarl, South Africa to Cape Malay parents, grew up in Paarl, and first arrived in America in 1989. For more than fifteen years she worked as an academic researcher at different institutions, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland and the Rockefeller University in New York. Her debut science-themed novel, “The Heroine Next Door,” released in January 2015 garnered praise from an Amazon Top 100 reviewer and this prolific author has also published a collection of poetry about science and society, “Mist over Peace.” Her third, non-fiction book, Perspectives on Type 2 diabetes, is now available on Amazon.