Sabba Khan's powerful graphic novel, The Roles We Play, is the winner of the Jhalak Prize 2022
“The more charged, accusatory and ferocious the world outside became, the more we tried to hold on with visible gestures and outward performances of piety and righteousness.
The deep spiritual and personal self-reflections offered by faith lost to playing ambassador.
So entangled now in generations of role, it can be hard to tell if this is who we are or if it is actually a response to power dynamics”
Sabba Khan, The Roles We Play.
There’s a real palpable unspoken underbelly to British society that doesn’t really make it to published books territory, so to be writing this letter to you feels like I’ve entered some kind of secret backdoor to the main stage. Thank you Jhalak judges for seeing my story and enabling this spotlight for me.
My book came from a deep desire to speak. I’ve struggled with vocalising, so much so that the lump in my throat has a name, I call him Froggy. Froggy-in-my-throat is everything I have experienced, everything my mother has experienced, everything my mother’s mother has experienced, clogging me up, blocking me, silencing me. I had to speak. I had to learn to find a way to articulate all that I felt. My book, The Roles We Play is me finding my voice.
I live in Newham, one of the most multi-cultural parts of the UK I’m told. But the social segregation here is the palpable unspoken underbelly no one talks about- or at least there is no nuance, no complexity.
So I go through, and like Descartes and his bad apples, I sift through all the key defining moments that tell me why my family is the way they are, what effects wider society has had on us, and ultimately why I am the way I am. I am a second generation immigrant woman from a Mirpuri family born and raised in Newham, who had to fight her way to higher education, who lost her faith in the process only to find it renewed in her chosen life partner who gave her space to fall in love with her family all over again.
This book is about cycles and patterns, and how its not happily ever after you’ve taken your hijab off. I hope you enjoy it, I promise it will open a new world up for you.
About the author
Sabba Khan is a visual artist, graphic novelist and architectural designer from Newham, London. An extract from Sabba’s debut graphic novel, The Roles We Play, was shortlisted for the Myriad First Graphic Novel Award, and its making was supported by Jerwood Arts. Awards include the Jhalak Prize 2022, Broken Frontier Break Out Talent 2021 as well as The Roles We Play’s selection among Guardian’s Best Books of 2021. The Roles we Play is also available in the US with Streetnoise Books under the title What is Home, Mum?