My Chosen Words

Memories of a Professional Immigrant Woman

Non-Fiction - Memoir
246 Pages
Reviewed on 06/26/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

My Chosen Words: Memories of a Professional Immigrant Woman is a work of non-fiction written in the memoir style by author Ferial Imam Haque, Ph.D. From her parental roots in British India to a contented life as a retired scientist in Ottawa, Canada, the author proves that perseverance against adversity produces results, and hard work can bring triumph over time. This memoir chronicles the incredible story of an immigrant woman battling discrimination as well as the challenges of being a wife and mother, to her rise through educational milestones and into an impressive professional career in the male-dominated world of science.

Author Ferial Imam Haque has produced an important and empowering episodic tale of life’s many twists and turns, and she is living proof that wherever you start out on the game board, you can still win if you fight for it. I enjoyed the many different layers which are woven into her heartfelt story, but the most inspiring for me was the inclusion of discrimination and the real experiences of immigrants coming to new countries and pushing to succeed. The fact that Haque, through her work, has redefined the image of female immigrants and uplifted their professional aspirations is ground-breaking, and the narrative tone of the work reflects this spirit of empowerment on every page. Readers who are seeking role models throughout this cross-section of proposed sociocultural disadvantage will find themselves totally inspired and in safe, guiding hands. I would definitely recommend My Chosen Words as an eye-opening memoir for one and all.

Edith Wairimu

My Chosen Words: Memories of a Professional Immigrant Woman is Ferial Imam Haque’s heartfelt memoir that chronicles her journey from East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, to her experiences as an immigrant in pursuit of knowledge. A combination of prose and poetry, the work moves to capture the emotions in every experience included. Widowed at twenty-five years and a mother of three daughters, Haque’s mother faced prejudice in her society but continued to encourage her children to pursue education as she had. The poem “Why Do I Feel So Different?” celebrates her as a mentor, nurturer, and role model. Haque’s international experiences, her survival through the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, and her achievements in society as a scientist, researcher, wife, and mother are inspiring.

The poems that appear in My Chosen Words bring out emotions of sadness, happiness, and wonder such as in the poem “Hailstorm in Ottawa” which contains the lines: “I opened the door to the porch/ Oh, what did I see? / Like little pebbles/ It was translucent pellets of ice!” Haque's messages in the poem emphasize the need for peace and coexistence across the world. Her appreciation and respect for other cultures, beliefs, and nationalities are apparent in each chapter. Haque did not let her circumstances hold her back but through hard work and courage, she achieved her dreams. The memoir also offers an interesting glimpse of the Bengali culture and what living in other countries such as the UK and Canada is like for an immigrant. My Chosen Words by Ferial Imam Haque is a powerful memoir that is both moving and encouraging.

Asher Syed

My Chosen Words: Memories of a Professional Immigrant Woman by Ferial Imam Haque is a non-fiction autobiography of Haque's formative years growing up in East Pakistan/Bangladesh, from where she transitioned to married life in Ottawa, Canada, and her studies in Glasgow to obtain her Ph.D. The book is compartmentalized into pieces of Haque's life, each chapter beginning with a famous quote and a 'prelude' that introduces the backstory of the chapter and offers context. The chapters themselves continue in a narrative format most commonly associated with the concrete style of poetry, taking the geometric shape of a diamond in free-verse stanzas. Throughout, Haque provides photos of the most poignant moments of her life, which have been molded through her childhood as one of three daughters to an educated widow, studies, and marriage that form the woven pattern of her journey.

My Chosen Words is an interesting look at the immigration experience of the '60s and '70s through the eyes of Ferial Imam Haque. What is remarkable to a reader right off the bat is the determination of Haque to achieve her dreams of becoming a scientist, which she does, and to do so without the equal footing that contemporary students have today, namely, being a woman raised by a single mother in a deeply patriarchal society. Haque writes about many facets that run the gamut from mundane, such as the varied climates of the places she's lived, to more substantive moments like having to say goodbye to her family. There are technical issues with the writing but given the obstacles Haque has overcome to pen a memoir in one of the four languages she is fluent in, this is easily forgivable. I believe this book will be treasured by her children, their children, and generations to come who seek out the true story of an extraordinary woman.