BOOK REVIEW: ‘This Way Out’ by Tufayel Ahmed

November 6, 2022

This book examines the decision by our protagonist Amar, after a few years of relationship with his partner, to tell his extended British-Bangladeshi family, most of whom are devout Muslim, not only is he gay, but he’s marrying a white man. Rather than taking us on a ‘traditional’ coming out narrative we are instead offered a searing insight into how grief, mourning and self-reflection can lead to some enlightening, but difficult life choices.

Author Ahmed’s treatment of grief and how gay men uniquely experience the loss of their mothers is done with a heart-breaking sensitivity and the ongoing process of self-care is examined with a candid honestly – I was really touched by how the shadow of the pain of loss frame parts of this book.

This honesty of purpose and thought makes Amar a difficult character, but also devastatingly human. He struggles with his own anger, grief and doubt, the horrible reactions of his brother and family to his proud decision to live authentically, rejecting their conservative expectations of him conforming to their heteronormative binary.

His deepening understanding of privilege and racism as it plays out across a lens of euro-centric white privileged London gay life and the experiences of many LGBTQ+ / queer Arab and Asian people as they seek to integrate both born and found family into their lives in a healthy way. It’s a brutal examination of the way queer intersectional lives are lived in our majority British LGBTQ+ culture which idolises whiteness and often fetishises or erases people of colour.

The intersections of faith and sexuality in this book are explored with insight and humour, his contemplative spiritual reconciliations of who he is with his faith offers an insight into the deeply personal understandings of Muslims with their belief.

Although the relentless self-reflection, depressing moaning and dramatic theatrical attitude of Amar makes him a complex and difficult character to truly like, as we explore his world and understand his own authentic perspective he warms to the reader. He’s a damaged man in a damaged world, trying to find his way through, keeping hold of the things he values and attempting to square a circle using love as his locomotion. Most of us have been there.

The story is an exploration of self-understanding, forgiveness, and the search for love, and realising that the love you feel entitled to is a fabrication, so you need to urgently come to terms with the real world, all its prejudice and petty-minded ways of making you feel worthless, rejecting them and finding a way to hold on to the hope first felt when the possibility of queer love lived fully presented itself.

This theme of holding on to a precious love is a golden thread through this book, allowing some heavier themes of grieving, emotional rehabilitation, challenging bias, the marginalising of diverse LGBTQ+ people in British queer life and the vital importance of being able to present your own point of view, experience, and requirements as not negotiable.

As we follow Amar on his journey out of the bleakness of grief, through the angry bitter swamps of self-pity and confusion into a lighter space of self-acceptance hard won and subtly detailed in its strife, it’s hard not to celebrate the joyful ending the book aims for. It took some suspension of belief for me to completely accept the full fairytale happiness of the ending, but this isn’t my narrative, so let’s go with the author on this, it’s fiction after all and gives a satisfying emotional thump to the heart for the pure optimistic timbre of its ending.

There’s not enough life affirming queer, Muslim, brown protagonists on our LGBTQ+ bookshelves, and this romantic, honest book is to be celebrated not only for the clarion voice of Amar but for its honesty of the struggle to find and keep rare, precious queer love in a world set against us every attaining it.

Out now £4.99

For more info or to buy the book follow this link to the publisher’s website