In A House Divided, Yusuf Hussain is the husband of the protagonist, the politician Jennifer Sinclair, and father to their two sons, Samir and Hassan.
Yusuf first landed on the page fifteen years ago in the first draft of the book and to be honest, at that stage he was a bit of a wet blanket.
I painted him as the perfect husband: handsome, supportive, great with the kids and handy in the kitchen. While Jennifer was having all sorts of crises thrown at her by the other characters, I wanted him to be the rock she could retreat to.
But I soon realised that was the wrong approach. A man doesn’t have to be perfect to be a good husband, nor does he have to be so much of a ‘new man’ that he’s unbelievable.
So I changed him.
I started to think about how he’d react to the political situation he and Jennifer found themselves in and the way it victimised him and his sons as Muslims. I analysed Jennifer’s actions, sometimes impulsive, and considered how Yusuf, as a real person and not some idealised version of manhood, might react to those.
And the conclusion I came to was that, while still being a great guy (which really comes out in book three of the trilogy), he’s angry.
He’s angry at a government that’s victimising Muslims like himself. He’s angry at a school system that wants to segregate his sons. He’s angry at a society that doesn’t trust him. And often he’s angry at Jennifer for being a part of that system as a government minister, albeit a rebellious one.
He doesn’t get as angry as his eldest son Samir, whose reaction to Islamophobia is a key driver for the plot. But he understands where Samir is coming from, and often argues with Jennifer about it.
They argue about the fact that she’s part of a government that wants to increase surveillance. They argue about the riots that take place, and how they make him scared for his kids. And they argue about how to respond when Samir gets into trouble for fighting at school.
But when push comes to shove, can Yusuf and Jennifer put aside their differences and channel their different forms of anger at the same target? Can they work together and use that anger to make things better?
The only way to find out is by reading the book!
A House Divided is out now in ebook and paperback. And right now, the ebook is just 99p/99c.