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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

A newly planted Austen society

Like a Janeite version of Johnny Appleseed, the British-Pakistani journalist and writer Laaleen Sukhera seems to be making a habit of founding Jane Austen societies across the globe.

Eight years ago, there was the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan (JASP), whose signature project was Austenistan, a collection of short stories updating Austen’s plots to contemporary Pakistan. And now Sukhera has joined forces with a Janeite friend to launch the Jane Austen Society of the Emirates (JASE), which held its first meeting -- a tea party, Regency costumes encouraged -- last month in Dubai. (The two societies share a Facebook page.)

Austen “talked about financial struggles and familial realities that are still relatable,” Sukhera patiently explained to an Emirati journalist wondering how a nineteenth-century author could have contemporary relevance. “Also, patriarchy isn’t quite dead yet.” (Ain't it the truth.)

JASE’s first meeting drew more than a dozen participants, including several men, and Sukhera and her co-founder, a Brazilian-American Janeite named Cleia Peterson, are already talking about future events. On the agenda are some off-brand cosplay expansion projects, like an Agatha Christie murder mystery dinner and a Fitzgerald-Wodehouse 1920s evening, plus that most traditional of Jane Austen Society events: a Regency ball.

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