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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

Title: If You Could Be Mine
Author: Sara Farizan
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Expected Publication Date: August 20, 2013
Length: 256 pages
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Publisher's Website

In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?

A_TiffyFit's Review
It's nearly impossible to believe that the "dark age" stuff is still going on around the world in this day and age, the 21st damn century. Sure, we read about these things occurring in women's magazines and a few other medias/mediums, but somehow we tend to blow it off, shrug it off, let it drift form our minds, soon after reading them. Probably because these things are happening so far away, in foreign places, so it doesn't affect you. (Tell that to the victims of the recent NYC hate crimes). But obviously it stays in the back of one's mind; while it may not be in the forefront, we are aware. I hope.

The protagonist of If You Could Be Mine is Sahar, a 17 year old girl struggling with what it means to grow up, with love, on the cusp of adulthood, and struggling with the agonizing pain of forbidden love. It's difficult enough being an almost adult, but added to that struggle is having to contend with loving someone whom you are not allowed to love. As if love itself is easy, as if being on the verge of adulthood is easy, let's toss in society telling you that YOUR love is wrong.  This compounded agonizing pain just cannot be expressed in words. It is difficult enough in a country such as the United States - the stigma and the ugliness and the prejudices and the negative receptions in a "free" country - I simply could not imagine in a country that is so religion dominated and in the "dark ages" compared to our more progressive culture. I found it heart-wrenching that loving someone of the same sex is a hanging crime. The book makes you appreciate our country more. Although we are still growing and maturing regarding same sex love and marriage, at least we do not hang them because we've decided their love is wrong.

The religious fanatic and zealot dominated society where they, the moral majority, dictate everything from how to dress, what to listen to, what to read, what to watch on television and the internet, is already oppressive enough, but then to dictate and attempt to control the people's emotions is simply too scary. For those raised in the United States, and other liberal nations, this would be a nightmare, an impossible effort to imagine living in a place where you are not free to be yourself.

But, it IS a reality and in this novel, Miss Farizan does a great job communicating through the eyes and voice of this teenage girl, Sahar, the hardships of what it is like to live in places such as Iran. One can assume that it is similar in other strict, Islamic based nations.

What would American teens do when the "morality police" comes up to them, tells them that they are dressed improperly, their hair is wrong, their make-up is wrong, they aren't acting proper, etc? Not just the females, of course, but they are more of a target than the males since females are "second class" citizens and expected to be proper wives/homemakers/baby producers.  How would American teens you know react to such restrictions? Governments all over the world are corrupt, each little department with its own quirks, so the rich can get away with more things by greasing palms. The poor have no voice and are at the mercy of these so-called moral enforcers.

This is what the novel does. Through Sahar and Nasir's struggle, it provokes your thoughts and feelings, asking you to place yourself in her shoes, raising the level of appreciation for the freedoms you take for granted, emphasizes the feeling you never knew you had to ensure you retain those freedoms. The reader may even be motivated to do something to help change that corner of the world, to help push forward human rights. I think that is something the author would desire: at the minimum to appreciate what you have, at the maximum to take actions to be the change you wish to see in the world.

Copy provided to me by the publishers via netgalley in exchange for a honest review. 

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