This was a really good book. I found it fascinating to see something written from the point of view of a Muslim character. I found the author’s note at the beginning quite moving as well. Sometimes author’s notes can be annoying or preachy, but this didn’t feel like that at all. The harsh reality of it is an eye opener and something to make a reader more aware.
I can’t judge how accurate the representation is (I am a white lady) but I found it very interesting. Maya’s family is the only Muslim family in her small Ohio town. She is the only black student in her high school. Maya is bright and bubbly. She has dreams of being a film director. She makes her own movies, mostly family stuff, mainly weddings and big events.
The novel opens with Maya filming a big Indian wedding. Which seems fun and very colourful. Her parents are quite strict and have a set idea of what they want for her future - go to college, become a lawyer, marry a nice boy from a good Indian family. Maya wants to go to film school in New York. She doesn’t quite know how to tell her parents. She has an ally in her aunt, her mother’s sister who never married and lives her own life quite comfortably. She’s more of a role model for Maya than her mother. Mother can be very overbearing and doesn’t seem to get the fact that her teenage daughter likes her privacy.
Maya actually meets a nice Indian boy at the wedding, a young man named Kareem, a college student, their parents are thrilled. One thing this novel had in abundance – descriptions of Indian food that makes your mouth water. I love Indian food. So these descriptions always made me smile and want to gobble whatever was being described. Maya also finds her long term school crush, popular boy Phil finally starts paying attention to her.
Phil’s nice and friendly, though he has a popular ex-girlfriend and her cronies who don’t seem to know that the relationship’s over which creates angst for Maya. She and Phil have great rapport and develop a believable friendship. At the same time she’s spending time with Kareem as well. Chatting with her best friend as well.
The dialogue is believable, the characters fleshed out well. Maya is likeable main character, and her struggles are easy to understand and identify with. While there’s some cultural differences as she has difficulty getting to grips with her parents expectations and her own desires. At one point it all seems like everything’s going to work out.
Then there is a terrorist attack. And Maya and her family have the same surname as the prime suspect. And is subjected to shocking treatment. Her parents’ business is vandalized, she is bullied at school. Her parents start tightening the leash again. Her dreams are defeated. It’s just heart-breaking to see the treatment she gets and it’s awful. She’s done nothing wrong. Her family have done nothing wrong.
At least the authorities in the town seem to be on the side of Maya and her parents. They don’t treat them as suspects and vow to protect the family from the violence they find themselves confronted with. Maya finds herself in a very dangerous situation during a school field trip, cornered by a bully intent on causing her harm simply because of her religion. Which is disgusting. Thankfully there’s a witness and she’s saved before something really bad can happen.
A wake up call for Maya as she finally decides it’s her future, and it’s up to her – not her parents. Her parents reaction is a little over the top (at least in this reader’s opinion) given their own history and how they came to be in the United States. It’s sad as well, but at least Maya has her aunt there to support her and help.
Gut-wrenching at times, sweet at others, funny in some moments, this was a really enjoyable book. Believable concluded as well. Definitely worth reading and an author I would like to read more from.
Thank you to Netgalley and Bonnier Zaffre /Hot Key Books for approving my request to view the title.