Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!
While I’ve been pretty quiet lately (apologies, all: packing to move is no joke), I am still reading! I heard about this book from Sarah at SmartB’s, and her enthusiasm for the book was catching! After the words “Nancy Drew” and “Muslim” were uttered together, I bought it immediately. I am urging all of you to buy it so I can get the sequel!!!! Reader be advised: while there’s not a cliffhanger, and this “episode” is finished, there are loose ends which are effectively left untied; you’ll find yourself feening for the next book, too!
Synopsis: Asiya Haque is a Bengali Canadian daughter, a student, a volunteer, a girl with a crush… and a faithful Muslim, which means the crush and the daughter part are kind of at odds. Being alone with boys is not a part of Asiya’s life, attending after school activities in mixed company is not a part of Asiya’s life, and her mother worries so much that Asiya is improperly supervised that she is reluctant to allow Asiya to volunteer at a local nature conservancy. Asiya’s hard-won freedoms comes only for the sake of the Prize: University. Mrs. Haque believes strongly in education for women, and so Asiya has an unexpected opportunity – which leads her to run into her crush, Michael. Asiya, though she often pushes back against her mother, believes in what the Prophet says – she knows that boys are at the very least risky. Yet, she’s also not sure she’s going to burst into some sort of sexual behavior, so while she tells Michael that this isn’t something her parents allow, she allows him to stick around, though she keeps a good three feet between them as they walk. When their impromptu race has Asiya stumbling across a dead body, Michael makes sure she her part is never reported. Asiya goes back to work, with no one the wiser that she was both alone with a boy and a dead body.
That is, until the police show up at school the next day… asking about Michael, and Michael is nowhere to be found.
This is serious – the Prophet teaches that it’s Asiya’s duty to help those in trouble. Can Asiya, in all honesty, not tell what she knows? …even if it looks like she’s implicating her crush?
Observations: My parents pretty much gave me the same talk about Satan being the third party with me and any boy alone together, So. Many. Times. I got that talk in variously oblique or direct ways, so I laughed out loud when I realized this same talk was Asiya’s mother’s go-to lecture. Asiya’s parents are mine from another mother.
Conservative parents, who are strict for reasons of faith aren’t often written about in YA lit in the same ways – because rebellion has higher stakes, potentially, than just being grounded or something. Loss of place within a family, loss of respect within the ethnic community – and possibly loss of place within one’s religious organization. I related a lot to trying to figure out how to honor my parents while also not living my life as an exact pattern of theirs. It takes a lot more respectful dissent than you’d expect — and the novel spends a good deal of time balancing that push-pull. Despite that, rather than this light mystery just being one long argument, which is what my teen years (and let’s not lie, into college) felt like, this book is VERY funny. I appreciated that more than I expected. People expect religious communities to be humorless, and Muslims, especially, are within Western cultures misunderstood and feared. All people laugh – and you’ll laugh, too, visiting the mind of Asiya Haque.
Conclusion: This book was mentioned as “Nancy Drew, but not,” and while I don’t think the mystery part of the novel drives the narrative, I like that Asiya wanted to know something, so she made it her business to find out. Her investigative skills were never greenlighted by anyone, especially her parents, but she kept asking questions anyway until they were answered to her satisfaction — because she had to answer to her own conscience and ideas of faith. This was a lightweight book in some ways, but it had a lot to ponder and was such a delightful way to write about a teen character with a faith tradition – not making fun of the faith, but shining a light on the people of faith, with humor and heart. Religious people – even those in the Muslim faith – are not a monolith, and I appreciate that Asiya and her parents had different expressions of the same faith. I look forward to this sequel.
I purchased my copy of this book. You can find GOD SMITES, AND OTHER MUSLIM GIRL PROBLEMS by Ishara Deen at an online e-tailer or independent bookstore near you.
I love the premise of this, and I love the idea of exploring faith from within, which most YA books avoid like the plague.
@Kim: True! I think that Asiya's experience of faith wasn't her parents' experience, but hers which also made this a great book. The reader doesn't come away subtly proselytized to, but sure of Asiya's character, which is awesome.