A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza | SLJ Review

Layla and Rafiq are traditional Muslim Indians. After their arranged marriage in Hyderabad, young Layla joins Rafiq in northern California, where they immerse themselves in their mosque and its community and start their family.

redstarMIRZA, Fatima Farheen. A Place for Us. 448p. SJP for Hogarth. Jun. 2018. Tr $27. ISBN 9781524763558.

Layla and Rafiq are traditional Muslim Indians. After their arranged marriage in Hyderabad, young Layla joins Rafiq in northern California, where they immerse themselves in their mosque and its community and start their family. They do their utmost to raise their children in strict adherence to their faith. Mirza writes eloquently about the parents’ choices and their children’s subsequent struggles to straddle two cultures and assimilate. Daughters Hadia and Huda navigate life with Islamic constrictions much more successfully than their younger brother Amar. For Amar, there are too many contradictions, and from early childhood, he questions and rebels. In turn, his parents ramp up their restrictions and their disapproval, creating a downward spiral for Amar as the family is slowly but surely torn apart by cultural conflicts and misunderstandings. Teen readers will appreciate Hadia and Huda and will empathize, commiserate, and identify with the beleaguered Amar. Written alternately from each character’s perspective, the narrative moves back and forth in time (sometimes confusingly), with Hadia’s wedding the anchoring event. The writing is delicate, evocative, and intense but accessible. VERDICT Teens who enjoy powerful family dramas such as Mitali Perkins’s You Bring the Distant Near and rebellion stories like Erika L. Sanchez’s I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter will love this gripping and bittersweet tale.–Gretchen Crowley, formerly at Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA

This review was published in the School Library Journal July 2018 issue.

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