Tag: Sara Farizan

Diverse Books Tag

The-DiverseBooks-Tag Naz over at Read Diverse Books has been doing killer work with his #DiverseBookBloggers tag. Check it out for great conversations about diversity in the book blogging community, and find lots of great new people to follow! Now he has also started a meme to get bloggers to promote their diverse reads, or challenge themselves to add books that fit certain criteria to their TBR. I’ll let Naz explain:

The Diverse Books Tag is a bit like a scavenger hunt. I will task you to find a book that fits a specific criteria and you will have to show us a book you have read or want to read.

If you can’t think of a book that fits the specific category, then I encourage you to go look for one. A quick Google search will provide you with many books that will fit the bill. (Also, Goodreads lists are your friends.) Find one you are genuinely interested in reading and move on to the next category.

Everyone can do this tag, even people who don’t own or haven’t read any books that fit the descriptions below. So there’s no excuse! The purpose of the tag is to promote the kinds of books that may not get a lot of attention in the book blogging community.”

In most cases I had a ton of books to choose from. When in doubt, I tried to err on the side of #ownvoices authors and their books. But as you will see, I also found a gap in my reading the size of a continent. If I’ve already read the book, you can click the title for a link to the full review.

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Find a book starring a lesbian character

Cover image for Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara FarizanTell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Leila Azadi is a lesbian, but she has done a pretty good job of keeping this fact a secret from her friends and classmates at Armstead Academy. Everyone thinks her best friend Greg is her boyfriend, and this allows her to fly under the radar. If only Greg didn’t want to actually be her boyfriend, everything would be perfect. But with the arrival of Saskia, a beautiful and sophisticated student from Europe, Leila finds herself with a crush on a classmate for the first time. he harder she falls for wild and independent Saskia, the more difficult it is to keep her secret, not just from her classmates and teachers, but from her traditional Iranian parents, and her perfect older sister, Nahal. Confused by Saskia’s mixed signals, Leila begins to reach out to friends and family, but as the truth starts to spread, Leila finds herself losing control of her coming out process.

Find a book with a Muslim protagonist

Cover image for Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

Seventeen-year-old Naila is the model daughter of two very traditional Pakistani immigrants in Florida. She makes perfect grades in school, and has been accepted to a selective six-year medical program for university. She doesn’t complain about not being able to attend soccer games, or birthday parties, or even her senior prom. But Naila has a secret; for the last year she has been dating Saif, a fellow Pakistani-American from a family that has been shunned by the community because his parents allowed their daughter to marry an American. When Naila’s parents inevitably discover her relationship, they decide a month in Pakistan will help her reconnect with her roots and forget about Saif. But it eventually becomes clear that her parents have another purpose for the trip; they are looking for a husband for Naila, and they want her to be married immediately, regardless of her wishes.

Find a book set in Latin America

Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra Well, I think we just found a big gap in my reading. While I could find books on my blog with Latin American characters, I couldn’t find one actually set in Latin America. So then I dug through my embarrassingly large pile of unread books. I found a couple titles by Latin American authors, but again, none set there. Ditto my Kindle. As far as my bookshelves are concerned, Latin America is a giant gaping hole. I wracked my brain to think of books I read before I blogged, and came up with State of Wonder by Anne Patchett and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even finish that last one because the audiobook expired before could get through the whole thing.  So I have requested a copy of Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra from the library. It is set in Chile, and includes an author-narrator, which is what grabbed my interest.

Find a book about a person with a disability

Cover image for El Deafo by Cece Bell El Deafo by CeCe Bell

When four-year-old Cece suddenly becomes violently ill, she wakes up in the hospital unable to hear, and has to be outfitted with a hearing aid. The next year she starts kindergarten at a special school for deaf kids where she learns lip reading. But when first grade rolls around, it is time for Cece to go to her neighbourhood school, where she will be the only deaf student. Trying to fit in at a new school is challenging enough, but Cece also has to wear the phonic ear, a large, two-part hearing aid that allows her to hear her teacher so that she doesn’t have to lip read all the time. Cece desperately wants to be taken for normal, but the phonic ear constantly draws attention to her deafness, and makes friendship complicated. Trying to make sense of her difference, Cece conjures up the character of El Deafo, who turns her disability into a superpower. Then Cece’s dream becomes a reality when her classmates realize that Cece can hear their teacher wherever she is in the school thanks to the microphone component of the phonic ear.

Find a Science-Fiction or Fantasy book with a POC protagonist

Cover image for Binti Nnedi Okorafor Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Sixteen-year-old Binti is Himba, from the indigenous peoples of northern Namibia. She is a brilliant mathematician and master harmonizer, destined to take over her father’s astrolabe shop thanks to her masterful manipulation of math current, and her ability to tree. But Binti has been accepted to Oomza University, the top school in the entire Milky Way galaxy. Only five percent of the population is human, and no Himba as ever gone. Binti is prepared to defy tradition, destroy her prospects of marriage, and venture out on her own for the first time in order to fulfill her dream of attending. But the trip to Oomza Uni is dangerous, taking the spaceship within the territory of the Meduse, ancient enemies of the Khoush people of Earth.

Find a book set in (or about) any country in Africa

Cover image for Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

After fifteen years in the United States training to become a psychiatrist, the nameless narrator returns home to Lagos, Nigeria to visit his relatives and reconnect with the city where he grew up. Resisting his family’s efforts to shelter and protect him as if he was truly a foreigner rather than a returnee, he ventures out on foot and by public transportation to commune with the place he once called home and debates about one day calling home again. Teju Cole’s narrator seeks the Lagos he remembers from his youth, and has longed for in moments of homesickness, amidst the corruption that has taken deep root in his absence. Though he has heard about it, there is nothing quite like seeing the change for himself.

Find a book written by an Aboriginal or American Indian author

Cover image for Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

Sixteen-year-old Franklin Starlight has spent his life on a farm in British Columbia’s remote interior with the old man, who raised him and taught him to hunt and fish, and get by in the backwoods. He has never known his mother, and his father Eldon is an alcoholic who left him with the old man when he was a baby. His father has only ever hurt and disappointed him, but when he receives word that Eldon is dying and wants him to visit, duty still compels him to answer the call. In a tiny, mouldering mill town, he finds his father wracked by liver failure. His dying wish is to be buried on a ridge a three day ride from anywhere, and Frank is the only person who can get him there. Frank has never been able to rely on Eldon for anything, but now it is Eldon who must count on his estranged son in his final days.

Find a book set in South Asia (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc.)

the-heros-walk The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami

Sripathi Rao and his family live in the once-grand Big House, on Brahmin Street in the seaside Indian town of Toturpuram. His mother Ammayya, his wife Nirmala, and his unmarried sister Putti all reside under his roof, along with his unemployed adult son, Arun. Absent, but never spoken of, is his daughter, Maya, who went away to school in North America, and then defied her family by breaking off her traditional engagement to marry a white man. It has been nine years since Maya’s exile, but still her father stubbornly refuses to take her calls or allow her to visit. But everything changes when a phone call from Canada brings the news that Maya and her husband are dead, leaving their daughter Nandana orphaned. With no other family in Canada to care for her, Sripathi must fly to Vancouver and bring her home to Toturpuram, unaware of how much one small girl, stricken mute by grief, will disrupt the status quo at Big House.

Find a book with a biracial protagonist

Cover image for Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz

Orphaned as teenagers, Beena and Sadhana lose their mother just when they need her most. Their mother has no living relatives, and they are largely estranged from their father’s Indian family, who disapproved of his marriage to a white woman. Nevertheless, their uncle, who they have previously known mostly as the proprietor of the bakery formerly run by their father, becomes their guardian. He proves to be an awkward surrogate parent, a first generation immigrant stymied by the strangeness of his mixed race, Canadian-born nieces. As the girls vent their grief and push back against their uncle’s traditional views about gender roles, they make choices that will have irrevocable consequences for the rest of their lives.

Find a book starring a transgender character or about transgender issues

Cover image for George by Alex Gino George by Alex Gino

George loves Charlotte’s Web, so when her school decides to put it on as a play, George immediately knows that she wants to play the part of the wise and beneficent Charlotte. And maybe if she can play Charlotte on stage, everyone—from her mother to her teachers to her friends—will finally be able to understand that George is a girl, not a boy. But her teacher refuses to let George try out for the part because she says she can’t give the role of Charlotte to a boy. So George and her best friend Kelly come up with a plan to help everyone finally see George for who she really is.

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If you think this sounds like fun, or want to find the gaps in your own reading history, consider yourself tagged!

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel

Cover image for Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizanby Sara Farizan

ISBN 919-1-61620-284-2

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book at ALA Annual 2014. All quotes are based on an uncorrected text.

“I am terrified that she will tell someone about me and rob me of my privacy and my choice to tell or not tell my friends and family this fact of who I am.”

Leila Azadi is a lesbian, but she has done a pretty good job of keeping this fact a secret from her friends and classmates at Armstead Academy. Everyone thinks her best friend Greg is her boyfriend, and this allows her to fly under the radar. If only Greg didn’t want to actually be her boyfriend, everything would be perfect. But with the arrival of Saskia, a beautiful and sophisticated student from Europe, Leila finds herself with a crush on a classmate for the first time. The harder she falls for wild and independent Saskia, the more difficult it is to keep her secret, not just from her classmates and teachers, but from her traditional Iranian parents, and her perfect older sister, Nahal. Confused by Saskia’s mixed signals, Leila begins to reach out to friends and family, but as the truth starts to spread, Leila finds herself losing control of her coming out process.

Following her first novel, If You Could Be Mine, about a young lesbian couple growing up in Iran, Sara Farizan’s second book turns to something closer to home, exploring the tension between Leila’s tradition Iranian family, and her more liberal American upbringing. Farizan’s socially conscious novels explore issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality with sensitivity and nuance. She upends expectations with a diverse cast of secondary characters that are full of surprises. Indeed, it was watching the relationships between the different characters unfold that really carried the story. Leila misjudges many of her friends and family members, but Farizan gives them much more depth than Leila initially gives them credit for. The stand-out feature of this novel is Leila’s slowly rekindled relationship with her childhood best friend, Lisa, who cut her off when she transferred to Armstead two years before Leila. Unfortunately, this strength only becomes apparent as the novel progresses, and undoubtedly many people will put the book down without ever getting that far. Farizan’s writing style is still somewhat simplistic; the plot development is rather blunt, and the scene changes can be extremely abrupt. Overall, her style would be better suited to a middle grade story than a young adult narrative, but her topics and protagonists remain firmly rooted in YA territory.

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Cover image for Afterworlds by Scott WesterfeldYou might also like Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

YA Fall Fiction Preview Part II

Last week I highlighted some of the exciting science fiction and fantasy YA novels that are coming out this fall. This week I’m sharing some of the more realistic and contemporary YA that I heard about at ALA, although two of the four have potentially supernatural twists:

Cover image for Belzhar by Meg WolitzerBelzhar by Meg Wolizter.  Fresh off the success of her 2013 bestseller, The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer returns with Belzhar. Jam Gallahue’s boyfriend is dead, and she has been shipped off to a bizarre Vermont boarding school that is supposed to be therapeutic. A journal-writing assignment takes an unexpected turn when Jam discovers that writing allows her to access Belzhar, an alternate world where Reeve is still alive, forcing her to confront her loss anew. Coming September 30, 2014.

First sentence: “I was sent here because of a boy.”

Cover image for Conversion by Katherine HoweConversion by Katherine Howe. Seniors at the elite St. Joan’s Academy of Danvers, Massachusetts are under incredible pressure as graduation approaches. At a time when they desperately need to keep it together, one by one the girls at the school succumb to a mysterious illness that involves inexplicable seizures and tics. No one seems to be able to figure out what is going on, but Colleen Rowley realizes that Danvers now stands on the site of what was once Salem village, where three centuries before, a similar plague touched off the most famous witch hunt in American history. Inspired by true events, Conversion is available now.

First sentence: “How long must I wait?”

Cover image for How to Build a Girl by Caitlin MoranHow to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. Known for her humourous non-fiction works, including How To Be a Woman and Moranthology, Caitlin Moran’s new semi-autobiographical YA novel tells the story of Johanna Morrigan, aka Dolly Wilde. After humiliating herself terribly on local television, Johanna sets out to reinvent herself, building a new identity out of poetry, music, and paperbacks. She goes to work for a music magazine,  drinking, smoking, and writing scathing reviews of bands. But can she really build her coming-of-age out of records and novels, or is there more to growing up? On sale September 23, 2014.

First sentence: “I am lying in bed next to my brother, Lupin.”

Cover image for Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara FarizanTell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan. Iranian-American high school senior Leila feels different enough from her peers thanks to her Persian heritage. She doesn’t need anyone to know that she also likes girls. But a beautiful and intriguing new student name Saskia opens Leila up to the possibility of coming out of her closet, and finally engaging with her peers, who also have secrets of their own. This sophomore novel by the author of If You Could be Mine will be in stores October 7, 2014.

First sentence: “My copy of The Color Purple lies in front of me on my desk, the spine bent and wrinkled from the many times I’ve pored over the book.”

 

If You Could Be Mine

Cover image for If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizanby Sara Farizan

ISBN 978-1-61620-251-4

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book at ALA Midwinter 2013. All quotes are based on an uncorrected text.

Even at age six, I wanted to marry her. I told my mother when I came home after playing with Nasrin, who lived a few houses down from our apartment. Maman smiled and said I couldn’t marry Nasrin because it was haraam, a sin, but we could always be best friends. Maman told me not to talk again about wanting to marry Nasrin, but it was all I thought about.”

Sahar and Nasrin have been best friends since they were small girls, but more than that, they are in love. Iran is a dangerous place to be gay, but Sahar holds out hope that she and Nasrin will find a way to be together. Sahar is smart, and one day she will be a doctor, capable of supporting herself and Nasrin. But Nasrin finds it difficult to believe it will ever be possible for them to be together, so as the end of high school nears, she agrees to an arranged marriage with a handsome young doctor her parents have chosen for her. If homosexuality is haraam, adultery is even more dangerous still, and Sahar sees no way that they will be able to hide their love from Nasrin’s husband. But then Sahar learns that while homosexuality is illegal, to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is not, and the state will even pay for gender reassignment surgery. Sahar must decide how much of herself she is willing to sacrifice in order to be with Nasrin.

As a young adult novel, If You Could Be Mine offers a rare opportunity to discuss the differences between gender identity and sexual orientation by examining the different situations faced by gay and transgender people in Iran. It is an unusual reversal of the North American situation, where being gay is much more readily accepted than being transgender. Although the main character is not transgender, and is actually coping with what it means to be gay in Iran, her desire to find a legal way to be with Nasrin brings her into contact with people who have transitioned, and are also sympathetically portrayed. Further, the idea that Sahar may become a man allows room for the story to examine the privileges she would suddenly have access to if she was no longer a woman. And although Nasrin and Sahar are best friends, issues of wealth and class complicate their relationship, as do the differences in their levels of academic accomplishment, allowing for a fuller portrait of contemporary Iranian culture.

If You Could Be Mine is Sara Farizan’s first novel, and while it is largely well done, the set up and narration are somewhat awkward and heavy-handed at times. The novel was also on the short side, and I think Farizan could have used more room to tell her story. However, the plot captured me, and even had me tearing up in parts. I will look forward to seeing Farizan’s writing style develop in future novels.

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Already read If You Could Be Mine? For another book set in the Middle East, check out And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. For another book about gender identity, try Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin.

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2013eclecticreaderThis title fulfills the LGBT requirement for my participation in the 2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge hosted by Book’d Out.

Spring/Summer Fiction Preview

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Seattle. In addition to attending workshops and hanging out with other folks in the library profession, I was able to attend a Book Buzz event, and visit publishers at their booths on the exhibit floor to find out about the new fiction titles coming this spring and summer. I didn’t get much reading done this past week, so in lieu of sharing a review, here’s a peek at some of the forthcoming titles I am excited about for the first half of 2013.

Blood of Dragons (978-0-06-211685-7)
Cover image for Blood of Dragons Well known for writing fantasy trilogies in interlocking worlds, Robin Hobb is adding a fourth and final volume to The Rain Wilds Chronicles after a cliff hanger ending in volume three. The dragons and their keepers have reached Kelsingra, and the rebirth of the Elderlings is imminent. But although Kelsingra is no longer lost, the legendary silver wells on which the dragons depend are nowhere to be found. The keepers must steep themselves in the magical memories of the city to try to find out what has become of the wells before the dragons die. This series Harper Voyager continues April 9, 2013. (Update: read my review.)

Categories: Fantasy

Golden Boy (978-1-4767-0580-4)

Cover image for Golden BoyThe Walkers seem to be the perfect family. Karen Walker is a high power criminal attorney, and her husband Steve is about to stand for the British Parliament. Their son Max is the popular golden boy of his school. But for Karen, it all feels like a charade, and one that could fall apart at any moment. Steve’s candidacy for public office means that their lives are about to be laid bare to intensive media scrutiny. Between the publicity and the return of one of Max’s childhood friends, the Walkers are afraid that the secret of Max’s intersex condition will be exposed. Abigail Tarttelin’s novel is due out from Atria Books (Simon and Schuster) on May 21, 2013.

Categories: LGBT, Contemporary

The Golem and the Jinni (978-0-06211-083-1)

Cover image for The Golem and the JinniIn Helene Wecker’s debut novel, an unusual pair of magical immigrants arrive in New York City in 1899, creating an improbable connection between Jewish and Arabic mythology.  Ahmad is a fire jinni, accidently release from his lamp into the streets of the city. Chava is a Golem whose master, a Kabbalist magician, dies on the voyage from Poland to America, leaving her to make her way alone in a new country. United by their common immigrant experience, but then driven apart by their disparate heritage, only a “powerful threat” can bring them together again. HarperCollins is recommending this title for fans of The Night Circus, A Discovery of Witches, and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Look for this HarperCollins book on April 23, 2013.

Categories: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mythology

If You Could Be Mine (978-1-61620-251-4)

Cover Image for If You Could Be MineSara Farizan’s debut novel is a young adult title about forbidden love in Iran. Sahar and Nasrin are best friends, but they are also in love, and in Iran homosexuality is a crime. Nasrin must marry the prosperous doctor her parents have selected for her. The girls keep their love a secret, passing only as friends in public. When Sahar learns that while homosexuality is a crime, being transgender is not, she must consider whether it would be worth transitioning in order to be able to love and even marry Nasrin openly. The only problem is that Sahar doesn’t identify as a man. This title is due out from Algonquin on August 20, 2013.

Categories: Young Adult, LGBT, Romance

The Rithmatist (978-0-7653-2032-2)

Cover image for The RithmatistTor is hyping this title as Brandon Sanderson’s YA debut, since his previous books are classified as either middle grade or adult. Rithmatists are powerful magicians who use their skills to bring creatures known as Chalklings to life from two-dimensional chalk models. These Rithmatist-controlled creatures are all that protect the American Isles from being overrun by Wild Chalklings. The son of a chalkmaker at the Rithmatists’ academy, Joel dreams of being a Rithmatist himself. It seems more likely that he will follow in his father’s footsteps, until students at the school begin disappearing, and Joel must help solve the mystery. Following shortly on the heels of the conclusion of the Wheel of Time series, The Rithmatist is due out on May 14, 2013.

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery

I received ARCs of a number of these titles, so look for reviews closer to the release dates.