Wednesday, March 10, 2010

36 - The Writing on My Forehead; Nafisa Haji








In this story, protagonist, Saira Quader is a second generation immigrant of Indo and Pakistani descent, who lives in California with her traditional parents and her older sister Ameena. While trying to honor her Muslim roots, Saira's free spirit and rebelliousness, has her wanting more out of life.  Influenced by a great aunt who was a literary scholar, Saira wants to go to college,  She chooses a non traditional career as a Muslim-American journalist.

(p.40)..."It had never occurred to me to wonder why we visited Pakistan and never India, where my mother and father were actually from.  Now I knew, that Mummy had forsaken her country because of her anger at her father. That breaking ties with him, she had also broken off wit the rest of her family." 

(p. 146)...."I came home from that summer in Karachi and London--head swimming with the voices of a reconstructed past, full of self-importance I couldn't wait to share --only to find my family had been arranging the future in my absence  Ameena's future at any rate."

The story spans a period of about twenty years and spans three continents. The story is told through flashbacks of Saira's childhood, and by doing so the reader learns about some family secrets and scandals.  These secrets are what seems to give Saira the permission she needs to live her life the way she chooses.  It is also these secrets which seem to bring her closer to her family.

MY THOUGHTS -  This was an impressive multi-layered, debut novel.  Its themes are universal: a coming of age story that addresses mother-daughter relationships, a story about family ties, and family secrets, and it is also a story about immigrants and about spirituality too.  The writing is simple, yet fresh and vivid, and the story unfolds in an appealing way. What I enjoyed the most about the book was that I was able to learn more about an unfamiliar culture in the process.  The novel moves easily between past and present, and the overall message is clear -- no matter where your life takes you, your family and your culture always remain and important part of who you are. 

The only issues I had about this book, were the fact that the last quarter of the book seemed a bit too rushed. I also would have preferred a bit more focus on the protagonist herself. Despite this, I still really enjoyed the story, and I was happy I had an opportunity to read and review this book.  If you enjoy multi generational stories, and books about other cultures, then you would most likely enjoy this book as well. RECOMMENDED - (4/5 stars)


(About the Author)
Nafisa Haji was born and mostly raised in Los Angeles—mostly, because there were years also spent in Chicago, Karachi, Manila, and London. Her family migrated from Bombay to Karachi in 1947 during Partition, when the Indian Subcontinent was divided into two states. In the late 1960s, Nafisa’s parents came to the United States, shortly before she was born, in order for her father to study engineering at Stanford. When she was six years old, they stuck with their original plan of “going back home” and moved to Karachi. In less than a year, they knew that they had become more American than they realized and came back to Los Angeles.

Nafisa studied American history at the University of California at Berkeley, taught elementary school in downtown Los Angeles for seven years in a bilingual Spanish program (she speaks Spanish fluently), and earned a doctorate in education from the University of California at Los Angeles. With an unfinished novel left long behind, she seized upon the birth of her son—when she decided to stay home full-time—as an excuse to go back to writing, learning to use nap times and weekends very efficiently. She started writing short stories at first, which then developed into an idea for a novel. She now lives in Northern California with her husband and son and is currently working on her second novel. Nafisa maintains close ties in Pakistan, traveling there regularly to visit family.
 
(Thanks to the wonderful people at TLC Book Tours for Letting Me Participate)

More TLC Book Tour Stops for This Book

28 comments:

  1. What an interesting and honest review - thank you for sharing. I love fiction which is based India and Pakistan and dealing wit hthe historical fall out of partition etc - I think that it is a fascinating place in human history and gives rise to a lot of emotion - which works well in fiction. It is a shame that you felt that the last part of the book was rushed - I hate that and it always seems to have "publisher's deadline" weritten all over it!

    Great review, thanks for sharing

    Hannah

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  2. This sounds like a book I would enjoy. I'm adding it to my TBR list.

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  3. What a striking cover! I've been wondering about this book. The author's doing a book signing nearby this month; I think I'll have to catch her.

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  4. Your blog is my new TBR list. Wow--where do you find these books?!
    Thanks!

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  5. That sounds like such an interesting book! I need to add it!

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  6. This really sounds like my kind of story since it includes another culture and immigration. Great review.

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  7. I have heard many good things about this book, but I think I am TIRED of books about South Asian immigrants, so I might give it a miss.

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  8. What a great review...I love books that take you to another country!

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  9. Diane, this definitely sounds like my kind of book. Thanks for a wonderfully written review!

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  10. This is getting some great reviews...it sounds really interesting.

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  11. This is truly my type of book. Sounds fascinating and I'll keep the ending in mind when I grab a copy of this one!

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  12. This does sound wonderful. I am adding this to my TBR list.

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  13. I read this book last year and agree with your review. It was an enjoyable read and I would read future work by this author.

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  14. Oh I love books about India and would like to learn more about Pakistan. This will go on my wish list. Great review Diane.

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  15. Sounds like an interesting book. I'm wondering what the title has to do with the story. Great review!

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  16. This sounds like a book I would really enjoy -- a bit like The Namesake. Thanks for the heads up!

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  17. I've never read a book about the culture of Pakistan, though perhaps a few about India. This looks very interesting.

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  18. I didn't read your review yet as I'm on the tour as well and don't want to be influenced by it but I am glad to see you gave it your signature green thumbs up. And I'll be back to read your review after I read the book and write my own. ;-)

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  19. I did really enjoy this book. I didn't actually go into it with many expectations so it was a pleasant surprise.

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  20. I've heard a lot of good things about this book, and I'm glad to see you liked it, too. I like reading about other cultures, so I'll keep it in mind.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  21. I like the sound of this book and really enjoy foreign coming of age stories. Aside from the rushed ending, it sounds like a book I would love, and I am glad to see that you liked it so much. I will be adding this to my wish list and be following the rest of the tour!

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  22. This sounds like a really interesting story. I'm trying to read more multicultural works this year - this sounds like a great piece for expanding my cultural horizons.

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  23. I'm looking forward to reading this one!

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  24. This is a genre I tend to like as well so I will have to check this one out!

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  25. This book sounds really good. I always like books that allow me to learn about other cultures in addition to the plot etc. Thanks for your thoughts!

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  26. This sounds wonderful and timely. I love multigenerational family stories. Great review :)

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  27. I love books that focus on other cultures. I think it makes me more aware and compassionate.

    I'm excited you liked the book! Thanks for being on this tour!

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  28. Great and honest review! Just stopped by to visit some of the others on the book tour. Good job!

    Book Dilettante

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