Author: Fatima Farheen Mirza
Published: June 12, 2018
Publisher: SJP for Hogarth
Where I picked up my book: Library
Key Words: contemporary fiction, family drama, diverse books, faith dilemmas
My Rating: 4 star
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
The first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, SJP for Hogarth, A Place for Us is a deeply moving and resonant story of love, identity and belonging
A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding – a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son’s estrangement – the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.
In a narrative that spans decades and sees family life through the eyes of each member, A Place For Us charts the crucial moments in the family’s past, from the bonds that bring them together to the differences that pull them apart. And as siblings Hadia, Huda, and Amar attempt to carve out a life for themselves, they must reconcile their present culture with their parent’s faith, to tread a path between the old world and the new, and learn how the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals.
A deeply affecting and resonant story, A Place for Us is truly a book for our times: a moving portrait of what it means to be an American family today, a novel of love, identity and belonging that eloquently examines what it means to be both American and Muslim — and announces Fatima Farheen Mirza as a major new literary talent.
I loved this book! Give me anything written by authors of color and/or with voices of color-and my heart sings! We need more diversity in literature and this one rings all the bells!
My first reaction when I finished up this book was to cry. I just kept thinking how difficult it can be to be a part of a family for some of us, and my story is one of those difficult journeys. Hence, the tears. Sometimes we are lucky enough to be a part of a family and everything is fantastic through the years and all parents and siblings and grandparents, aunts and uncles all get along…and then sometimes they don’t. I think the later is something the majority of us deal with at one time or another while navigating family life. A Place for Us does a fantastic job of not sugarcoating the issue, but bringing it to the center, picking it apart, and showing us how it affects each individual family members in various ways. I was shocked with how much I could relate to this book. My own personal family situation is tough (to make a long story short, I came out to my parents a long time ago and we haven’t had a real conversation beyond texts that read “Happy birthday,” “Merry Christmas,” “your cousin had a baby,” or “god loves you” since). So when I thought about this family and all that was going on in their minds that wasn’t necessarily written in the pages, I just had myself a good cry. Family dynamics (for good or bad) spans across genders, races, cultures, religions and it’s something so many of us have in common. Not that we all have troubled family dynamics to deal with, but navigating through family life can be hard.
Secondly, Mirza created beautifully written characters-so beautiful, that I haven’t stopped wanting to check in with them, or give them a call since I finished the book. It’s like I knew them personally and this doesn’t happen to me very often. But it’s a beautiful thing when it does.
Third, it got me thinking about how faith, outside influences, and traditions affect families, especially devout families like this one. It’s not an easy thing to honor your heritage, family and religion while simultaneously living in a modern world that might not always be set up for you to succeed. I can’t imagine what that would be like, or what pressure parents must feel to raise children in a society that seems to be setting them up for failure. I had friends growing up that were devout Christians. I’m not talking go to church on Sundays and say prayers before bed, but devout, devout Christians where television, sugar, non-Christian groups and activities, etc. were all banned. I would say all of the children struggled to live in our world where most homes owned a television or two, Fruity Pebbles was served for breakfast and Super Mario Brothers was the after-school activity. Most of the kids rebelled at one time or another (there was like 16 of them). As of now, some have gone back to the family, and some have paved paths of their own away from the family, but I always remember thinking how bizarre the parents were, but also how hard it must be to live in a world where all this exists and to constantly to have to say no to not only yourself, but to your children as well. It wasn’t a life I envied at all, but now as an adult, I wonder what was life really like for those kids? What that life was like for the parents? It must have just been a lot of worrying and discipline for the parents is my guess. While reading this book, I thought of this family more than once. Maybe someday, one of those kids will write a book. I’d be first in line to read it.
I wouldn’t say the ending was what I wanted it to be in an ideal world, or that the family problems were scooped up in a tidy, little bow and worked out, but that’s life and quite possibly, the best part of the book. Each individual family member is trying to find their place not only in their family, but in the world…and that doesn’t ever wrap up nicely with a neat bow on top. Neither experience is easy and this book has taught me more about that. Here I am, completely engrossed with this family and thinking about them days later…that is the power of this author. Oh, and this is her debut book. WHAT?! I can’t wait to read more of her work in the years to come.
I would highly recommend this compelling story no matter who you are or what your life circumstance is. I think it’s an important book and is bound to stay with you for a while to come.