A Place for Usby Published 12 Jun 2018
|A Place for Us.pdf|
|Publisher||SJP for Hogarth|
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.
A Place for Us Reviews
It is with tremendous excitement that I’m sharing Fatima Farheen Mirza’s novel, A Place for Us, the first book on the SJP for Hogarth list. When we first conceived of this imprint, and imagined the kinds of books we wanted to publish, I went back to my own bookshelves—to books I loved, books that expanded my horizons, and opened me up to other worlds. In A Place for Us, I found all this and more: an exquisitely tender-hearted story of a Muslim Indian American family caught between cultures, and a deeply moving story of identity and belonging.
A Place For Us is a first novel for Fatima Farheen Mirza, and a first literary work acquired by Sarah Jessica Parker as editorial director for SJP for Hogarth.
This is the story of a Muslim Indian American family, and their community, living in California.
It begins with the wedding of Rafiq and Layla’s daughter Hadia’s wedding, a marriage based on love instead of the tradition. This wedding brings back together a family of five, including an estranged younger brother, Amar. The novel goes back and forth in time through the years of the children’s growing to adulthood.
The author did such a great job of of exploring the issues of love and loss, familial and cultural expectations, honor, betrayal, faith and tradition... and each characters perspective on the different situations as the story unfolded.
I loved this family and will be thinking about them for quite some time, I’m sure.
Thank you to NetGalley, SJP for Hogarth, and especially to Fatima for a beautiful first novel!!!
What is home? I can always come home can't I? What if I don't know how to find my way back? Then where do I belong? Who am I?
These are the questions at the heart of A Place For Us that haunt you long after you finish reading. As an immigrant, there are additional nuances to what it means to find your place in the world because it is often not just one single location, it's often not even a physical space. You're told when you immigrate that you will need to give up elements of your old life to gain the new. In this story the mom Layla suspects the sacrifice may be too great and she struggles to hold on to their roots for her kids. She worries as I know my parents worried, "If they so easily lose their own language, what else will be lost?" Each layer lost is a greater distance from who you were.
My heart aches for the family at the heart of this story. It moves at the pace of a slow burn as Fatima traces each moment that their lives pivot on, going back and forth over time, linking each one together. The motivations of each character which are so clear to us the reader, are opaque to them. It hurts to see how things might have been different if they had only spoken out loud the small dreams, intentions, and pains they had at key moments. Love has good intentions but does it have good expectations? Don't you know - that's the thing - everyone is not just good. Everyone is trying to be good, and not good at trying either.
I hope others will also savor Fatima's minute descriptions that made me say yes, I know what that feels like! I think anyone can find a character they will relate to. For me, I know what it is to be the oldest daughter like Hadia, wanting to please my parents almost more than I do myself, so that I can earn that place that would go to a firstborn son. I know how it feels to have a secret crush, unrealized and never spoken. I know what it is like to feel responsible for a sibling, and that my kind and selfish choices could affect who they are too. I know what it feels like when I suddenly realize I am now an adult with my parents and not just a child. I know how it feels to fear that love is conditional. This Muslim Indian American family could be my own.
Rafiq, the father of this story, says at one point in the story to his young family, "I might know a place for us."
Inshallah one day ...
She could hold in her heart a belief in Islam as well as the unwavering belief that every human had the right to choose who they loved, and how, and that belief was in exact accordance with her faith: that it is the individual's right to choose, and the individual's duty to empathize with one another.
Do you love those slow-burning, quiet family dramas that take you so fully into the lives of the characters? The kind that show complex human beings trying, often failing, and trying again to do their best? It's not an action-packed fantasy or a spine-tingling thriller, but get me in the right mood and I adore these kinds of books. Celeste Ng is one of my personal favourites.
And A Place for Us is a perfect example of one of these books. It moves from the present to the past and back again to tell a carefully-crafted tale of an Indian-American Muslim family and all the conflicts and love that exist between its members. It spans several decades and explores themes of culture, faith and identity.
"Somewhere (A Place For Us)" is a song that musical lovers will know well. It comes from West Side Story, which sees two lovers torn apart by cultural and familial differences, in the vein of Romeo and Juliet. This book tells a similar story, yet the divisions exist within one single family instead of between two. Will they ever get to a place beyond the burden of their differences?
The book opens with a wedding. The bride is Hadia - a young woman who we soon learn has broken tradition by choosing her own husband and embracing more modern interpretations of Islam. We also learn that she has invited her brother, Amar, to the wedding and this will be the first time the family has been reunited since Amar ran away years before.
Then we move back in time and a picture slowly starts to build of this family. Mirza shows the intricacies in relationships, whether it be between husband and wife, brother and sister, or mother and daughter. As this family is drawn in detail, we are also taken through experiences relating to 9/11, forbidden love, and the loss of a close friend whose death affects them all.
Ultimately, A Place for Us is about what it means to be both American and Muslim; it is about the clash of religious and cultural tradition with modern ideas and the right to choose. Hadia faces decisions about wearing the hijab and arranged marriage - can she please her parents and be her own person at the same time? Is it possible to unite the old with the new?
My only (small) complaint is that I think another round of editing could have shaved off some of the parts that rehashed the same ideas over again. Depth is excellent; waffling is not. But anyway, it is a minor issue and I really enjoyed the book.
This is the first book from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint SJP for Hogarth and I have to say I am intrigued to see what else they publish.
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I may bump this up to 5 stars (but I like to sit with it a while first). This is one of the best, most emotionally resonant books I've read in a while. Complex, wistful, melancholy.