In Search of an Identity -A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Title: A Place For Us

Author: Fatima Farheen Mirza

Genre:  Fiction, Contemporary , Family


It has been a while that a book moved me to tears. After finishing this book last night, I stared at the ceiling with a sheen in my eyes for several minutes.
Lately I have read so many books on very specific topics terrorism, immigration, oppression of women and violence; basically all that is easily marketable by authors of Indian-Pakistani origins. People looking in from outside would probably paint us with a broad paint brush, this is what they are and this is what their lives are about.
I would like to thank Ms. Mirza for giving us significant representation in the ocean of English literature out there! Thank you for this book, mainly because it revealed so much depth about people like us, this book spoke about our culture, religious stories, customs and most importantly family!

This story is about an Indian Muslim family in California. Their approach to life is pretty congruent with Muslims of Pakistani or Indian origin in terms of observing and practicing religious customs in spite of living oceans apart. The book opens at the eldest daughter’s wedding where the bride is sitting on the stage and the family is scanning the crowd for her brother to join them for a family photograph. A family photograph signifies a lot at a typical Muslim wedding it shows the guests who has been and will continue to be the most important persons in the lives of the couple. This photograph is often proudly displayed at the house of parents.

The brother everyone is looking for is Amar, the apparently weakest link in their picture perfect family. As the story reveals itself we come to realize the events and words that led to the huge gap between the father and son. The father is Rafiq, an over-protective father who is struggling to instill values in his children. His character is the most complicated one, he has immense love for his children yet his ways of expressing it doesn’t seem to work with any of them. Layla is the mother, she has devoted her life to her kids and strongly adheres to most customs she grew up in India with. Haadia is the eldest sister who is getting married, she is strong-willed girl and is the only one Amar comfortable expressing himself to.

“Her heart swelled, her son was good in a way that she wasn’t. Layla had begun to think lately that there was no real way to quantify goodness in a person, that religion gave templates and guidelines but there were ways in which it missed the mark completely. And everything a momin should be in his heart, Amar was.”

The human element and intricacies of relationships explored by the writer in the story transcend the shackles of religion and cultures and hit you hard! The main success of this book would be the human relationships, that would resonate with any one who picks up this book. In spite of this being her debut novel, the writer has shown immense maturity in her grasp of human emotion and relationships in this deeply moving story.

She looked at him the way people sometimes looked at him, as though their love for him were useless, a love that pained them more than it gave anything in return.

Fatima Farheen Mirza is a writer to watch out for, and I am expecting great things for her in future! So if you want to read a good book about family and father-son relationship. Let this one be it.

I ordered my copy from @readings_lahore

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