Saturday 24 June 2017

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Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

If You Could Be Mine by Sara FarizanIf You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan - In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?
From Goodreads.

Trigger warning: This book contains - and my review discusses - homophobia.

I've had If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan for a while. It's one I wanted to read because it sounded like it would be an incredible book, but also one I've been putting off because the subject matter had me thinking it would be a difficult read. And although I didn't hate it, I wasn't really a huge fan of it, either. Though this is because I didn't like what the characters were doing, I guess the book did it's job?

Sahar has been in love with her best friend Nasrin ever since they were six years old, but because homosexuality is illegal in Iran, to the extent that sometimes leads to death. their relationship is kept secret. But when Nasrin's parents arrange a marriage for her, the two have more to deal with than just the prospect of being caught. But when Sahar meets Parveen, a friend of her cousin Ali's, she thinks she's found the answer. Parveen is transsexual, and Sahar discovers while being gay is illegal, being trans is not; it's seen an illness, a biological mistake, and transgender people can receive reassignment surgery for free. Sahar decides if she can't be with Nasrin as a girl, she will become a man for her. But is her love worth changing who she is?

So I had problems with Sahar's attitude towards her transitioning into a man. I completely understood why she wanted to go down that path - there was no other way she could be with Nasrin - but at the same time, she just completely takes advantage of people and resources for actual transgender people. She has moments of real selfishness, where, at a support group for trans people, she wants those talking to hurry up and finish so she can speak, and ask about how she can begin transitioning. She does feel for the people she meets, for maybe a split second, but mainly she's thinking about herself. She takes advantage of Parveen's friendship, is almost without empathy for the trans experience that it doesn't even really occur to her that what she is doing is wrong. And that just didn't sit right with me.

Saying that, like Sahar, I was surprised to find that Katayoun, a trans woman Sahar meets through the support group, not only accepts how her country treats gay people, but is all for it. I know gender identity and sexual orientation are not really related, but I would have thought those who are discriminated against - and trans people are discriminated against, even if being trans isn't illegal - would feel comradeship with each other, but no.
'"It's safe to... Well, to be one's self here. I mean, there is less of a chance of judgement or, I don't know, more of a chance for people who, I imagine, are sympathetic."
"I'm not like them! You hear me? What they do is unnatural." She whispers as her eyes train on a table of two men giving each other affectionate glances.
"I'm sorry, I thought--"
"Thought what? That I am the same as these... these
perverts, just because I am different?"
"My illness is treatable. Their malady is a bargain made with the devil. The Republic knows that, the Koran knows that, and you damn well better know that if you are to survive in this society."'
I also didn't like Nasrin. She wanted - expected - her relationship with Sahar to continue after she's married, even though adultery is also illegal. She wanted to have her cake and eat it. It was like she didn't seem to fully grasp or care just how precarious their situation was, or how worse it would be if they carried on. And she herself was in some kind of denial, because she said she wasn't gay, and was judgemental around other gay people. And they way she bossed Sahar around, I just didn't feel like she really cared, despite her moments of crying and declaring how in love with Sahar she was. So it was even harder for me to excuse what Sahar was doing, because not only was she doing something terrible, she was doing it for a spoilt, entitled brat.

So I didn't like the characters or their decisions, so I didn't enjoy the story. This isn't always the case, but this time, it just wasn't one I really enjoyed. That doesn't make it a bad story however, just one that isn't for me. Do read other reviews before deciding whether or not to read If You Could Be Mine.

The Ramadan Readathon

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan has been reviewed as part of the Ramadan Readathon.

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Published: 20th August 2013
Publisher: Alqonquin Young Readers
Sara Farizan on Twitter

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