Sunday, 18 June 2017

Review: The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-FattahThe Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah (review copy) - Michael is drawn to his new classmate Mina, but they're on opposite sides of an issue that's tearing their town apart. His parents are part of an anti-immigration group, while her family have fled their besieged home in Afghanistan. As tensions rise, lines are drawn and both must decide what they want their world to look like, no matter the cost. From Goodreads.

This book! I cannot tell you how much I loved The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah. Such a brilliant, thought provoking read.

Mina is a refugee who fled Afghanistan with her mother ten years ago, and has been living in Australia ever since. When Mina is granted a scholarship to a prestigious high school, to save her the two hour commute each way, her family decide to move to be closer to the school - despite feeling at home in their old multicultural neighbourhood, and running a successful restaurant. They open a new restaurant in their new area, but come under fire from Aussie Values, an anti-immigration organisation.

Michael's father runs the organisation, and has never really questioned his parents beliefs about immigrants and refugees. But when he meets Mina at school, who shares her views in their Culture and Society class, she shows him a different perspective. The more he gets to know her, and the more he questions everything he's been told. It's time for Michael to work out what he really stands for.

Could this book be more timely? I don't really talk about politics on this blog, but with what's happening in the UK right now with Brexit, and with the Muslim ban Trump tried to bring about in the US, this book is so relevant. Saying that, it's not quite as heavy politically as I expected it to be. Politics is discussed, but it's more about people - their racist opinions on one side, the experiences of those on the other - and morals, right and wrong, and common human decency.

I just loved this book. I loved how it shows that not all racists are "bad" people - in that they're not necessarily abusive and threatening in obvious ways, not really aggressive. Michael's parents come across as quite reasonable in that they're not just spouting typical hate speech, but that they're intelligent, and have arguments about immigration and the impact on jobs for Aussies, the economy and so on. That you have to draw a line at some point and say we can't allow any more immigrants in. They're articulate, and they put forward their arguments - on "Islamification", on people needing to assimilate, and so forth - in such a way that it's understandable that Michael has never really questioned it before, even though I was reading their opinions with my mouth hanging open. I think it's sad that it took Michael meeting Mina - a refugee, a Muslim - for him to look at things from the immigrants/refugees' point of view, but at least he did question.

I loved Mina. I loved how angry she was, and how she stood up for herself. She has spirit and fire, and won't allow anyone to get away with their racist and Islamphobic remarks. She challenges Michael on what his parents think, what they say on TV. And when the Aussie Values bring their ideology to her parents' restaurant's door, she continues to argue and fight back. She isn't cowed by the abuse she receives. She's just wonderful.
'I see red. "You want me to make it easier for you to confront your privilege because God knows even antiracism has to be done in a way that makes the majority comfortable? Sorry, Michael, I don't have time to babysit you through your enlightenment. The first step would be for you to realize you need to figure it out on your own!"' (p219)
'Soon I realize I've become desensitized to the smell of the garbage bins. That's life I guess. Stick around shit long enough and pretty soon you can't smell it.
I don't want that to ever happen to me. I want to feel, to be affected, to get angry. Nobody changed the world by being polite. I'm going to fight with all I've got.'
 (p338)
The only thing that bothered me about the book was the romance. I didn't feel it. As far as I could tell, the only reason they liked each other was because they thought the other was hot. Michael learns from Mina, and Mina learns that people can change, but Michael didn't like Mina because he learnt from her, Mina didn't like Michael because he was starting to change - those weren't reasons for their attraction. Why they liked each other,  I don't know. There was no foundation for it. They found each other attractive, they liked the same music - that was it. So I was never rooting for them as a couple. But it kind of doesn't matter. I mean, this book is a romance, so it kind of does matter, but the strength of this book, for me, was how it dealt tackled racism, Islamophobia and anti-immigration ideology. I think it will open the eyes of people who may not get why such views are racist, and how the work of organisations such as Aussie Values affects the people they want to turn away.

A wonderful, insightful novel! I'm really looking forward to reading more by Abdel-Fattah in future!

The Ramadan Readathon

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah has been reviewed as part of the Ramadan Readathon.

Thank you to Scholastic for the review copy.

Add to Goodreads



Published: 4th May 2017
Publisher: Scholastic
Randa Abdel-Fattah's Website

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1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I got this one sent for review recently and I'm looking forward to it!

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