So, let's walk the hallways of an American high school for a minute. You know how all the kids are trying to fit in and trying to figure out who they want to be? All those hormones are pumping away and the cheerleaders are all gaggled up and the basketball players might be stars? Imagine for a moment that all of those kids look at you as though you don't belong. Imagine for a moment that one of those kids for even one day look at you and see a human being, a person, who is just like them only you wear the hajib and practice the faith of Islam.
It's 2002, which means it's only been a year since 9/11 happened and Shirin's parents have moved her to a new school yet again. She and her brother, Navid, born popular, are going to have to find a way to fit in again. Only for Navid, his handsome face makes him instantly safe, approachable, attractive. He belongs. But not Shirin. Shirin looks different and the kids and the teachers don't have the brains or the skills to understand their own bias, their own fears, their own stupidity.
Shirin has a shell around her. It's tough. She can survive when the toughs try to beat her head on the concrete sidewalk. She can survive when her Honors English teacher condescendingly suggests that this class might just be a bit too hard for an ESL student. They never discover she is from California not Baghdad. The hajib and the history blind them from even trying to find out the truth.
Until the day she is paired with a guy in her Bio class as a lab partner. His name is Ocean James and he's pretty good looking. Ocean isn't afraid of Shirin and little by little they get to know each other and Shirin gets willing to bring down some of her armor.
This is a story about the horror of ignoring someone else's humanity. This is the story of the absurdity and the utter ignorance of classifying people into groups, hordes, mobs and completely forgetting to recognize that no matter what the clothing looks like, what the food looks like, how the language sounds, each of us is a human being first and foremost.
Told through the voice of Shirin we journey with her and feel the hurts and the icing running down our own face dripping with anger and hatred. We see people who are reduced to the level of animals leaving dignity, respect and courage behind somewhere in their own pitiful personal garbage.
310 pages 978-0062866561 Ages 13 and up (some kissing and passion, no sex)
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
From the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Shatter Me series comes a powerful, heartrending contemporary novel about fear, first love, and the devastating impact of prejudice.
It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.
Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.
But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.
From the author:
“I always knew I had to write this book. This is my story, the story I've been writing in my head for years. When I first started pursuing publication, I think I really wanted to establish myself as an author first, an author who could write anything. I didn't want my identity to be tied to my struggle. People of color are more than just our struggle, we also laugh, we also love, we also have complex, fulfilling lives.”
"One of the best contemporary books I've ever read, and hands-down the best YA on what it means to be a Muslim American post 9/11. Tahereh Mafi pulls no punches, spares no feelings and tells the absolute truth and it is beautiful, rare and heartbreaking. If there's one book you read this year, make it this one." Sabaa Tahir