Sunday, 15 March 2015

If You Could be Mine by Sara Farizan

Twitter Username: SaraFarizan
Publish Date: August 20th 2013
Publisher: Alqonquin Young Readers
Format: Audiobook, Unabridged
Narrated By: Negin Farsad

Sahar is sixteen-years-old and in love with her best friend, Nasrin. They share secret kisses and promise each other their love. The problem is that they live in Iran, and homosexuality is forbidden under the threat of hanging. Then it comes to light that Nasrin has a marriage arranged by her family. Nasrin wants to continue the secret affair, but Sahar wants Nasrin exclusively. Sahar discovers a loophole in the law for them to be together, but the journey to that conclusion is complicated.

            At first, I was weary of a narrator with a strong accent. My hearing isn’t always the best, and I knew there would be an abundance of unfamiliar words. As the chapters went on I was surprised that I was enjoying her voice and that I had no problems. Farsad delivers all her lines with the correct emotion, and she does dry humour very well. She is of Iranian decent, born in the United States, so I believe her voice to be authentic (as opposed to an English speaker attempting to impersonate and fail miserably).

Love Story
            The two main women are beautifully written for each other. Nasrin is confident and occasionally the target of the morality police because of her flashy clothes. Sahar is more conservative and she is intelligent. I can definitely see why they would fall in love. Of course, each has their pit falls. Nasrin is selfish. Sahar believes she can fix everything herself. A perfect couple? Of course not, but who are? Perhaps they are staying with each other because they have been together since they were children and perhaps because they are the only lesbians they know (highly probable for most of the book). What we do have is a couple that want to be together in a country that has forbidden their love.
That said, I don’t think I have ever disliked a love interest more than I have disliked Nasrin. But before everyone starts hating on Sahar for her target of affection, I bet most people have had a partner that they loved and a lot of people hated. It’s the eye of the beholder.
But Nasrin did aggravated me. As much as I wanted to pull my hair out at her stupidity, she is well-written. I get why she does most of the things she does, even if I hate her decisions. As I wanted Sahar to succeed I felt like Nasrin was the one impeding change and it was so frustrating in a good way.

Cousin Ali
This charismatic man is my favourite character. Sure, he’s a convenient character, another homosexual in Iran who knows the ropes and who has enough power in the underground to keep himself and his friends safe. I still like him – he does want everyone to be happy as they are. A little too easy going, but he’s an interesting layer in this story. And he is funny – my favourite line was when he said Sahar should leave and go to Turkey to find a particular kind of woman.
Spoilers Ahead!
It is true that Sahar has no idea what she’s getting into, though I argue that the information must be difficult to come by. While it is not illegal to get sex reassignment surgery, it probably isn’t widely accepted, so you can’t just ask your parents about it. Sahar is desperate, and yes, her plan could work, and that’s what gives this novel the extra layer. It is plausible. What if she goes through with it? Will Nasrin still love her? Will Sahar’s family still love her, or will they shun her?  
Topics for discussion or a paper could be gender identity in an oppressive society or LGBTQ love in an oppressive society. These are fairly obvious topics, but there is so much content here. Plus, this novel takes place in modern-day Iran, so a student can do a lot of research about Iran and its policies. Something interesting that can be written about is a person’s ties to a country that is oppressing them – if they leave, stay to make it better, or stay and live with how the country is.

 Book Club
            An older audience would be the best audience for this. I have seen reviews of people saying that it is inappropriate for middle-graders, and I have not seen anything saying that this book is marketed towards middle-graders. It’s like taking Hamlet and getting huffy about it not being suitable for kindergarteners. Have you read the back of the book?
            Also, you should probably know your book club audience because of the subject matter.
            Something interesting for a book club would be to also have a display of Iranian architecture, clothing, and food, like those mentioned in the book, around the book club meeting space. This could perhaps cross some of the cultural barriers we have. This book lacks description about how Iranian society is visually, and pictures could be an excellent accompaniment. 

Spoilers Ahead! (And a bit of a rant.)
To anyone who wants to argue that Sahar should have left to Istanbul with Ali…she doesn’t want to leave her father. She also believes that Iran is her home, and she doesn’t want to abandon it. And ultimately, she doesn’t want to leave Nasrin either, even if she can’t have her. I’m not sure why this confuses people. It would be hard for me to leave too. There are many people, especially women, who will explain why people stay in situations that are not ideal or even dangerous.  
A book isn’t going to end the way you want it so it will suit you. Personally, I loved the ending because it was so bittersweet. The last 30 minutes or so of audio gave some small hope to Sahar, even though it is still not an accepted relationship in Iran. I think she can be happy and wow that make me happy for her.

Final Verdict
            I listened to If You Could be Mine as an ebook, but I think I should have first experienced it as a paper book to get the language ingrained in my head properly, though listening to the proper pronunciation was helpful. I was rooting for Sahar even though I didn’t know if she should follow through with her plan or not – I just wanted her and Nasrin to be happy. I highly recommend this book to older teens or teens that are interested in LGBTQ relationships or issues, or oppressive governments. However, be cautious with the subject matter.

1 comment:

  1. Great review, as always. I have to give the author credit for writing about this subject from the POV of Middle Easterners. Not many sympathetic ears there. It's great she's encouraging diversity in any form. Thanks for the review, and wishing Sara much success. :)