WOW! What a great book! I feel like I have a deep understanding of this beautiful, struggling family having experienced their lives from different perspectives through Fatima Farheen Mirza’s heartfelt and elegantly written debut. She is gifted in making you feel the characters’ emotions from their own viewpoint and from other perspectives, gradually revealing different aspects without retelling the story.
A Place For Us begins at Hadia’s wedding in California. The family gathers to celebrate a marriage based on love, not an arranged marriage as you might expect, and Amar, Hadia’s younger brother who ran away three years earlier, has returned for the celebration. We don’t know why he was gone and thus the story is told from the beginning.
With secrets of clandestine meetings with the opposite sex, drug use and lack of strong religious beliefs, to nontraditional marriages, family responsibilities and commitments, and educational options for women, Mirza tells a rich and engaging story of today. We see how an Indian Muslim family might feel conflicted with the parent’s family traditions of faith from prior generations, and the current American culture they are accustomed to where their children have grown up and are a part of.
This wonderful Indian, Muslim American family in many ways is like any other family, lots of love, sibling rivalry and parental discipline, yet they follow strict religious rules and traditions which at times complicate their relationships with each other and others. Due to traditional expectations, each family member feels personal conflict as they strive for social acceptance, grapple with religious beliefs and search for individual happiness. Trying to find their place in the family is compounded with trying to find their place in the outside world, and like any family that has their own rules and strong belief systems, there are challenges. This incredibly moving story feels authentic and relevant in today’s society where it continues to be a difficult to look, act and dress differently and still fit in amongst a crowd. This family has so much love for each other but love doesn’t always come without pain and disappointment. The family members often act and react toward each other based on assumptions, always wanting the best, but not always with the best results. I adored the characters as they go on their journeys to develop their identities, enjoyed the format with different points of view, and was absorbed by the compelling story of family and culture; so beautifully written and emotionally powerful…my favorite book of the year so far!
Note: A Place For Us is the first book published by Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint SJP for Hogarth. To read about my conversation with SJP click here.
About the Author:
Fatima Farheen Mirza was born in 1991 and raised in California. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship.