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The Writing on My Forehead: A Novel Hardcover – March 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061493856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061493850
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,083,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Haji traces in her impressive debut the fortunes of a family divided by secrets and lies as much as by the 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent. Saira Qader, an American teenager of Indo-Pakistani descent, lives a sheltered life in California with her older sister, Ameena, and their overprotective and fiercely traditional parents. Saira's view of her family changes dramatically when she attends a wedding in Karachi and learns that her mother had lied to her about Saira's grandfather: he is not dead but living in London with a second family. As she learns more about her grandfather's work with Gandhi and the independence movement, Saira dreams of going to college instead of marrying early like her sister, and later carves out a life as a war journalist. But an unforeseen tragedy makes her choose between her peripatetic existence and the more traditional (and perhaps more desirable) setup awaiting her at home. Haji achieves an effortless commingling of family and social history in this intricate story that connects a young woman and her family over continents and through generations. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“THE WRITING ON MY FOREHEAD is not only a family history but also a social history with an ambitious arc. Haji deftly illustrates how the Qaders’ lives intersect with defining world events. (Haji is a) talented new writer of sense and a distinct sensibility.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“A brainy, beautiful braid of stories about three generations of a Muslim family. This book, if widely read, will go a long way toward deconstructing stereotypes about American Muslims, and that, on top of its value as a work of fiction, makes it a treasure.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“THE WRITING ON MY FOREHEAD by Nafisa Haji explores how a family’s history––one spanning continents, love affairs, and political revolutions––can both haunt and heal.” (Parade (Parade Pick))

“(A) deeply moving and beautifully written novel about different generations of an Indo-Pakistani family takes the reader on an emotional journey into how family and traditions define us and our choices in life. It’s a fast read, but its deeper meaning resonates long after the last page.” (Associated Press)

“This impressive debut follows the life of Saira Qader, a Muslim American of Indo-Pakistani descent who rejects the cultural traditions of family and duty to become a world-roving journalist.” (Sacramento Bee)

“Just as Saira’s mother tenderly traced the words of protective prayers on her daughters’ foreheads each night, so too does this book leave a stamp on us. As we open ourselves to this culture, it becomes inscribed within us, as if its rich history was written onto our foreheads.” (Chattanooga Times Free Press)

“Grab a cup of chai (tea), and curl up in a big chair to read; time will fly and you’ll want to refill your cup before you even think about putting this book down. (The story) will stay with you for a long while.” (Wichita Falls, TX, Times Record News)

““An elegantly written look at family dynamics and how cultural traditions shape lives. Poses questions and doesn’t give all the answers, allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions and continue the dialogue long after finishing the book.” (Deseret News)

“A moving meditation on the meaning of family, tradition, and the ties that bind. Lyrical and touching. A story of mother and daughters, and of a young Muslim woman at crossroads, shaped by the forces of her past, her religion, her roots, her culture, and her own determined will.” (Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns)

“(An) impressive debut. Haji achieves an effortless commingling of family and social history in this intricate story that connects a young woman and her family over continents and through generations.” (Publishers Weekly)

“The struggles of second-generation immigrants are well presented, calling to mind novels like Monica Ali’s Brick Lane. In addition, the climax is powerful and satisfying, as Saira belatedly comes to recognize the inescapable tug of family. Recommended for all libraries.” (Library Journal)

“A masterful first novel.” (Booklist)

More About the Author

Nafisa Haji was born and mostly raised in Los Angeles--mostly, because there were years also spent in Chicago, Karachi, Manila, and London. Her family migrated from Bombay to Karachi in 1947 during Partition, when the Indian Subcontinent was divided into two states. In the late 1960s, Nafisa's parents came to the United States, shortly before she was born, in order for her father to study engineering at Stanford. When she was six years old, they stuck with their original plan of "going back home" and moved to Karachi. In less than a year, they knew that they had become more American than they realized and came back to Los Angeles.

Nafisa studied American history at the University of California at Berkeley, taught elementary school in downtown Los Angeles for seven years in a bilingual Spanish program (she speaks Spanish fluently), and earned a doctorate in education from the University of California at Los Angeles. With an unfinished novel left long behind, she seized upon the birth of her son--when she decided to stay home fulltime--as an excuse to go back to writing, learning to use nap times and weekends very efficiently. She started writing short stories at first, which then developed into an idea for a novel, the highly acclaimed and internationally bestseling "The Writing on My Forehead", which was published in 2009. Her second novel, "The Sweetness of Tears" is expected in May 2011. Nafisa now lives in northern California with her husband and son. Nafisa maintains close ties in Pakistan, traveling there regularly to visit family.

Customer Reviews

All in all, it was a very interesting story.
kelfuller77
Saira's parents are Indian Moslems with their "global network" of family ties in England and Pakistan as well as the US.
Lauren A.
The only issues I had about this book, were the fact that the last quarter of the book seemed a bit too rushed.
My2Cents

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Shannon B Davis VINE VOICE on May 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Writing on my Forehead was an enjoyable book, but it has some problems. I really enjoyed the unfolding of family history, and the really relatable characters. Saira, Big Nanima, Mohsin, both of her grandfathers, all had incredible stories to tell and I read most of this book in one evening.

The book is primarily about American-born Desi, Saira, and her relationships with her family. She uncovers her family history bit by bit, initially when she travels to Pakistan for a family wedding, and then again when staying with her father's relatives in London. She's a bit of a rebel, defying her parents to act in the school play, turning down marriage proposals to attend college in Berkeley and have affairs. She takes after her aunt Big Nanima, a social activist who studied teaching in London so that she could return to Pakistan to teach young women literature, and never married but lived independently all of her days. It is another perspective on women in Pakistan, one that most Westerners do not get. Even the traditional women portrayed in the book - the faithful wives and obedient daughters - have a strength of will that some people might find unexpected in what appears to be a male-dominated culture from the outside. This book is a view both onto that traditional culture as well as into American culture.

One theme was about Saira as a budding journalist, about learning to Bear Witness from her cousin Mohsin, the photographer, and from her paternal grandfather, who worked alongside Gandhi for a free India. I would have liked to read more about Saira's life as a journalist, but the book never really got into that. Most of the book occurred before her life as a journalist, and the rest occurred afterwards.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Griffith VINE VOICE on May 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A brilliant first novel by Ms. Haji, and from the first chapters is much more than a story about mother-daughter relationships (although that theme, too, weaves through the book). It's a masterful tale of culture--a family's history as it unfolds parallel to modern history--and how individual choices affect so many.

"The Writing on My Forehead" is filled with colorful, believable characters who, combined, provide the reader with a compelling look into the lives of those we might not have understood before. Each character (as seen through the eyes of delightful Saira) is like a puzzle piece in a much larger picture of her life. Through her family members, we come to understand her own unfolding story... why she makes some of the choices (and mistakes) along the way. Not unlike every family, everywhere. Many family members in the book, especially Big Nanima, were people I would have loved to share a cup of tea with. It's a book I couldn't put down until reaching the final page, and is a novel I'll remember for many years.

"The Writing on My Forehead" is not light reading. There are terms and Urdu words which may be unfamiliar to the reader (as they were to me), and as I read, I found myself wishing there'd been a glossary added. That is the only criticism I have of the book, and only because it took several chapters to keep unfamiliar terms and words straight.

In summary, and without giving away any of the story, this reader is grateful to Ms. Haji for such a vibrant, compelling visit into a culture and people I hadn't known... and yet are so familiar in many ways. The author has reinforced my belief that regardless of where we come from, we're more alike than we are different.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reverie on May 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was initially drawn to this book because I enjoy reading and exploring cultures different from my own. I could absolutely relate to the clash between the social traditions of 2 different cultures. This is a novel about an Indian family from the perspective of Saira who is considered the young rebel. She was raised in the United States along with her sister, Ameena. While Saira resists her family's social traditions, Ameena remains a contrasting figure in that she does everything that is expected of her. Turmoil in the family leads Saira to contemplate a role that is traditional of her Indian culture. Through old letters and stories in flashback form, Saira gains a greater understanding of her family (who she has mostly failed to appreciate up to this point). These family members are colorful characters leading what they consider ordinary lives at critical moments in history. The author does a great job in detailing their lives to add an entirely different dimension to the novel. I got used to this pace where I was learning about the family in the same way Saira was. This is why I was a little surprised that the end of the novel felt somewhat rushed. However, I am pleased that the author was able to maintain multiple storylines within the same book. It's been a good nighttime read for me.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By nekko1 VINE VOICE on May 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A fascinating glimpse into an Indo Pakistani world where family and culture are embedded into the main character's life, no matter how she tries to distance herself.

The Indo Pakistani family relationship rules shape the lives and decisions of all the characters, even those who think they are rebelling. Family love is paradoxical - all encompassing, all inclusive while at the same time extremely smothering, a la "The Joy Luck Club" by Amy Tan. And yet many readers will also recognize that the love of the extended family is something that brings great joy and comfort in a society like the US which values the individual so highly.

The writing starts off choppy for the first few chapters but bear with the writer, she finds her voice and her flow after a bit. And what really makes this book is that there are several twists that are completely surprising and unexpected that will drive you to finish it.
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