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If You Could Be Mine: A Novel Kindle Edition
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In the book we get to see different things, from her wealthy friend Nasrin's home and family, to her cousin Ali and his underground crew of gays, lesbians, transgenders, etc. There was variety and I appreciated that. I found that I was actually surprised at some things. One thing was that Western culture has permeated the country even though so much of it is illegal. People smuggle pretty much anything and everything into the country from illegal movies to alcohol. They have illegal satellites to watch television they aren't suppose to watch. It kind of surprised me at how much it was the 'norm' to do this. I also loved just learning a little about the culture. This wasn't something that was delved into very much, but from the meals she cooked, to the clothing they wore, it was all fascinating to me. I think it's important for stories like this to reach our teens.
I really enjoyed Sahar a lot. She had a great voice and was so easy to 'get'. I understood her personality really well. She was blunt and honest, but held her tongue (just barely) when she really needed to. I felt like she was a bit blinded by her love for Nasrin though and this was sort of her downfall. She decides she needs to have a sex change so she can marry Nasrin, but Nasrin is already engaged to a guy and they are to be married very soon. When people try to talk sense into Sahar she refuses to listen. She feels this is her only option. While I 'get' this, it was slightly frustrating to read. But this is her journey, she has to find it inside herself to do the right thing. I do like that it was talked about, the difference in just being gay/lesbian and actually feeling like you are trapped in the wrong body and should be the opposite sex. Because being gay doesn't mean that you are trapped as the wrong sex, and some people may not really understand that.
Nasrin was a character I had mixed feelings about. She's been spoiled her whole life and maybe doesn't appreciate Sahar as much as she should, but it's clear she does love her. I understand her personality and who she is and it's not really a negative to the story, but I didn't love her. Ali is Sahar's cousin and he's gay and actually flaunts it somewhat. He is a very fun character and I would love to read a book all about him. It would be SO fun! But I also want to see his HEA. I also loved Sahar's father. There's a bit of trouble between them since he's been in mourning for so long and has forgotten to live and love and so Sahar and he have a few things to work through. I enjoyed this aspect of the book and am so happy she has a kind and gentle father in a country where men can do so much harm to women if they choose.
This is a short book that I cruised through in only a couple hours. It was hard to put down just because I was enjoying it so much. This book does have some bad language and talks about mature themes like sex and some descriptions regarding having a sex change. I'm not sure I would say it's for mature readers only, but be cautioned that there are some mature themes.
I'm very glad I read this book and I really hope that more consider reading it. I think it should be in every library.
Sahar and Nasrin are in love. They live in Iran, and are girls. In Iran, lesbianism is illegal. Sahar remembers seeing men hung in Tehran as a child. Being gay isn't just frowned upon or judged, it's something you could die for. The options available aren't very appealing. Run from the country, become an exhile, and hope to get to Turkey where many LGBTQ individuals are granted asylum. Live with the constant fear of being discovered. Or take the drastic route of undergoing a sex change operation, despite not being transsexual.
When Nasrin announces her engagement to Reza, the older, smart, handsome medical student her parents choose for her, Sahar falls deep into depression and the fantasy that she can change her fate. Will she undergo a drastic surgery to keep the woman she loves from marrying another? Many have made this choice, as gender re-assignment surgery is not only legal, but state funded in Iran.
The characters in this books will infuriate you, entertain you, shock you and ultimately break your heart. In a world with no good solution, what's a girl in love to do?
Personally, I'm not only a huge advocate of LGBTQ rights, I'm also extremely interested in the Middle East, Islam and Religious Politics. This books has everything you could ask for. Political without being impersonal, activist without being preachy, entertaining without being dismissive. The author knows her Iranian history and culture (not surprising as her parents are from Iran) and displays deep sensitivity toward the turmoil inside Sahar's heart.
I was impressed by the authors ability to display some of the hypocracy of the religious police, the deep fear of discovery by the members of the LGBTQ community, and the gender issues women in the Middle East face every day.
The girls are deeply in love. Usually, I find the whole romance theme predictable and boring, here that wasn't the case. Their furtive kisses, heated exchanges and frustrated arguments all read extremely true to life. They are not yet 18, still children in some ways, trying to navigate a situation many adults can't manage, let alone with the added stress of being gay in a hostile climate. They make bad choices, act insensitively and for Sahar's part, she deludes herself into thinking a sex change surgery could fix things, if you read between the lines, it's clear she knows better, but she's desperate.
The secondary characters and subplots are fabulous. I loved the father and Parveen (a male to female transsexual who takes Sahar under her wing). The gay cousin, Ali, could have been a stereotypical nightmare, but instead, his boisterous behavior and underground dealings come across as sincere by products of his personality and situation.
I highly recommend this book. My only complaint is that it is at times too slow and some points are over simplified, however, considering the target audience of the book the choices the author makes are appropriate. An excellent read for teenagers, geared to make them think without too much explicit anything, and full of intriguing characters. This books is definitely intended for a Western audience and written in an American voice. The content is extremely harram despite the tame descriptions.
If you are interested in the situation for LGBTQ individuals in the Middle East, I highly recommend you check out "A Jihad for Love".