by Sara Farizan
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.
Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication Date: August 20, 2013
I found this book heartbreaking, but fascinating at the same time. Set in Iran, it follows Sahar, a teen girl desperately in love with her best friend, who is engaged to a man. As the wedding draws closer, Sahar becomes increasingly desperate to find a way to not only stop the wedding, but to find a way to be with her best friend.
I feel that to be able to really appreciate the difficulty faced by these two girls, the reader must also understand the nature of the regime in Iran. I try not to peek at reviews on Goodreads or anywhere else before writing my own, but this time I just couldn't help it. It seems that many readers felt that Sahar's solution to become a man was naive, or too unrealistic.
I disagree. It's difficult for teens in North America to come out as gay out of fear of the possible reactions. In Iran, to be gay means to be sentenced to death. It is not talked about, there are no depictions of same sex couples in movies or literature, and to even admit to those feelings is to risk becoming an outcast. To a young girl who only wants to love the girl she's loved from childhood, there aren't many options. I also think that her naivete regarding the surgery would be normal. Most teens anywhere in the world would know very little about what it would entail, and in a country where the human body is covered up and private, there would be even less knowledge.
I think the author did a wonderful job illustrating the different approaches that people take to coping with what could be a deadly secret. Ali, Saher's gay cousin, lives in secret out in the open, so to speak. He flaunts his lifestyle, gathering in special restaurants and paying off law enforcement for protection. Sahar doesn't embrace or deny a label. She just wants to live her life, and is willing to sacrifice everything to do it. Nasrin is terrified of what she feels, and copes the only way she knows how: by embracing a traditional existence in public, and hoping that she can live her real feelings out in public.
I found it difficult to like Nasrin for most of the book, but with some time to reflect, I realize that she's no different than thousands of men and women who try to deny who they are and live a "traditional" lifestyle, only to express their true feelings in private, or later in life when they are no longer afraid. The way the three characters are compared and contrasted in this book paints a more realistic picture of life in Iran than just seeing things from one angle. Add to that the seemingly contradictory position on sex reassignment, and it's not hard to see how a young, sheltered girl would have difficulty knowing how to cope with her emotions.
Kat's Rating: All Consuming
This story was heartbreaking on so many levels, but so full of hope and humanity. It must be read through the lens of a repressive society where a woman can be beaten for a lock of hair out of place, and through the eyes of a young girl. As Sahar's desperation increases, so does the craziness of her ideas. If you're looking for something original, I highly recommend this book.
I received a complimentary copy of this title from NetGalley & the publisher in return for an honest review.