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Read advance reader review of A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza, page 2 of 9

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A Place for Us

by Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza X
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Jun 2018, 448 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 2019, 400 pages

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  • Amy S. (Tucson, AZ)
    A Place For Us Resonates Strongly
    I was not at all sure what to expect from this novel, in fact, I almost did not participate in this go around because I was not sure any of the offered titles would appeal to me as a reader. Whoa! Am I glad I tried something out of my comfort zone. And two weeks after finishing this story I am still deeply moved. And honestly, a tad raw.

    I'm not sure if my reaction to this book had to do with the fact that I was spending more time than usual with my own mother while I was reading it, giving me the chance to be more contemplative of my family and Rafiq's. Maybe Fatima Farheen Mirza just put everything I felt as a child (teen, young adult, parent) into such eloquent, rich, powerful prose--I was lulled in by the beauty of her words and forced to examine them more closely, and as a result, myself.

    I related strongly to her Haida, always striving to meet the expectations of her family, even if she was not true to herself. Similarly I identified with Amir, the younger, rebellious brother who struggled to be accepted for himself; he did not want to meet the expectations of others, but to be true to himself. Mirza showed me something about myself in both of these characters that I was ignoring or minimizing; and she did so beautifully.

    And just when I thought I could take no more, we heard from Rafiq, the father. My heart was ripped out again as I thought of my relationship with my own son and how my actions, reactions, and decisions could have (okay did) affect him.

    This was a powerful book for me personally, and that happens rarely. The time the author took to weave her story, the attention she paid to her word choice, the beauty of her writing, will surely have a profound affect on others whether the reader recognizes him/herself or not in the pages.
  • Linda W. (Summit, NJ)
    Love lost and life found
    This book, "A Place for Us" is very multi-layered. There is the story of a Muslim Indian family finding their way in the US and American culture. They are an integral part of a closed community that the father helps to maintain customs and traditions. I learned a tremendous amount of insight into Muslim customs and family life, but I also saw how divisive it can be trying to maintain a closed society in the midst of 21st century USA. According to your perspective the first generation born here becomes either a bridge to a different world or an ax dividing families and communities.

    Another aspect of this book that is so well written is the family dynamics. How the siblings link together to protect and advance their own causes and wishes. How the father cannot overcome the his own childhood trauma and background. How the mother tries to maintain control of her children so the father can be at ease, but realizes at the end the irreversible damage she has caused.

    I loved this book and its characters, especially Amar and his mother, Layla. The author provides so many insightful anecdotes into their relationship that you are holding your breath when the final confrontation occurs. This book would be an excellent book club choice as it wrestles with cultural clashes, family dynamics and individual choices.
  • Claire M. (Sarasota, FL)
    A Place for Us
    An incredible debut from a very young author; reading A Place for Us is a richly rewarding experience. Family dynamics, secrets told and not, questioning one's religion and deciding whether and how it works for one is an important subtext. A young Indian Muslim man moves to America and through an arranged marriage brings his wife to start their lives in America. Interestingly, Indian Muslims make up only about 14 of the Indian population, although it is the third largest Muslim population in the world. Being marginalized here or there was not addressed. What Fatima Farheen Mirza does address is how the five family members search for their roles in the family, identity and belonging in that organization as well as in the larger culture. This is a tour de force-the structure, characterization, storytelling, cultural questioning and deeply personal self-reflection culminate in a magnificent addition to our literature.
  • Barbara P. (Hixson, TN)
    A moving story of a Muslim-American familygood memories and the bad
    How alike we all are! Whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish or other, families are families. This writer explained in such beautiful prose about the customs and mores of an average Muslim family living in America. She also wrote about the reactions of Americans to their customs. I understood that we all have the same emotions; the misunderstandings, the forgiveness, the lack of forgiveness, the good memories and the bad. One feels like they know each member of the family through the beautiful writing. The last chapters of the book moved me in a very special, personal way.
    I look forward to future works by this new author.
  • Sandra C. (Rensselaer, NY)
    Timely
    The author enabled the reader to better understand the Muslim Culture. The character development was exceptional. However I did find the frequent jumping to and fro time was confusing at times. The fact we were left to wonder did Amar return or not was a good ending. While long, I think it would be a good book for book clubs. You would have many avenue# to explore — parenting, sibling rivalry, the Muslim culture etc.
  • Diane S. (Batavia, IL)
    A Place for us
    Wow!! I am just blown away by the fact that this is a first novel, the story and theme are so universal. A Muslim Indian family in America, trying to maintain its own beliefs and culture, while facing modernity. This family, mother, father, two daughters, Hadia and Huda, and the youngest, a son Amar who never really feels he belongs. We come to know this family inside and out, the book starts with the marriage of Hadia and then goes back and forth, to various beginnings and endings. While their beliefs may not be mine, many of the problems between parents and siblings are indeed universal.

    As they struggle to find their place in the larger world, the children also struggle to find their place in the family. Living up to parental expectations, or in Amar's case the struggle to find his place anywhere at all. Trying to carve a path between cultural and religious beliefs and the lessening of this expectation to fit with the place they now find themselves. The story of this family in all its totality is both moving and insightful. The barriers to acceptance by children and parents after 9/11, when all Muslims were viewed with suspicion and in many cases outright hate. By showing us the commonalities in their family and our own, this young author has shown us that we may in fact may not be so different.

    The last part of the book focuses on the father's point of view alone. How he thought, what went wrong and what he wished he had done differently. It is full of anguish and remorse, and we clearly see for the first time what this Muslim, husband, father has gone through, from his own childhood to the way he tried to instill family values and religious beliefs in his children. It does end on a note of positivity, sadness yes, but hopefully as well. This is an outstanding piece of fiction, in my opinion, I quite frankly fell hard for this family, with all its flaws and things mistakenly done out of love. I wasn't ready to leave them at books end, and I believe if you read, or at least I hope, that you will see some of the same values, if not the religious beliefs, that we try to instill in our own families.

    This is also the first book published under the Sarah Jessica Parker imprint of Random House, and it is a wonderful beginning. ARC from BookBrowse and Random House.
  • Darra W. (Mendocino, CA)
    Stunning Debut
    A Place of Us is an amazing debut on many levels. It ticks off all the expected boxes for good fiction. It is well-written, plotted and paced, and peopled with finely realized characters who speak with clarity and honesty. But it is so much more than that! Perhaps most exciting of all is the discovery that an author so young could produce such a sure-handed, richly layered observation of the complex human condition in all its inherent beauty...and disappointments. The cultural background and life experiences of Haida, Amar, and their family might be miles from my own, but I learned a great deal about myself in following their journey. A transformative experience!

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