When We Were Sisters: Book summary and reviews of When We Were Sisters by Fatimah Asghar

When We Were Sisters

A Novel

by Fatimah Asghar

When We Were Sisters by Fatimah Asghar X
When We Were Sisters by Fatimah Asghar
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Book Summary

An orphan grapples with gender, siblinghood, family, and coming-of-age as a Muslim in America in this lyrical debut novel from the acclaimed author of If They Come For Us.

In this heartrending, lyrical debut work of fiction, Fatimah Asghar traces the intense bond of three orphaned siblings who, after their parents die, are left to raise one another. The youngest, Kausar, grapples with the incomprehensible loss of their parents as she also charts out her own understanding of gender; Aisha, the middle sister, spars with her "crybaby" younger sibling as she desperately tries to hold on to her sense of family in an impossible situation; and Noreen, the eldest, does her best in the role of sister-mother while also trying to create a life for herself, on her own terms.

As Kausar grows up, she must contend with the collision of her private and public worlds, and choose whether to remain in the life of love, sorrow, and codependency that she's known or carve out a new path for herself. When We Were Sisters tenderly examines the bonds and fractures of sisterhood, names the perils of being three Muslim American girls alone against the world, and ultimately illustrates how those who've lost everything might still make homes in one another.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Kausar's compelling voice, sometimes lyrical, sometimes heartbreaking, is skillfully crafted, changing subtly as she grows. The book's ending, a jump forward in time, seems tacked on and less convincing than what went before, but the sisters' story is a moving journey. An assured first novel explores the bonds and divides among three orphaned sisters." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Elegant...Asghar's poetic sensibilities are on full display in the lyrical and oblique prose...and the frequent formal experimentation enlivens the text...The result is a creative telling of a tender coming-of-age tale." - Publishers Weekly

"When We Were Sisters is a stunning accomplishment in form, storytelling, and heart. This novel works language into its most jeweled form, into characters, sisters, that will stay with me for the rest of my life." - Safia Elhillo, author of Home Is Not a Country and Girls That Never Die

"In this captivating, gorgeously written book, Asghar weaves a tale of sisters in the wake of unspeakable loss. Propulsively readable and experimental in form, this is an unflinching look at family, grief, and reclamation—of self and other." - Hala Alyan, author of Salt Houses and The Arsonists' City

"When We Were Sisters is a beautiful, richly layered exploration of the generosity that is required to raise oneself, to raise others, to build a world where the people you love can feel safe and whole. Fatimah Asghar is an impressive writer precisely because of how she doesn't withhold tenderness, and lets it play and flourish amongst all of the brilliant lyricism, narrative sharpness, and vibrant characters who fill this incredible book." - Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Little Devil in America

This information about When We Were Sisters was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Fatimah Asghar

Fatimah Asghar, author of If They Come for Us, is a poet, filmmaker, educator, and performer. She is the writer and co-creator of Brown Girls, an Emmy-nominated web series that highlights friendships between women of color. Along with Safia Elhillo, she is the editor of Halal If You Hear Me, an anthology that celebrates Muslim writers who are also women, queer, gender-nonconforming, and/or trans.

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