Thursday, September 12, 2013

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

I'm going to call If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (Algonquin Young Readers) brave--but not for the reasons you might think. I picked up this book at a BEA buzz panel, and stuck it in my purse for the trip home. Now, I had a comfy seat, tired feet, and I thought that perhaps I'd read a chapter or two before napping; instead, I was glued to the page for the entire flight.

Sahar loves Nasrin with all of the intensity of first, fiery love. She would do anything for Nasrin. Anything. In Iran, it's a crime for two girls (or two boys) to be together, but the government will gladly pay for a sex change, after which the relationship will no longer be illegal.

Think about that for a second. It's hard for me to wrap my head around.

Nasrin is engaged to be married, and married soon, so Sahar pursues the operation--without really knowing what she's getting into. As she learns more about what she asks of and for herself, and about the operation (and what it would mean for her, and for a group of people she meets who have had it), everything starts to fall apart.

A spoiler or three...

Given how often--fairly--books about GLBTQ people end in tragedy are questioned for those tragedies, I think it important to note that If You Could Be Mine is not all sunshine and sparkles, so that if you've had one too many, you can consider whether or not to read. Personally, I think that the author treated her subject matter with the utmost respect, and that she paints a clear picture of the challenges faced by her characters.

And to continue spoilering, what I thought was brave about the book is tied up in that. Nasrin, for example, is so very beautifully imperfect, and Sahar's love and slow growing realization of the imbalances in their relationship is so very real. (I really like seeing books that explore why people are not ALWAYS Meant to Be; first loves usually aren't.) Sahar blunders through problems with all the grace of, well, a teenager. There's a sense of inevitability coupled with hope that, in another time and place, everything could be so different...

At any rate, I found If You Could Be Mine to be a gripping, thought-provoking, and important read. It's out now.

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