Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan


If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

This debut novel from an Iranian-American author takes a look at what it is like to be a teen lesbian in Iran.  Sahar loves her friend Nasrin intensely.  They have been friends since childhood and Sahar has loved her since she was six.  They steal kisses when their parents are not around and long to be able to plan their lives together.  But in a country where women can be arrested and beaten for showing their elbows in public, their love is not allowed.  When Nasrin is betrothed to a young doctor, Sahar desperately looks for a solution that would allow them to be together.   She discovers that in Iran, you can have a sex change if you declare yourself to be transgendered and be considered fully the opposite sex.  So Sahar sets out to do just that, become a man so that she can marry Nasrin.  As Sahar’s plan develops, she has to make some serious choices, ones that will affect her for the rest of her life.

Farizan’s writing is clear and beautiful.  She adroitly shows the society of Iran, its treatment of women, the fear of the police, and the danger that the characters are living with.  The portrayal of their love is tender and exploratory, as it begins to crumble, one can see Sahar’s love for Nasrin remain even when their closeness begins to evaporate under the stress of the upcoming wedding and Sahar’s desperation to find a solution.

Throughout the book, there is a sense of longing, of yearning for freedom, for love, for one another.  It is a book filled with choices where nothing is right due to the society around them.  Yet through it all, Sahar shines.  She is a wonderful character who is strong, smart and unstoppable. 

This book depicts in life in Iran but also offers a diverse look at GLBTQ issues in the Middle East.  With a piercingly strong heroine, it is a powerful pick for public library collections.  Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Algonquin Young Readers.

Review: Nasreddine by Odile Weulersse


Nasreddine by Odile Weulersse, illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer

Nasreddine and his father head to market together with his father riding the donkey along with a large basket of dates and Nasreddine walking behind.  When some men criticize them for letting a boy walk in the mud, Nasreddine heads back home while his father calmly continues on.  The next week, Nasreddine pretends to twist his ankle so that he can ride and his father walks.  But onlookers once again make comments and Nasreddine heads home.  The next time they head to market, the two of them both ride the donkey, but that doesn’t stop the comments either.  Then they both walk and let the donkey just carry the items for market, but the criticisms are still made.  Nasreddine makes one final try at fixing things: the two of them will carry the donkey!

The book ends with a note about the stories of Nasreddine which are told throughout the Middle East.  This story like the others about him are a perfect mix of humor and wisdom.  Here Nasreddine learns the hard way not to listen to the criticism of others.  The way that his father deals with it is patient and an attempt to invoke Nasreddine’s common sense and let him learn it on his own.  This adds to the merriment of the storyline as well as making for a very readable tale. 

Dautremer’s illustrations have the feel of a folktale with a modern edge.  The setting is clearly historical but the angles of the illustrations and their neat perspectives add lots of interest as well.  Nasreddine himself is a beautiful little boy, his round face and red tunic making him stand out in any setting. 

Perfect for sharing aloud, this book is a friendly and funny introduction to Nasreddine.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.