Freedom or honour, for better or worse. What would you choose?
Seventeen-year-old Ameera Hassan has just finished school and her friendship with Tariq, her best friend’s older brother, is growing. But when her father hears of it he sends Ameera to stay with his family in Kashmir and attend her cousin Jamila’s wedding. Only when she gets there does she discover the devastating truth – the intended marriage is not Jamila’s but her own!
Once I started reading this story, I couldn’t put it down. Based in Australia, Ameera and her family, consisting of her Pakistani father and her Australian mother and her older brother, live an Islamic lifestyle. Ameera tries hard to please her father, and does everything he asks her too, but she is also aware that she lives in the Western society, and there is more freedom than she is allowed. When she is discovered at a “mixed” party, her father is inconsolable because his beloved daughter has dishonour him and his family. His only option is to send her to Pakistan and visit with his family in the hopes that their ways might rub off on her.
Ameera’s character is a strong girl, confused by the culture around her. In Pakistan she is still struggling to understand why she is there, when she loves Tariq and wants to marry him. And when she discovers her fathers “surprise”, she doesn’t want to be any part of it. Her situation has been well written, I felt Ameera’s confusion, her pain and hurt, her loss of freedom and inability to talk to her mother or her family.
While the story is written from Ameera’s point of view, the view of her father and the muslim way is done sympathetically. I understood their cultures and customs and how the family are proud of their traditions and the honour system that they hold so dear.
While this story had a satisfactory ending (I can’t give too much away), there are many still living in those conditions that are unable to escape. Girls are sold into slavery marriage, or forced marriages if they do not consent to the marriage. This is a situation still strong today, but legislation is slowly filtering through.
I have a better understanding of the muslim culture and customs by reading this story, although it isn’t a comprehensive understanding of the religion, it has been done in a way that doesn’t make fun of them, or put their religion down. I respect the author for her attempt to make the story real and really pulling the punches.
An awesome read if you want to learn about another culture.