Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
[I received a digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
Maya is a first-generation Indian-American Muslim teenager, who is struggling with her parents' traditional, old-world expectations and her very American desire to be independent and choose her own path in life, which is very different than the one her parents would choose for her. Her parents expect her to do whatever they tell her to do, which is to go to school close to home, be a doctor or a lawyer, marry a nice Muslim boy and have babies.
But Maya is in no hurry to get married, and in fact has a major crush on a boy at her school who is neither Indian nor Muslim, and she dreams of going to film school in New York and becoming a filmmaker. She is finally brave enough to tell her parents she wants to go to NYU, and with the support of her aunt, they finally agree. But then, a terrorist bombing is linked to someone with the same last name as their family, prompting attacks on her parents' office and Maya herself. In the midst of their fear, Maya's parents suddenly become very controlling and repressive, and put Maya on lockdown. Will Maya dare to defy them? Are they safe anywhere?
This story was not exactly what I was initially expecting from the description. I was expecting the central focus to be on the terrorist attack, and the resulting fear, suspicion, discrimination, and retaliatory violence towards Muslims. However, this was really a coming-of-age story, focusing on the conflict between the traditional "old world" values and expectations of one generation of immigrants and the greater demands of freedom, idependence, and choice by their American-born children; the bombing and acts of violence towards Maya's family was only part of the story, to show the fear that motivated Maya's parents' sudden change of heart and seemingly unreasonable controlling behavior and irrational response to her decisions. There is also some typical teenage romantic angst involved as well.
I really enjoyed this story. It was well-paced, the characters were well-developed, and I liked how it did address anti-Muslim discrimination and violence, showing it from the Muslim perspective, without being overly heavy-handed and preachy. The story revealed how the Aziz family was really not so different from anyone else, and may help readers develop a greater understanding of the issues and to develop empathy.
I liked Maya's parents, though did find myself disgusted by their rash overreactions to Maya's decision, and I loved her aunt, who was able to give Maya the support she needed and provide a voice of reason for her parents, as well as providing an example of a strong, independent Indian Muslim woman. Kareem was also a great character, and I found myself wishing Maya would forget her school-girl crush, and develop a mature romantic relationship with Kareem, despite the fact that he was her parents choice. I would have liked to have seen the character of her best friend developed a little bit more.
I thought it was a little odd that Maya didn't make much more of her parents' hypocrisy in expecting her to be a good little girl and let them control her life and make all the decisions about where she should live, got to school, and who she would marry when they themselves had defied the tradition of the arranged marriage and snuck around to make a love match, then moved to the U.S. to build their own life they way they wanted. It was odd that they had never been *that* traditional or devout as Muslims, yet they expected their daughter to simply fall in line and do what they said and make no choices for herself.
I think this would be a great book for many teenagers to read, and I think they might be surprised to find how much they can relate to Maya, whether they are Indian, Muslim, or neither. This is really a perfect example of a book providing needed mirrors and windows, and I would highly recommend it.
I believe this is the author's debut book, which is expected to be out in January, 2018.
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