Written in the Stars: A Book Review

“A life of loneliness is an awful punishment for one bad decision. We don’t want that for you. Trust us. Promise you won’t disappoint us.”

Book: Written in the Stars

Author:  Aisha Saeed

Blurb:

This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?

Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

My thoughts:

I sort of skimmed through the book. I got to the end, so I wouldn’t classify it as a DNF but I couldn’t enjoy this book. It was repetitive, and the writing felt a little boring.

I am going to get a lot of flack for this review, but I didn’t like the book.
Yes, I know this book is realistic fiction and kudos to Aisha Saeed for writing something so controversial for her first book. But it doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t like this book.

I’ve heard that Americans have a harder time adjusting to British culture than any other. This is because some of the things are similar (the language, the emphasis on hard work) while others are just different enough for you to feel bewildered (the jokes, the language, the value-system). In this case, the familiarity works against you.

Something similar happened in this book for me.

I am an Indian/American girl. My parents were  born in the Indian subcontinent, and I’ve spent 6 years there. I’m not only aware of my Indian ‘heritage’- I’m proud of it. However, I was born in America and at heart, I consider myself American. So does Nalia (the MC).  In that sense, there were a lot of things in this book that felt familiar to me.

Here are some things I can relate to:

  1. My parents had an arranged marriage. They didn’t know each other before they got married. The only difference was that my Mom moved to the US after her marriage while Nalia was trapped in Pakistan
  2. . I’ve seen first-hand how close first-generation immigrants from the same country become.  In a strange country where everyone has different skin colors, cultures, languages and clothes- it’s common to become nostalgic and homesick. While my Dad did his Ph.D. and my mom did an MBA, my parents lived in the predominantly white state of Georgia. They formed a close group with a bunch of other Indians, and they did everything together. The group remained together after graduation when several of them moved to Portland for jobs, and even now (20 years later) they’re still in touch.  When they can, they get together. And I’m sort of friends with their kids because while the grown-ups talked or whatever, we were encouraged to hang out.
  3.  I can accept an arranged marriage. Maybe it’s an unromantic opinion (I’ve heard people toss the term ‘brainwashed’ around), but marriage is about compatibility.  In my opinion, the best marriage is a partnership of good companionship, better chemistry, and non-interfering or common goals. Does it matter if I find the person and then my parents approve him, or if it’s the other way around? (Some people will object to the word ‘approve’, but be honest, if you have a good relationship with your parents, do you picture yourself marrying someone your Dad or Mom hates?
  4. Parents warning you about ‘boys’. Let’s be honest here, did your Dad like your first boyfriend?  (Assuming he wasn’t the son of a family friend or someone your brother knew, etc. – which is kind of like arranged dating, actually).
  5.  Mom trying to get you to wear ethnic clothes when you go and visit other Indians. Here’s the argument:
    Mom: You should wear it, beti. You’ll look so pretty.
    Me: No thanks, I think I’ll keep wearing what I’m wearing.
    Mom: You’ll feel out of place. Everyone will be wearing something Indian.
    Me: Last time, everyone wore jeans.
    Mom: Why won’t you wear the lehenga (half sari; long-skirt, a short top and a scarf)? Your grandmother got it tailored in India for you.
    Me: You’re trying to guilt-trip me.
    Mom: Fine, don’t wear the lehenga. You can wear the Churidar (long top with leggings and scarf).
    Me: Fine. I’ll wear the kurta (long top) with jeans but that’s it, okay?

    Mom-0.5, me-0.

  6.  Divorce is an ugly beached whale in Indian (and Pakistani) cultures.  It’s awkward, and no doubt it does exist- but everyone pretends that it doesn’t happen. Divorces are considered embarrassing, something which you don’t consider unless there’s no other recourse. I think it’s an old-fashioned state of mind, but I can’t change what has been ingrained by thousands of years of culture that easily.
    In my large extended family, I only know of one aunt who got a divorce. No, I don’t know the details- I don’t even know what her name is or if it’s just a rumor.

Here are things I can’t relate to at all:

  1.  Getting in that much trouble for sneaking around with a boy. Grounded for a month, with all internet privileges taken away? Yes. (I’ve seen it happen to a friend). Being told I ‘shamed’ my family and forced into marriage? Nope. Not at all.
  2. Parents remaining so Pakistani (or Indian in my case). My parents are…parents. They will embarrass me to death as they try (and fail) to use slang in front of my friends.  They wouldn’t treat my non-Indian friends with hostility.
    The deciding question for whether I can go to a party is not ‘Will there be boys there?’ but ‘Have you finished your homework?’ They will stress about whether I’m taking AP classes and if I’m tempted to start doing drugs or drinking instead of whether I’m shaming my family. (I’ve got lectures about the first two- nothing said about the last one).
  3. On that note, education is the most important thing to them. If I got a scholarship for a 6-year program to become a doctor, they would be over the moon. I can’t imagine them doing anything to jeopardize my studies. Studies first. Arranged marriages later.
  4. My parents trapping me in a foreign country. I know where my passport is at all times. But I could trust my parents to give me my passport back if I handed it to them for safe keeping. I can trust them not to drug me as well.
  5. I can’t imagine anyone seeing a marriage where you were drugged and your signature forged as a legal and true marriage. If I were a groom, I wouldn’t want a forced bride. If I were the groom’s mother, I wouldn’t want a forced daughter in law.

Overall Rating: 1/5

Forced marriages exist. I’m not  naive enough to pretend they don’t.  The idea of a girl my age being forced to marry and trapped in another country? It’s truly horrifying.

But I couldn’t relate to this book. In my case, my familiarity with the culture just bewildered me and made it feel exaggerated and over-the-top.

If you’re unfamiliar with the culture, it might actually be easier for you to swallow this book.

A Poem (Prompt: Describe something ordinary, Making it seem Extraordinary)

(Prompt: Describe something ordinary, making it seem extraordinary)

I play blind­man’s bluff and pin-­the-­tail.

Unseeing eyes using other metrics

to measure on a more subjective scale

Has this been done? Has this gone stale?

 

I poke and prod with heavy metal sticks

That roll and disappear between my fingertips.

I duck to the floor, on hands and praying knees

begging an unknown deity

 

I regain my grip.

I find a grasp.

And the stick is safe within sticky fingers secure.

I point. I jab. I jab. I jab. I jab.

My stick is a pain­stick.

And in my hands, it causes havoc.

It dodges. It weaves. It tries using locks.

Ultimately I find my target.

 

It sinks in.

Bulls eye. Needle eye. I spy.

With my little eye.

A javelin that pierced a hole,

A spear that found it’s target.

A sword that stabbed it’s mark.

 

I spin in a little victory dance.

Metal rivets whirling in tiny circles.

I turn. I turn. I turn.

Finally I give up and I push.

My target cries a meek little cry.

 

I admire my work

And then I bend

To pick up

the matching earring.

 

I need a title for this because earring would have given it away immediately.
It’s supposed to be spoken word.
On an unrelated note, I am back from my 50,000 word in a month marathon. Hint: I did not give up.


 

25,000 and Goodreads

Yeah, well it turns out I lied about the regular updating thing. So sorry, I meant to do it but then I thought better of it.
I mean do you really want to hear my NaNoWriMo word-count every single day?
I hit 25,000 words! Yes, I should have hit it a couple of days ago, but I’m a bit behind. I plan to catch up over Thanksgiving break.

On an unrelated note, go and vote on Goodreads for the book of the year. I’m really torn between some of the books in the young adult and debut author section. Honestly, I loved a lot of them. Court of Thorns and Roses, Ember in the Ashes, Six of Crows…how do I pick just one?

Wow! Can you believe this year is wrapping up? I certainly can’t. To use a cliche, time certainly does fly.

This is a short post because I relaised I haven’t yet done a lot of things I wanted to do this year. Did you accomplish everything you planned to in January? Did you do anything?

 

Stains: A Poem

I tipped out the rainbow coloured world
Into my red-flushed, pale blotched palm.
Then possessively I curled
My fingers shut around each tiny sphere.

Like a greedy miser, I held the wealth
Tightfisted and unforgiving in my hands.
Like a jealous lover with no sense of stealth,
I held it close so no one else could see.

What happens to beauty when it goes unseen?
It fades. It discolours. It smudges.
It resents you and burns to fly away free.
And when you open your fingers, it lunges.

Beauty rolls out between cracks of fingers,
a little paler- a shade of what it was when
“You claimed me, You stole me,” it sniggers.
“I’m stealing myself back now.” it twirls away.

You’re left with pale smudges on the inside
-Yellow, red, orange, a colourful mess-
of your once pristine, once lily white hand.
Somehow at the end, you’re both less.

It’s the pastel smudges which do you in,
Wrench away any self-control you may have had.
Suddenly, you’re a child- stuffing your face
with rainbow-coloured candies.

You gorge yourself on chocolate cavities,
On empty sugar and rainbow colours.
Tiny discs of ephemeral sweetness
That disappear all too quickly- just like beauty.

Each white “M” printed on glossy covers is
gone.
Disappeared as they make a sickening crunch
between artificially whitened molars.
Why don’t the colours leave stains on blank enamel?
…They’ve certainly left a stain on you.  

A Quote for Writers

I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “v” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

-Robert Pirosh

NaNoWriMo: Update 1

Today is November 1 2015. That means it’s the day after Halloween, it’s 6 days before the SAT and it’s the beginning of NaNoWriMo. No doubt we know which one is the most important.

 Brag time: I already have 4,132 words.
Fear Time: Let’s hope I can keep the momentum going.

Here’s a random paragraph that I wrote today for the to-be-novel I insist on calling Blood, Bone and Ashes:

At sixteen, I was a fool. A lovely fool with tumbling sunshine hair and long-lashed blue eyes. Innocent. Sheltered. Protected.  I was hopelessly naive, a cloistered princess in all but title.  I came to the castle wearing a floaty dress of white silk and a matching frothy veil.  Beneath it, my eyes were dewy and my golden hair was bound by a silver circlet.  And until the moment my lord husband took my white gloved hands, lifted my veil and kissed me dispassionately, I thought he’d take one look at me and fall deeply, madly in love.

Favorite lines that I wrote today?

“She needs to know how to survive this court, how to smile prettily, how to marry a powerful man- all the lessons you learnt as a girl,” he told me.

“Of course, Milord.”
How to turn iron into silver, how to kill a man as he takes his first bite of dinner, how to marry a man who regards her as nothing but a pretty fool, I added sarcastically in my head.