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In her moving debut novel, Erian bravely examines the dynamics of sexual attraction as it develops between a young girl and the older men she encounters. The girl is 13-year-old Jasira, who attracts the attentions of her mother's boyfriend, Barry. When her mother finds out about their affair, she sends Jasira to live with her father in Houston. Stern, old-fashioned, of Lebanese descent, her father has a short temper and takes little interest in Jasira's development as a teenager, except to lay down harsh rules. He won't allow her to buy tamponshe believes they should only be used by married womenand outlaws her friendship with an African-American boy. Behind closed doors, though, Jasira experiences a sexual awakening that leads her to Mr. Vuoso, her father's slightly seedy neighbor. Mr. Vuoso's sexual interest in Jasira is complicated by her Middle Eastern lineagea quality he finds strangely repulsive. Erian's frank portrayal of their relationship, including Mr. Vuoso's ambivalence about Jasira, lends the book a powerful authenticity. When Mr. Vuoso engages Jasira as a babysitter for his little boy, it becomes clear that nothing will prevent the two of them from pushing their relationship to its limits. Written with brutal honesty from the perspective of Jasira, the book takes an unflinching look at race, sex, gender and cultural differences, couching these complex themes in a story that's skillfully constructed and extremely readable.
A reading group guide is included in the book.