Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children's/Young Adult One of" Rolling Stone"'s 40 Best YA Novels A 2014 ALA Rainbow List Top 10 Title A "Booklist "Top 10 First Novels for Youth 2013 A Chicago Public Library "Best of the Best" 2013 In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.Read more...
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Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children's/Young Adult One of" Rolling Stone"'s 40 Best YA Novels A 2014 ALA Rainbow List Top 10 Title A "Booklist "Top 10 First Novels for Youth 2013 A Chicago Public Library "Best of the Best" 2013 In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture. Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They've shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love--Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light. So they carry on in secret--until Nasrin's parents announce that they've arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they had before, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively--and openly. Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman's body is seen as nature's mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants in the body she wants to be loved in without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-06-10
- Reviewer: Staff
This provocative coming-of-age story takes place in contemporary Iran, where the sight of a woman’s elbows can provoke police action; homosexuality, “a bargain made with the devil,” carries threats of beating and hanging; but being transsexual is recognized by the government as a treatable illness. Seventeen-year-old Sahar, who has wanted to marry her best friend Nasrin since they were six years old, dreams of living openly with her lover. Nasrin prefers to accept an arranged marriage, while intending to continue their illicit affair. Exposed to a world of sexual diversity by her gay cousin and made desperate by Nasrin’s impending marriage, Sahar explores the one legal option for the two of them to be together: her own sex reassignment surgery. Throughout this strong debut, Farizan weaves in details of daily Iranian life, exposing the various opportunities available to people depending upon their academic prowess, financial status, social class, and sexuality. Within a rigid societal structure, her fleshed-out characters wrestle with depression, hope, complacency, and risk, and live out the consequences of their choices. Ages 14–up. Agent: Leigh Feldman, Writers House. (Aug.)
Risking it all for love in Iran
A confession: I picked up If You Could Be Mine knowing only that it was about two teenage girls in love in Tehran. While homosexuality is a crime in Iran, transsexuals are tolerated if not enthusiastically embraced, so one of the girls contemplates sex change surgery for the chance to love without risk of death. I assumed the book would be grim and possibly preachy—how else could you tell a story with so much at stake? Thankfully, I could not have been more wrong. If You Could Be Mine is at once dazzling and funny and heartbreaking and wise.
Sahar and Nasrin have been best friends—and girlfriends—since early childhood. When Nasrin’s parents arrange a marriage for her, Sahar considers changing her gender in order to try to stop the wedding. The people she meets at a transgender support group question her motivation, but reluctantly offer their help. When one who comes to meet her at an underground gay bar is openly hostile to the crowd—it’s not just elitism but Muslim law that separates gay and transgender people—Sahar’s gay cousin Ali intervenes. When the woman explains she came to deliver hormones to Sahar, “Ali looks at me like I have just told him I have killed Britney Spears, Madonna, and Lady Gaga.”
A girl considers extreme lengths for love in Farizan's debut.
Things only get more difficult from there. Sahar’s relationship with Nasrin suffers as the wedding approaches, and at home she tries to wake her widowed father from a five-year period of mourning and detachment. Eventually she begins to carve out a new life for herself, and a new relationship with Nasrin.
This is Sara Farizan’s first novel, and what a debut it is. The Iran revealed through the eyes of her teenaged characters is a place of oppression and great risk, but the Ayatollahs are viewed as little more than cranky grandfathers. The West is regarded with a mix of awe at the freedom allowed there and disgust that it is so unappreciated.
Sahar and Nasrin’s circumstances differ from those of most Americans in drastic ways, but their love, heartbreak and redemption will resonate with anyone. If You Could Be Mine is a beautiful, compassionate, must-read novel.