Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

Publisher: Speak; Reprint edition (May 3, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0147513936
ISBN-13: 978-0147513939

Naila’s family is very close. It’s part of their Pakistani and Muslim culture and her immigrant community does a good job of sustaining that culture in America. Just like any other girl she’s excited about her senior year and finally getting away from her parents. To her surprise they’ve agreed that she can attend the school of her choice. It’s a big win! Riding high on that she takes a risk and sneaks out to the Prom with her boyfriend, Saif. Even being seen with Saif is a big no-no. She’s known for as long as she can remember that she can choose many things in her life, but her husband will be chosen by her parents and boyfriends aren’t allowed. When she’s caught and the family takes an unexpected trip to Pakistan she hopes she’ll be able to plead her case and make it up to her parents. Besides, she and Saif love each other and they didn’t do anything to violate her beliefs. But when her orientation deadline for school comes and goes and her passport goes missing she starts to realize that her parents have something very different in mind.

Now, I picked the book up and erroneously believed it was going to be a love story. I was excited because you just don’t see too many love stories with diverse characters given a big marketing push. I was sorely disappointed and when the book got dark it went pitch black. The story is not for the faint of heart and it may be triggering for those who’ve dealt with sexual assault. However, the story was very well-written and I think I read it in one or two sittings. Saeed explores the role of family and you can tell there is love there, which makes what happens so heartbreaking. The plot moves lightning fast and you really feel the desperation and despair with Naila as she comes to grips with her situation. You’ll want to cheer at the end, even though you know that the scars of the ordeal will be there forever. I definitely recommend the book for those who love a thriller, but if you don’t know anything about Pakistani or Muslim culture I would definitely pair it with another title from an #ownvoices author. There’s a great  book on the horizon When Dimple Met Rishi that you should look out for. One of my favorites about Muslim girls in high school is also Does My Head Look Big in This.  I say this because I don’t want there to be an assumption that all Muslim households are this oppressive or that all arranged marriages are forced. The author herself is happily married and has been for some time.

However, the hidden problem of forced marriage is an issue and without acknowledgement of the problem we can’t hope to solve it. Women and girls deserve autonomy and choice.

This book is perfect for:

  • People who love a good thriller
  • Anyone looking for a quick, fast-paced book, preferably for a long plane ride or train ride
  • Anyone with feminist leanings

Discussion Questions:

  1. Were there any signs early on that Naila’s parents were capable of what they did?
  2. Describe some ways in which the closeness of the family supported and oppressed the members.
  3. Discuss the ways in which class and status played into the story.
  4. Imagine your parents choosing your ideal mate. What kind of person do you think they would choose?
  5. Do you think that Naila’s parents did what they did to maintain their status in the community or for some other reason? Were they victims, as well?
  6. How do women perpetuate the oppression of other women in the community?
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