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Book Review: Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Publisher’s description

love hateIn this unforgettable debut novel, an Indian-American Muslim teen copes with Islamophobia, cultural divides among peers and parents, and a reality she can neither explain nor escape. 

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I burned through this important and immensely readable book in one sitting. In fact, I got so engrossed and read it so quickly that I was actually pretty shocked when, at one point, I set it down to go get something to drink and realized I was nearly done!

Maya, who is Indian American and Muslim, is rarely without her camera. She loves watching life unfold through her camera lens and dreams of going to NYU to film school. That’s actually a very attainable dream for her, as she’s been accepted there, but her parents have made it clear that filmmaking is a nice hobby, but she needs to stay close to home and attend the University of Chicago, maybe became a doctor or lawyer. They also would love to get her set up with a suitable Indian boy, but Maya isn’t interested in being set up—she’s interested in Phil, school quarterback and homecoming king, a boy who has always been friendly to Maya, but never seemed within reach. Until now.

In between chapters, we see another story unfolding, one of a young man who is about to commit a heinous act of terrorism in Illinois, killing more than a hundred people. Though initially reported as being carried out by a young Egyptian Muslim, the perpetrator is actually a white man with ties to white supremacy organizations. This act, and its incorrect reporting, stirs up some never-far-from-the-surface Islamophobia in one of Maya’s classmates, putting her safety and that of her family at risk. Shaken, her parents want to keep her close by them and safe, but Maya still dreams of leaving home and living in New York. She’s conflicted over how to live the life she wants and how to be a good daughter at the same time. Over the course of the story, she learns how to assert herself and pick her own path, even if its one that will come with some heartache. A searing look at racism and Islamophobia mixed with an excellent romance. Authentic, powerful, and important. 

 

ISBN-13: 9781616958473
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/16/2018

Book Review: Under Threat by Robin Stevenson

Publisher’s description

under threatFranny is close to her parents, adores her horse and is head over heels in love with her girlfriend, Leah. But Franny’s parents are abortion providers at the local hospital, and an anonymous stranger is prepared to do whatever it takes to stop them. A stranger who phones at all hours. Who knows where they live. Who knows Franny’s name. When Leah’s older brother, Jake, refers to her parents as baby killers, Franny starts to wonder if perhaps the threats aren’t coming from a stranger at all. If she tells the police about her suspicions, she could lose her girlfriend. But if she doesn’t—and if she’s right—she could lose her parents.

 

 

Amanda’s thoughts

If you’re looking for a book that tackles the issue of abortion rights head on, this is it. In fact, I can’t think of any other book that addresses abortion even close to the way this book does. As the description above says, Franny’s parents are abortion providers. They frequently get harassing phone calls and are used to changing their phone number and working with the police to ensure their safety. But the recent calls seem more threatening than usual—they keep happening over and over, and the caller leaves suspicious packages that could be anthrax or could be a bomb at both Franny’s home and her parents’ place of work. Franny suffers from nightmares and is constantly worried something will happen to her parents. Franny is proud of what her parents do. There is a lot of very frank and impassioned talk about the reasons why it’s important that abortion is legal, what happened when it wasn’t, what has happened to abortion providers, and anti-abortion terrorism.

 

Though she is proud of her parents’ work, Franny is worried what her girlfriend Leah’s religious mother will think. So far she’s just told her that her parents are doctors. But when a bomb threat causes her parents to go public with their story, in hopes of discovering someone who might be able to provide some leads in the case, Franny can’t hide the truth any more. Leah’s mother’s reaction is surprisingly compassionate and nuanced, but her brother Jake’s is not. Franny wonders if he could be behind the threats and has to decide what to do with her suspicions.

 

Part of the Orca Soundings series, this high interest book is a quick but extremely captivating read. I wanted to cheer for some of the great, smart, and bold things that Franny says. This is a well-written and unparalleled look at a highly charged topic. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the author and publisher

ISBN-13: 9781459811317

Publisher: Orca Book Publishers

Publication date: 03/01/2016