Written in the Stars was my first read for Asian Lit Bingo. I chose it because I’ve been meaning to read a book about an arranged marriaged and quite a few #ownvoices bloggers had recommended this one
Naila’s secret relationship with her boyfriend, Saif, is uncovered and her parents take her to Pakistan. The true purpose of the trip, finding a husband for Naila, is covered up. Will she be able to leave?
This is an #ownvoices book.
This is an incredible story. In my opinion, it’s not easy to craft a story about arranged marriage that doesn’t become harmful or perpetuate stereotypes but this story managed that. The character’s motives and decisions are nuanced and we are shown that Pakistanis and Muslims are nuanced and diverse. They are complicated characters and not one-dimensional. There is more to them than meets the eye.
There is one rape scene in this book and I think it’s important to mention it because it might be a trigger. In my opinion, it was presented in a non-harmful manner and the fact that it was rape was not erased. The character continues living with him as she doesn’t know where else to go, but does not forget what he did, and reminds him of his crime when she leaves him.
The quick scenes, simple writing and overall fast read, led to it being a very fast-paced and direct book. I was really emotional while reading it. I wanted people to help Naila, but the author illustrates how the different people cannot or will not help. It was really sad.
One part that resonated with me is that Saif was sorry for yelling to Naila’s parents even though they were in the wrong. It illustrated how important respecting elders is for him. Saif and Naila really suited each other. It was incredible how they both tried to help each other through the separation even though they couldn’t contact each other easily.
One question I had after reading this book is what did Selma end up doing in the end. Where is she now?
I especially liked the open-ending and it caused me to contemplate about the entire story and what I would have done if I were in Naila’s shoes.
It’s a very powerful book and I recommend it. It is reality for many girls though. Don’t forget that this is just one story of Pakistani Americans and not the only story.
I would be very interested in reading a sequel about Naila and Saif’s life, or a standalone book focussing on Selma.
Trigger warnings: rape, forced marriage, physical abuse.
Have you read Written in the Stars? What did you think of it?