Hello and welcome to my stop for Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan! A huge thanks to Hear Our Voices Book Tours and Scholastic Press for the chance to read and review this book!
TW: racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, biphobia
Zara Hossain is the only Muslim student at her High school in Corpus Christi. She’s “used” to microaggession, while trying not to show her anger and true feelings, because she and her family are waiting for their green card and she’s afraid seeking justice would jeopardize that goal. But one day her tormentor, a star football player, Tyler Benson, takes things too far and get suspended. Tyler and his racist friends so decide to vandalize Zara’s house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime and a consequences that could jeopardize their lives and Zara’s future.
Zara is forced to fight between staying in the place she considers her home, while her parents don’t feel safe anymore, or losing the life she knows coming back to Pakistan.
Zara Hossain is here is a heart-wrenching novel about what it means to be an immigrant in America, the struggles Zara and her family face, the Islamophobia, the racism, the feeling of don’t belong. It was so intense reading this book and it filled me with rage and sadness realizing how people can be so ignorant and hateful, how, sometimes, there’s no justice. The author talks about white privilege and the acute difference in the way the system (police, racial, social ones) treats and considers white people and people of color. Sabina Khan also addresses issues like homophobia and biphobia and how religions are often used as excuses to ignorant and hurtful behaviour.
I love the tight bond between Zara and her parents, who would do anything for her and her future and between Zara and her friends, Nick and Priya. Zara and her family are surrounded by a wonderful and tight community and it was so amazing to read, how supported and helped they were during these crazy times. Zara is a strong main character, stubborn, loving, ready to fight for the right thing. She’s smart and passionate and I really love her energy and her bonds with her family, biological and found.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s the kind of book that hurt my heart and made me think about how unfair are things in America, how spread are the double standards and the white privilege, how money can buy things and people. And also how important is to fight for the right thing, not to be silent and to seek justice and fairness.
One of the things I loved the most is how the author doesn’t sweeten the hard reality. Unfair things happened and are still happening, families are torn apart, people, who only tried to find a better place for themselves and their families, can find, and do find, racism and injustice. It’s not the kind of book with an happy ever after. Sabina Khan doesn’t lie and she shows how unfair, how injust the life can be. Zara Hossain is Here is a painful book to read, it’s about unjustices and racism, but also about family, endurance of hope, fighting for justice and against hate.
It’s heart-wrenching and hopeful at the same time and I loved Zara and her family.
- Where did you get the inspiration for Zara Hossain Is Here?
I wrote Zara Hossain Is Here largely becasue of my own experience with the US immigration system. In the 90’s I lived there with my family and we were all awaiting our green cards. Unfortunately a clerical error by our lawyer derailed the entire process and we had no choice but to leave the country before our visas expired. It was a difficult time to move and start all over yet again. Luckily we were able to build a good life in Canada with our young children, but at the time the experience was quite traumatizing.
- Could you describe the book with one sentence?
A young Muslim immigrant fights back against Islamophobia, racism and the inequities of the US immigration system.
- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’ve discovered that my creative juices don’t start flowing unless I’m sitting in my favorite recliner with my puppy by my feet. And I need to have complete silence, as in even my husband’s breathing annoys me when I’m in the zone.
- Zara experiences Islamophobic harassments. What advice would you give to people in her same situation?
I think that every such situation is unique so it’s hard to give any general piece of advice. But I do think that it’s very important to consider all the variables such as safety, access to resources, a support network etc.
- Do you have future projects? Could you tell us something about them?
I do have a few things in the works. Right now all I can tell you is that my next book is another YA contemporary that plays with time and POV.
- What are five random things about you that you love?
This is a fun question! Let’s see:
I love that I don’t care where I am when there’s music playing and I can just start dancing.
I love that I finally found the courage to sing in front of people, because I love it so much!
I love that I sometimes laugh so loudly that I scare people, but I don’t care.
I love that I can make myself laugh, even when other people don’t think my jokes are funny.
I love that I still feel excited about what life will bring my way.
Thank you so much for these wonderful questions!