A PLACE FOR US
Fatima Farheen Mirza
As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made. There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride. What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best?
A Place for Us takes us back to the beginning of this family’s life: from the bonds that bring them together, to the differences that pull them apart. All the joy and struggle of family life is here, from Rafiq and Layla’s own arrival in America from India, to the years in which their children—each in their own way—tread between two cultures, seeking to find their place in the world, as well as a path home.
A Place for Us is a book for our times: an astonishingly tender-hearted novel of identity and belonging, and a resonant portrait of what it means to be an American family today. It announces Fatima Farheen Mirza as a major new literary talent.
*All the stars, and the beautiful moon that follows each of us, always*
Symbolic, realistic-storytelling at its finest!
A colorful masterpiece and truly a story to savor, A PLACE FOR US uses a soothing voice to deliver a powerful message that will hug the hearts and hold the hands of its readers!
This author lets us know quite distinctly that we are not just readers; we are powerful beings capable of changing the world by altering the way we think. By making an effort to view life through the eyes of others, to consider their struggles and downfalls, and to recognize that we are ultimately one and the same, no matter our gender, race, religious beliefs, or social stature.
We all roam this life as “equals”.
Every single moment in this story is made to materialize before your eyes through writing so profound and poetic it will cause you to pause in tiny moments of silence just to fully absorb the enormous weight of a single delicatesentence.
We not only witness the struggles of this beautiful Indian-American Muslim family, but we are invited to step inside their minds, embody their pain, cry through their failures, and rejoice within their triumphs. I found myself in tears more times than I can count, from being so utterly moved, and so humbly inspired.
Being a character-driven story at heart, I feel compelled to introduce you to this family, because there is nothing better than characters so well-constructed they end up feeling like friends. Like family.
Amar is the youngest child and son of Layla and Rafiq, and brother to sisters Hadia and Huda. This is the main cast of characters guaranteed to find their way into your heart. I was mere minutes inside this story, yet already fully invested in each of their lives.
The story opens at a wedding in present time, where Amar has returned to his family after years of estrangement. Secrets from the past slowly begin to reveal themselves through a timeline that glides seamlessly in and out of past and present settings.
The character development is tremendous. No one is immune to failure nor safe from heartache. This is NOT a neatly-depicted drama with over-the-top lessons and troubles that are magically repaired by the end.
It is strikingly life-like, and delivers one of those most genuine portrayals of an intimate and complex family dynamic I’ve come across in a long, long time.
You can feel the painful trials of each and every one of these characters—and perhaps you can even relate…
To Amar…who feels trapped inside the demands of his Muslim faith and his internal doubt. Born in America, but feeling every bit an outsider, Amar lives in constant fear of betraying his family and their customs. He fights between what he wants, and what he “should” want, never feeling as though any of it is ever good enough.
Or you may find common ground with Hadia…and her perpetual need to please her father, as though her entire self-worth lies solely upon his approval. Often ordered by her mother to “bite her tongue and abandon her protest”, silencing what should otherwise be viewed as admirable determination. And then there’s the colossal pressure placed upon her as eldest child and greatest influencer of her siblings.
Or maybe their parents…who refuse to grant their children the option to live freely within their country, adamant that they adhere to their rigid yet beautiful customs, without granting even an inch of wiggle-room … but there are times they harbor guilt and question their choices, finding it difficult to create a balance.
As the title suggests, this story exemplifies the idea of finding one’s place in life: literally, figuratively, emotionally, culturally, and on all levels—including a place within one’s family, and even inside one’s “self”.
I appreciated that this story’s timeline intersected with 9/11 not in a drawn out manner, but just enough to shed light on the equally unjust side of the coin: I personally remember the shock of that day–September 11th–waking up the next morning afraid of being attacked. What I failed to consider were the innocent ones waking up that same morning afraid of being Muslim.
How it must feel for a good person—a peace-loving person—to be judged and condemned for the hateful act of another.
Various accounts of unfairness and judgment, family strife, true love lost, all saturate these pages—but there is also somuch more.
Those precious little moments in life, so seemingly simple and ordinary that creep in quietly and leave almost entirely unnoticed.
You know the ones: children watching fireworks for the first time with their parents. A walk through a garden, a drive for ice cream. Laughing at the kitchen table while gathering for a meal. The bewitching charm of young love…
These delicate moments are ones we remember the longest and treasure the hardest, and this story is overflowing with the recognition of those “little” things. It highlights their impact and embraces their worth, showing us that it is ultimately the simple things in life that end up defining us. The simple moments that connect us all.
A PLACE FOR US emphasizes the importance of family, relationships, forgiveness, and what it means to love someone wholly and without condition.
This is a powerful piece I won’t soon forget, that touches the heart, provokes deep thought, instills awareness, and inspires hope. Each word is carefully chosen and thoughtfully strung together in such an eloquent arrangement that this story doesn’t speak, but sings.
I love this story with all of me, and I hope you will, too.