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Saira Qader es la hija rebelde de una pareja de indo-paquistaníes musulmanes que viven en Los Ángeles. Al contrario que su hermana Amina, Saira lucha por preservar su independencia y hallar un equilibrio entre su voluntad y la de sus progenitores. A medida que narra su propia historia, Saira revela historias de su familia, como la de la infidelidad escandalosa de su abuelo Saira Qader es la hija rebelde de una pareja de indo-paquistaníes musulmanes que viven en Los Ángeles. Al contrario que su hermana Amina, Saira lucha por preservar su independencia y hallar un equilibrio entre su voluntad y la de sus progenitores. A medida que narra su propia historia, Saira revela historias de su familia, como la de la infidelidad escandalosa de su abuelo, la participación de éste en la lucha por la independencia de India, o las vivencias de su tía abuela, profesora de inglés en Pakistán. Descubre así los avatares de una familia dividida tanto por los acontecimientos históricos como por los secretos y mentiras de sus miembros. Su mano sobre mi frente narra el fascinante viaje hacia el pasado de Saira y su proceso de reconciliación con la vida.


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Saira Qader es la hija rebelde de una pareja de indo-paquistaníes musulmanes que viven en Los Ángeles. Al contrario que su hermana Amina, Saira lucha por preservar su independencia y hallar un equilibrio entre su voluntad y la de sus progenitores. A medida que narra su propia historia, Saira revela historias de su familia, como la de la infidelidad escandalosa de su abuelo Saira Qader es la hija rebelde de una pareja de indo-paquistaníes musulmanes que viven en Los Ángeles. Al contrario que su hermana Amina, Saira lucha por preservar su independencia y hallar un equilibrio entre su voluntad y la de sus progenitores. A medida que narra su propia historia, Saira revela historias de su familia, como la de la infidelidad escandalosa de su abuelo, la participación de éste en la lucha por la independencia de India, o las vivencias de su tía abuela, profesora de inglés en Pakistán. Descubre así los avatares de una familia dividida tanto por los acontecimientos históricos como por los secretos y mentiras de sus miembros. Su mano sobre mi frente narra el fascinante viaje hacia el pasado de Saira y su proceso de reconciliación con la vida.

30 review for The Writing on My Forehead

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Again)

    I'm stuck between 3 and 4 stars for this one. I settled on 4 because I like the roll of the prose. Very readable. Some of the "big reveals" are perhaps a bit too predictable---or maybe it's just that I'm a genius. ;-) As Saira reaches adolescence, she begins to probe her family history while on a visit to Pakistan. She discovers some juicy secrets her parents had been keeping from her, but as time goes by also gains a new respect for the choices and struggles of various family members. There's a I'm stuck between 3 and 4 stars for this one. I settled on 4 because I like the roll of the prose. Very readable. Some of the "big reveals" are perhaps a bit too predictable---or maybe it's just that I'm a genius. ;-) As Saira reaches adolescence, she begins to probe her family history while on a visit to Pakistan. She discovers some juicy secrets her parents had been keeping from her, but as time goes by also gains a new respect for the choices and struggles of various family members. There's a passel of novels coming out these days with this theme. Child of Indian/Pakistani immigrants caught between two worlds--wants to be part of the American youth culture while respecting family traditions. This book is a good choice if you want a lighter version of the theme. Nafisa Haji did an especially good job of capturing the endless chatter and gossip among the women in the extended family. In that culture, there is no such thing as "mind your own business." For the numerous aunties, cousins, and grandmas, discussing and arranging your life IS their business. Big Nanima is my favorite character. She is a brazen and intelligent career woman who is a good role model and confidant for Saira. My only real complaint is that the author skips over huge chunks of time. Just when things are getting interesting, there comes an abrupt leap forward with a one sentence brush off of what happened in between. Another 50 pages or so of depth scattered throughout the book would be welcomed by most readers.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tahira

    For the majority of the past year, I've been searching for novels written by Pakistanis, about Pakistanis. As someone who both identifies as a writer and South Asian, I figure that any future personal projects would be strongly influenced by my background. I was curious to see how other writers, those who identify similarly to me, would navigate this kind of task especially with consideration to the audience. I fear that Nafisa Haji hasn't really given readers a well-crafted story here and so I For the majority of the past year, I've been searching for novels written by Pakistanis, about Pakistanis. As someone who both identifies as a writer and South Asian, I figure that any future personal projects would be strongly influenced by my background. I was curious to see how other writers, those who identify similarly to me, would navigate this kind of task especially with consideration to the audience. I fear that Nafisa Haji hasn't really given readers a well-crafted story here and so I have been disappointed. While I believe that Haji had a strong story lurking somewhere within the pages of The Writing on My Forehead, it appears that she could not reign it in. It's not that I don't believe that a novel can have interchanging themes, but I don't believe Haji connected the themes of her story convincingly or fluidly. I would think that most readers appreciate a story that is circular in some way, or at least one where the ends meet. And though life rarely works out that tidily, I find that it is the job of the author to guide us in such a way that the story appears to find an inclusive, comprehensive end. The Writing on My Forehead presents readers with a lot of questions without ever really coming up with resolutions or conclusive purposes for these questions. It for this reason that I felt uncertain about most aspects of this novel. Most especially, I wanted there to be some beautiful and profound revelations or observations, but most of these moments fell short. Additionally, as someone familiar with the Urdu vocabulary, Haji's italicized words and explanations of Pakistani tradition felt clunky and they disrupted the text. While I understand that these explanations are necessary, I feel that they would have been better situated if they were integrated into the context. All in all, I really wanted this novel to be a lovely one, but it simply wasn't. And I'd certainly be willing to read Nafisa Haji's next publication, but The Writing on My Forehead was poorly organized and I think it is for this reason that it did not resonate with me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jasminka

    This is a wonderful novel, so moving, tragic, emotional, captivating, full of wisdom... This is a story of mother-daughters and sisters relationships, a story about family ties and family secrets and loyalties, a story about the past and the future, about personal journey of young Muslim-American curious, questioning girl with strong Pakistani-Indian heritage who grows into an independent woman, struggling between tradition and modernity. The message of this so enchanting book is that your family This is a wonderful novel, so moving, tragic, emotional, captivating, full of wisdom... This is a story of mother-daughters and sisters relationships, a story about family ties and family secrets and loyalties, a story about the past and the future, about personal journey of young Muslim-American curious, questioning girl with strong Pakistani-Indian heritage who grows into an independent woman, struggling between tradition and modernity. The message of this so enchanting book is that your family and your culture always remain an important part of your life and of who you are. Maybe it is a 4 star book( the ending was so quick and it seemed so rushed) but I enjoyed so much and I was able to learn more about an unfamiliar culture that I gave 5 stars instead!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Book Ninja

    Every family has secrets. Some they keep because they don't want to face the truth by repeating it to their next generation. Some things become secrets because your elders don't consider them to be important enough for you to know. And some are kept because they don't want the people involved to be hurt. This book is about family and relationships within families, how history can repeat itself, how your one decision can affect others and the future generations, about past regrets and future worr Every family has secrets. Some they keep because they don't want to face the truth by repeating it to their next generation. Some things become secrets because your elders don't consider them to be important enough for you to know. And some are kept because they don't want the people involved to be hurt. This book is about family and relationships within families, how history can repeat itself, how your one decision can affect others and the future generations, about past regrets and future worries. This book is a story about Saira and her family. She has grown up in US but she has family in Pakistan and UK too. One summer visit to Pakistan and London changes her and her perspective towards her parents and her life. The background of this story has a few major historical events, the fight of freedom from the Britishers, the partition of the subcontinent, the immigration of young people to the West looking for opportunities and last and the most important one is 9/11. Nafisa Haji's writing is beautiful. The way she described Pakistan and the entire wedding culture was so perfect, that I felt I was celebrating all the events and eating all the delicacies with them. I have never been affected by books about the above mentioned historical events but this one was different. It actually made me feel exactly what Saira was feeling. This book was so close to home. After a long time I read a book like this. Enjoyed every moment, every page, every sentence of this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    okyrhoe

    I am filing this novel with a host of other readable, but ultimately forgettable, "light fiction by women writers covering the EastmeetsWest theme" - Chitra Divakaruni, Preethi Nair, Roopa Farooki, Nikita Lalwani* (all reviewed here on my bookshelf). Although momentous historical events (Partition, 9/11) & complex cultural/religious issues feature in The Writing on My Forehead, the treatment is too "light" to bear any substantial commentary on these complex socio-political issues. The book has t I am filing this novel with a host of other readable, but ultimately forgettable, "light fiction by women writers covering the EastmeetsWest theme" - Chitra Divakaruni, Preethi Nair, Roopa Farooki, Nikita Lalwani* (all reviewed here on my bookshelf). Although momentous historical events (Partition, 9/11) & complex cultural/religious issues feature in The Writing on My Forehead, the treatment is too "light" to bear any substantial commentary on these complex socio-political issues. The book has the feel of a cut-and-paste formula, with the characters displaying, more so than not, by now familiar (at least to me) characters & storylines that I have already encountered in the works of the women writers listed above. One exception is the theme of storytelling, especially of narrative elision, that figures prominently in The Writing on My Forehead. Saira's life story is inextricably dependent on the fact that she grows up unaware of the complete story of both her mother's and her father's families. Her resolve to do what she wants in life, contrary to tradition and expectation, is fueled by the revelation that both her parents conceal crucialed details of their respective family histories. Ironically, I feel that narrative omission is what weakens the novel. Eventually we learn that Saira herself is guilty of the same deed - she conceals crucial facts about herself from her family, too. It's not that elision I'm referring to. The period of Saira's life as a journalist is markedly absent from the plot. It's just a background detail merely referenced to, and yet it's supposed to figure prominently in her motivations and her decisions. The story focuses on the whys and wherefores of her return to her family & cultural/social/religious roots, following those educational & edifying experiences. The narrated timeline skips that part of her life altogether. She comes back to her roots when she realizes that's what matters to her most, after traveling round the world. But we are told only of her rebellion and then her return, we don't have the opportunity to know what/why/how transpired in the meantime, what life experiences (besides the romance) she ratcheted up. And this for me is what accounts for the lack of multidimensionality in Saira's character. In the end, Saira's concluding revelations are a bit too sensational & formulaic for my taste, even though they were unforeseeable. * I recommend - Kamila Shamsie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Bharati Mukherjee.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mehvish

    An interesting take on Indo-Pak cultures,families and values. Lost in the midst of tradition and values, Saira an American by passport but brought up with values and beliefs from back home is in search of her roots. Her search takes her through various stories of her family members during and after the split. In my opinion I felt this book showed how people in the Indo-Pak region mix and give greater value to tradition rather religion. On the whole it was a good book but my only complaint for th An interesting take on Indo-Pak cultures,families and values. Lost in the midst of tradition and values, Saira an American by passport but brought up with values and beliefs from back home is in search of her roots. Her search takes her through various stories of her family members during and after the split. In my opinion I felt this book showed how people in the Indo-Pak region mix and give greater value to tradition rather religion. On the whole it was a good book but my only complaint for this book is that the author fails to indicate which time/ tense she's talking about as she skips between time periods. Also, sometimes it gets confusing on who's talking/ narrating the story. Even though I liked the book , there were many aspects of the book which contradicted with my beliefs of certain ideas which were mentioned in the book. The best part of the book were the twists toward the end. This story reminded me of my own family and how me being a third culture kid has affected my idea of what my traditions are.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Betty Curran

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have shared it with many of my friends. Not only is it a story of a young woman becoming an independent adult but it reveals many of the difficulties in blending two totally different cultures. One can only imagine the feelings of guilt when Saira chose a different lifestyle than that dictated by family tradition. Choices made by other family members also come to light as being quite untraditional and in the case of a much loved aunt gives support to the decisi I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have shared it with many of my friends. Not only is it a story of a young woman becoming an independent adult but it reveals many of the difficulties in blending two totally different cultures. One can only imagine the feelings of guilt when Saira chose a different lifestyle than that dictated by family tradition. Choices made by other family members also come to light as being quite untraditional and in the case of a much loved aunt gives support to the decisions Saira makes.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It wasn't until the middle of the story that The Writing On My Forehead nearly broke my heart. And the scene that did it wasn't anything remarkable: it was when Saira decides to lie to her mother about playing Rizzo in her school's production of Grease. Prior to that, although I was enjoying the book, nothing had really moved me very emotionally. But then it hit me, the line that Saira was crossing, and I was touched. Nafisa Haji creates a very personal microcosm around her narrator, but this doe It wasn't until the middle of the story that The Writing On My Forehead nearly broke my heart. And the scene that did it wasn't anything remarkable: it was when Saira decides to lie to her mother about playing Rizzo in her school's production of Grease. Prior to that, although I was enjoying the book, nothing had really moved me very emotionally. But then it hit me, the line that Saira was crossing, and I was touched. Nafisa Haji creates a very personal microcosm around her narrator, but this does not prevent her from weaving a story of many layers. We get more than a glimpse at the intricacies of life in Saira's extended Indo-Pakistani Muslim family, the social contract that exists among family members and the obligations one has to fulfil as a result. Beyond her family, international events progress at their own pace; though Saira becomes a globetrotting journalist, the narrative is confined to Los Angeles, London, and Karachi and the events important to Saira and her family. The only international event to intrude is September 11, and that's because it indirectly affects Saira's life—and the life of her sister, Ameena. Although not didactic by nature, Haji's novel is a useful reminder of the heterogeneity of Islam—both Saira and her slightly more conservative mother express concern when Ameena begins to wear a hijab, for instance. I liked that Haji chose not to present Saira's mother and family as villains pressuring Saira to marry out of a misguided sense of morality; they were just concerned parents who genuinely believed that this was the only way Saira would be happy. The characters of The Writing On My Forehead, from rebellious gay Mohsin to erudite Big Nanima, are dynamic and three-dimensional. Even Saira's mother eventually chooses to reconcile with her estranged half-siblings, partly due to Saira's influential journalism. This is not a book of paper-thin characters following strict moral codes; it's a sandstorm of the conflicting and corroborating moral decisions of an extended family. Indeed, Haji demures from any specific themes of morality, choosing instead to talk about choice and destiny, culminating in perhaps the most poignant line in the entire book: "You won't understand this now, Saira. Later, perhaps. When you are older. When you learn that life is not only about the choices you make. That some of them will be made for you." At its core, The Writing On My Forehead is a chronicle of the push/pull, personal choice versus familial obligation, and a desperate desire to fulfil both. The book is also about sisterhood: Saira and Ameena, Nanima and Big Nanima, Mummy and her two other sisters. There are parallels in the relationships of each of these categories, but they operate on a less explicit level than the book's other themes. Marriage came between Nanima and Big Nanima, as it almost comes between Saira and Ameena. Each of these sisters chooses a different lifestyle, one that appears to work for them, although the others don't always understand how this can be so. Isn't that always how it is, though? The only problem with this book, in my opinion, is the narrative style. The majority of the story takes place during a flashback; that's fine, except that by the time we arrive back at the "present," I had begun to forget what the present was. Perhaps that's a compliment to Haji's ability to draw me into the story and the life of her character. Nonetheless, the flashback presents some difficulty. The first part of the book chronicles Saira's time as a child, up until her college years. Then it skips forward five years to a time just prior to the present. Haji does this in order to conceal the revelation that Saira's niece, Sakina, is actually her daughter, the result of an unintentional pregnancy adopted by Saira's infertile sister. I can tell that this twist is supposed to be eye-opening and shocking, particularly because it happens after Saira's sister is shot and her niece, only six years old, has to deal with her "mother's" death. Yet I think I would have preferred experiencing all of this linearly; instead of a five-year gap, I would have liked to know from the beginning that Sakina is Saira's child. There seems to be little reason to conceal this from us, beyond the pure shock value. The Writing On My Forehead is a profound read, but not as moving as I usually expect from similar books. It made me think about culture, family, and duty. Aside from what's really a technical flaw, this book is quite good, so I won't hesitate to recommend it to those who are interested.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marwa Abdallah

    I finished it in less than 5 days! Something that I have been missing for years! It was so readable as another review stated. I liked the characters, the details and her simple and attractive style, with that vivid cultural and historical emphasis. Looking forward to start reading her second novel.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    I very much enjoyed “The Writing on My Forehead”, the first book by Nafisa Haji. She draws from her own life to setup the scenes of the novel, which takes place in California, Karachi, London, and Mumbai, all of which figure in her own childhood and upbringing. The culture, religion, and issues that her characters face are also ones which she likely faced, and she does a wonderful job of describing them. This novel is written from the point of view of Saira Qadar, who like Nafisa is a Muslim of I I very much enjoyed “The Writing on My Forehead”, the first book by Nafisa Haji. She draws from her own life to setup the scenes of the novel, which takes place in California, Karachi, London, and Mumbai, all of which figure in her own childhood and upbringing. The culture, religion, and issues that her characters face are also ones which she likely faced, and she does a wonderful job of describing them. This novel is written from the point of view of Saira Qadar, who like Nafisa is a Muslim of Indo-Pakistani descent. The story is told from what is close to present day, looking back on the events which have led her to this point. Saira is the younger of two sisters, not as pretty as her older sister, but she is intelligent and bright. The narration takes us from when she was nine, and covers how she learns about her family’s secrets and the impact of how what she learns affects her life. The majority of the book is told in relatively long chapters, with all the details of this important period of her life through her visiting family overseas, to her return to find out that her sister is getting married, to her education and beyond. We meet most of her relatives in these pages and her description of the behavior of the Indo-Pakistani family is very well done, and her descriptions are very vivid and realistic that one feels that they are reading a memoir and not a work of fiction. About three quarters of the way through the book, things change. There is a big hole in the narration, and the reader is left wondering what was left out as the story picks up with Saira returning home after a long absence due to her mother being seriously ill. This part of the book is rather awkward, and the reader wonders if it will ever be filled in, and it will, but it could have been handled better. The story develops more quickly those first two chapters where the hole in Saira’s story occurs. Things change again, as the chapters become very short and have even a quicker pace. Nafisa Haji brings the story back into context with the events of 9/11, and the trajedy that hits the family as a result of that day. The changes which that bring and how it changes her life and pulls her back into her family are well depicted. And then, at last, the hole is filled in, and the reader can appreciate the depth of the story and the characters. This is a very good book, though it does suffer a bit from the hole in the narration. I am not sure what she could have done to cover it better and make it less awkward, but regardless it is an issue. The rest of the book though is very well done and wonderfully written. The way she changes pace really pulls the reader in at the very end. I look forward to reading her next novel.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura de Leon

    I received this book from a Goodreads first reads giveaway. I signed up for several books that looked interesting, and was excited to hear I was selected for this one. I found this book both entertaining and thought provoking. In one sense, this is the story of Saira and her sister. It is the story of of a girl growing into a woman and of the meeting of cultures. It is also the story of an extended family, and many other sibling pairs within it. More than anything else, it is a story of relations I received this book from a Goodreads first reads giveaway. I signed up for several books that looked interesting, and was excited to hear I was selected for this one. I found this book both entertaining and thought provoking. In one sense, this is the story of Saira and her sister. It is the story of of a girl growing into a woman and of the meeting of cultures. It is also the story of an extended family, and many other sibling pairs within it. More than anything else, it is a story of relationships. Saira is a child of Indo-Pakistani immigrants to the US. Her sister seems to be quite happy in the role she is cast into by their parents' culture, but that just isn't the person that Saira is meant to be. Even as a young child, Saira always wants to know "why" and always pushes at her prescribed boundaries. A trip to Pakistan at age 13 introduces Saira to some of her extended family and her family's history. She continues asking "why", and begins to hear the stories of the relationships that helped form who her parents are, and to form their attitudes towards her sister and herself. These come together as she grows older and begins to experience a run of tragedies, ending with one hinted at in the beginning of the book. I found almost all of the characters interesting, likable (in their own way), and individual. In spite of each character having his/her own personality, each pairing (sibling or romantic) contains an echo from other relationships in the family, through different times and locations. Going into this book, I didn't know very much about the history of the relationship between India and Pakistan. Although I was glad to know more, I was saddened to think about how much strife is going on in that part of the world, and reflect on the breadth of it. This is a theme touched on briefly in the book. The writing was very good. There were a few points where it felt clumsy, or where the reader was told things perhaps we should have been left to discover on our own, but these were rare. For the most part, the writing stayed out of my way, which I appreciate in a book. I'd recommend this book, and will keep my eyes out for others by the author. I give it a high 4 stars, wishing once again for half stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Besides being the first book I have ever read by a Pakistani writer and having the subject matter be something so close to my everyday experiences, this book just didn't do it for me. As much as I wanted to like Saira, the supposedly spunky heroine of the novel, I couldn't get past her almost inauthentic voice. To be fair, the poor choices in regards to perspective and point of view made by the author is mostly to blame for that. The story starts in present tense, with Saira in her sister's hous Besides being the first book I have ever read by a Pakistani writer and having the subject matter be something so close to my everyday experiences, this book just didn't do it for me. As much as I wanted to like Saira, the supposedly spunky heroine of the novel, I couldn't get past her almost inauthentic voice. To be fair, the poor choices in regards to perspective and point of view made by the author is mostly to blame for that. The story starts in present tense, with Saira in her sister's house, looking over her niece while she sleeps and recalling, through vivid flashbacks, the details of her life up until that moment. And that is how the majority of the book is presented: in flashback...through the eyes of a grown-up Saira remembering things that adolescent Saira went through. The writing did not pull this ambitious perspective off. Saira didn't have much of a voice, and even if she had, the book wasn't JUST her experiences anyway. It told the story of her grandmother, grandfathers, grand mother's sister, etc. etc. These stories were ALSO in the form of flashbacks that were told to Saira through long-winded monologues by characters within Saira's own flashbacks. So...flashbacks within flashbacks? And although these stories were meant to be told in different perspectives by different people, they were usually in the same vein: fables and fairy tales with strong underlying moral messages usually accompanied by an oral essay of the narrator's beliefs. So not only is the real meat of the book being told by an outside perspective--in the most unimaginative way--but it also gets diluted by Saira's own lens of bias. The ending result being a story told about someone I don't really care about. In the end, I couldn't soldier through it and ended up skipping stuff that just didn't interest me. I skimmed the ending enough to get the general gist of it and felt just as hollow as I did reading the rest of this book. I feel the author gave me no reason to be invested in the story or characters, which is sad because I really wanted to be.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rebekka Steg

    I thoroughly enjoyed "The Writing on My Forehead" by Nafisa Haji. The novel provides an excellent glimpse into an Indian/Pakistani Muslim family's history. It is a novel that keeps unfolding itself, reaching deeper and deeper into the family's past. Not only does this novel manage to provide an insight into the Indian/Pakistani Muslim culture, it also shows beautifully how our past and our family members past shapes us and continue to shape us today. "The Writing on My Forehead" is a break with I thoroughly enjoyed "The Writing on My Forehead" by Nafisa Haji. The novel provides an excellent glimpse into an Indian/Pakistani Muslim family's history. It is a novel that keeps unfolding itself, reaching deeper and deeper into the family's past. Not only does this novel manage to provide an insight into the Indian/Pakistani Muslim culture, it also shows beautifully how our past and our family members past shapes us and continue to shape us today. "The Writing on My Forehead" is a break with past traditions - and at the same time a reconcilliation. Though I would have to agree with other reviewers that the ending seemed a tad rushed, in general, I really enjoyed Nafisa Haji's style of writing. "The Writing on My Forehead" is an excellent debut novel by Nafisa Haji - a very talented upcoming writer, I greatly recommend it to anyone interested in the Muslim culture of the Indian subcontinent or family dynamics in general.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jamila El-Jabry

    The Writing on my Forehead by Nafisa Haji—amazing book with a great twist at the end—a story about a Saira Qader, an American teenager of Indo-Pakistani descent, lives a sheltered life in California with her older sister, Ameena, and their overprotective and fiercely traditional parents. Saira’s view of her family changes dramatically when she attends a wedding in Karachi and learns that her mother had lied to her about Saira’s grandfather: he is not dead but living in London with a second famil The Writing on my Forehead by Nafisa Haji—amazing book with a great twist at the end—a story about a Saira Qader, an American teenager of Indo-Pakistani descent, lives a sheltered life in California with her older sister, Ameena, and their overprotective and fiercely traditional parents. Saira’s view of her family changes dramatically when she attends a wedding in Karachi and learns that her mother had lied to her about Saira’s grandfather: he is not dead but living in London with a second family. Her journey in finding love and herself and learning to live. Post 9/11 and what changed and the biggest twist at the end.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Harvee

    An excellent novel about family ties and a woman's role in a traditional culture. More here... Guest post on her writing by author Nafisa Haji. An excellent novel about family ties and a woman's role in a traditional culture. More here... Guest post on her writing by author Nafisa Haji.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Serena

    Nafisa Haji's The Writing on my Forehead transports readers into another culture and the struggles that members find themselves in as the world around them evolves, causing clashes between modernity and the past. Told from the point of view of Saira, readers are taken on a very personal journey into the past, uncovering the deep secrets of Saira's grandmother and grandfather as well as her own parents. The dynamic between Saira and her sister is only partially shown, with the point of view of Am Nafisa Haji's The Writing on my Forehead transports readers into another culture and the struggles that members find themselves in as the world around them evolves, causing clashes between modernity and the past. Told from the point of view of Saira, readers are taken on a very personal journey into the past, uncovering the deep secrets of Saira's grandmother and grandfather as well as her own parents. The dynamic between Saira and her sister is only partially shown, with the point of view of Ameena silent. From fate to choices, each character must follow their path to the end -- no matter what it holds for them. "I close my eyes and imagine the touch of my mother's hand on my forehead, smoothing away the residue of childhood nightmares. Her finger moves across my forehead, tracing letters and words of prayer that I never understood, never wanted to understand, her mouth whispering in nearly silent accompaniment. Now, waking from the nightmare that has become routine -- bathed in sweat, breathing hard, resigned to the sleeplessness that will follow -- I remember her soothing touch and appreciate it with an intensity that I never felt when she was alive." (Page 1) Saira grows into an independent woman who is running from her culture and tradition to find herself grasping for it in the darkest moments of her life. As an American with a strong Pakistani-Indian heritage and a mother reminiscent of Mrs. Bennet in Pride & Prejudice, it is no wonder that she rebels against tradition and culture to become a traveling journalist. "I shudder, now, to think of how my mother, trying hard and failing to be subtle, got the word of my availability -- accompanied, I learned later, by a full-size, glossy headshot -- out on the proverbial 'street' where desi families gathered and speculated, assessed and collated young people into the 'happily ever after' that getting married was supposed to promise." (Page 191) Haji's prose is eloquent and engages not only the readers' sensibilities and emotions, but their inquisitive nature as family secrets are unraveled. Saira is a complex character who searches for a center, an axis on which she can revolve and become grounded. While she is connected to family, like Mohsin and Big Nanima, throughout her life because they are in effect the outsiders of a culture she rejects, she continues to struggle with her other relations -- her sister, Ameena, her mother and her father -- because they represent to her a culture she finds limiting. The Writing on my Forehead provides a variety of topics for discussion from political imperialism and its consequences to the tension between the modern world and tradition and the modern dilemmas facing adolescents striking out on their own to the loss of family -- making this an excellent book club selection that will inspire debate and introspection.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    4.5 stars. I found this book by chance at the library and am glad I did, for it was quite an interesting read. Saira was born and raised near Los Angeles to Indo-Pakistani immigrants, leaving her struggling to fit in with her mom, who thinks all good girls just need to get married, and her dad, who's very quiet and lets the mom rule the house. Saira wants some sort of independence from this and to select her own path in life, not just follow the one her mom wants, so she leaves and becomes a jou 4.5 stars. I found this book by chance at the library and am glad I did, for it was quite an interesting read. Saira was born and raised near Los Angeles to Indo-Pakistani immigrants, leaving her struggling to fit in with her mom, who thinks all good girls just need to get married, and her dad, who's very quiet and lets the mom rule the house. Saira wants some sort of independence from this and to select her own path in life, not just follow the one her mom wants, so she leaves and becomes a journalist. Now, years later, she's back in town with family and starts to reflect on her experiences growing up, traveling to London, Pakistan, and India, where she learns more about her family than she ever expected, and the ways in which this impacts her life. This book definitely reads more like a family history than a plot-driven book. The story starts off slow, as the reader knows nothing about Saira or her family, but once it went back in time and Saira started to narrate about trips she took to meet relatives across the world, the pace picked up quite a bit and I was hooked. Saira's interactions with her great-aunt are very touching, since she sees a lot of herself in this never-married relative. My other favorite relationship was between Saira and her cousin, Moshin, who form a tight bond early on and deeply impact the other's life. All the relationships in this novel are done particularly well, as they're all realistically developed and believable. I saw the world through Saira's eyes, as she narrated the story, but I could also easily understand other characters' viewpoints. Throughout the novel, I wasn't sure where the plot was going, but I became so invested in the characters lives that it didn't seem to matter. I loved how Saira changes, attempting to rebel against her mom's expectations, and the ways in which her decisions affect herself and others. The writing was beautiful and propelled everything forward in such a fluid way that I barely noticed how quickly I made my way through the book! It was easy to relate to the characters, and I enjoyed this book's different viewpoint of the world; the story wasn't so much about being Muslim but about the struggle between the Pakistani culture and the American one and how to reconcile expectations between the two. My only complaint about the book is probably near the end, when the story caught up to the present instead of continuing to narrate the past. At this point, I feel as though a plot was slightly woven into the narrative, but because there hadn't been a strong plot throughout the rest of the book, it didn't flow quite as freely anymore. Still, I really enjoyed this novel and think it had a lot of parts that will stick with me. I'll be checking out other books by this author for sure.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    In this story, protagonist, Saira Quader is a second generation immigrant of Indo and Pakistani descent, who lives in California with her traditional parents and her older sister Ameena. While trying to honor her Muslim roots, Saira's free spirit and rebelliousness, has her wanting more out of life. Influenced by a great aunt who was a literary scholar, Saira wants to go to college, She chooses a non traditional career as a Muslim-American journalist. (p.40)..."It had never occurred to me to wond In this story, protagonist, Saira Quader is a second generation immigrant of Indo and Pakistani descent, who lives in California with her traditional parents and her older sister Ameena. While trying to honor her Muslim roots, Saira's free spirit and rebelliousness, has her wanting more out of life. Influenced by a great aunt who was a literary scholar, Saira wants to go to college, She chooses a non traditional career as a Muslim-American journalist. (p.40)..."It had never occurred to me to wonder why we visited Pakistan and never India, where my mother and father were actually from. Now I knew, that Mummy had forsaken her country because of her anger at her father. That breaking ties with him, she had also broken off wit the rest of her family." (p. 146)...."I came home from that summer in Karachi and London--head swimming with the voices of a reconstructed past, full of self-importance I couldn't wait to share --only to find my family had been arranging the future in my absence Ameena's future at any rate." The story spans a period of about twenty years and spans three continents. The story is told through flashbacks of Saira's childhood, and by doing so the reader learns about some family secrets and scandals. These secrets are what seems to give Saira the permission she needs to live her life the way she chooses. It is also these secrets which seem to bring her closer to her family. MY THOUGHTS - This was an impressive multi-layered, debut novel. Its themes are universal: a coming of age story that addresses mother-daughter relationships, a story about family ties, and family secrets, and it is also a story about immigrants and about spirituality too. The writing is simple, yet fresh and vivid, and the story unfolds in an appealing way. What I enjoyed the most about the book was that I was able to learn more about an unfamiliar culture in the process. The novel moves easily between past and present, and the overall message is clear -- no matter where your life takes you, your family and your culture always remain and important part of who you are. The only issues I had about this book, were the fact that the last quarter of the book seemed a bit too rushed. I also would have preferred a bit more focus on the protagonist herself. Despite this, I still really enjoyed the story, and I was happy I had an opportunity to read and review this book. If you enjoy multi generational stories, and books about other cultures, then you would most likely enjoy this book as well. RECOMMENDED - (4/5 stars)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    The Writing on My Forehead is part of the growing genre about the immigrant experience in the US. It is the story of Saira Qader and her family, spanning 20 years and three continents. Saira's parents are Indian Moslems with their "global network" of family ties in England and Pakistan as well as the US. Saira's mother, Shabana, is very traditional, banning anything shorter than the knee after 12, eschewing Western-style dancing, performing in school plays. Any deviation from her view as appropr The Writing on My Forehead is part of the growing genre about the immigrant experience in the US. It is the story of Saira Qader and her family, spanning 20 years and three continents. Saira's parents are Indian Moslems with their "global network" of family ties in England and Pakistan as well as the US. Saira's mother, Shabana, is very traditional, banning anything shorter than the knee after 12, eschewing Western-style dancing, performing in school plays. Any deviation from her view as appropriate male/female interaction leads Shabana to brand her daughter a "whore" who is ruining her chances on the Pakistani marriage market. Saira is rather rebellious (at least compared to the constraints imposed by her mother, but not in American terms) but her sister is the perfect Indo-Pakistani daughter in Shabana Qader's eyes, beautiful, fair skinned, amenable to an arranged marriage at 19, polite to her elders, with the goal to be a wife and mother first and foremost. The novel centers around the fissure between tradition and modernity or maintaining ties to the past versus adopting Western culture. Somehow, the novel does not become a cliche although those themes are rather common. Ms. Haji avoids cliche, I think, through excellent writing and fascinating characters. She seems to really "get" the first generation English (Saira's twin cousins are very interesting) and American children of Indo-Pakistani immigrants. She captures the East meets West rebellion quite well and somehow avoids the happy, Bend it Like Bekham ending that one would expect from this genre. Ms. Haji also avoids a morality play kind of ending in which Saira is judged for her rebellion from traditional mores. Further, she avoids an ending where Shabana Qader all of a sudden adopts modernity. This is not to say that the characters don't evolve - they do - but they evolve in a way that makes sense for the personalities that Ms. Haji skillfully develops. This is a great book - I liked it as much as Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake and highly recommend it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I absolutely enjoyed my journey through this novel. In the first half, the reader is plunged into a series of stories and family history with 14-year-old Saira as she journeys from Los Angeles to London to Pakistan for her cousin’s wedding. I felt as though I were sitting in a room full of Saira’s family members, drinking tea and listening to each of them tell me their story. The second part of the novel is Saira’s story of growing up and finding herself in spite of - or because of – her family’ I absolutely enjoyed my journey through this novel. In the first half, the reader is plunged into a series of stories and family history with 14-year-old Saira as she journeys from Los Angeles to London to Pakistan for her cousin’s wedding. I felt as though I were sitting in a room full of Saira’s family members, drinking tea and listening to each of them tell me their story. The second part of the novel is Saira’s story of growing up and finding herself in spite of - or because of – her family’s rich history. The family history is only possible through the story of the Partition of India (the splitting of British India into sovereign India and Pakistan on the basis of religion). Saira’s Muslim family is forced to scatter. First to Pakistan and then to England and the United States and must eventually deal with the difficulties of being second-generation immigrants and the prejudice of Post-9/11 America. I found myself learning about this culture in a way I hadn’t through basic facts. Haji writes beautifully. The language had a rhythm to it that propelled me forward as much as the plot and brought the stories to life. Haji did a wonderful job of creating memorable and unique characters. I grew to love Big Nanima like Saira does and appreciate Mohsin’s courage and ideals. I celebrated on happy occasions and cried for the losses along the way (I probably shouldn’t have put my eye makeup on before sitting down to finish the book). I even got so caught up in the characters and their stories that I had forgotten how the novel started and was surprised as the inevitable events unfolded. I highly recommend this book to everyone because who doesn’t like a little story-telling?

  21. 4 out of 5

    DubaiReader

    Great twist at the end :) I really enjoyed this novel, it started off well and just kept getting better - until at the end we discover something that I never would have guessed. That, for me, is the sure sign of a good book. The central character is Saira, the younger sister of Ameena. Although Ameena is very happy in her arranged marriage to Shuja, this is not enough to convince Saira that she wants to settle down to married life. Living in America, travelling to Pakistan, Saira also has relativ Great twist at the end :) I really enjoyed this novel, it started off well and just kept getting better - until at the end we discover something that I never would have guessed. That, for me, is the sure sign of a good book. The central character is Saira, the younger sister of Ameena. Although Ameena is very happy in her arranged marriage to Shuja, this is not enough to convince Saira that she wants to settle down to married life. Living in America, travelling to Pakistan, Saira also has relatives in London; she has absorbed much of her Pakistani culture while simultaneously becoming a young American. This of course causes internal conflicts but also provides a huge supportive extended family. I loved the feel of this worldwide family with its many wonderful characters. The huge network was ultimately responsible for providing Saira with her career choices and one of her relationships and in spite of calamities along the way had a wonderful 'feel-good' quality. The story begins with Saira as a young girl and takes us through her days as a student and eventually an international journalist. The title is beautifully apropriate, also evoking the closeness of the family. I can't believe this is the author's first book, I hope she won't leave it too long to write another.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elise Grinstead

    Haji has an unique ability to take a span of a lifetime and fluidly wrap it into 200 something pages. Even better--though it's overall in chronological order, she weaves moments of the past, even previous generations, into the story effortlessly. A very enjoyable read. More than that--there were two passages that really struck me: “I’m not normally so impressed by young writers. Altogether too self-consciously clever, too pat, too neat. Creative nonfiction is particularly repulsive—blurring the li Haji has an unique ability to take a span of a lifetime and fluidly wrap it into 200 something pages. Even better--though it's overall in chronological order, she weaves moments of the past, even previous generations, into the story effortlessly. A very enjoyable read. More than that--there were two passages that really struck me: “I’m not normally so impressed by young writers. Altogether too self-consciously clever, too pat, too neat. Creative nonfiction is particularly repulsive—blurring the line between fact and fiction in a world already unable to distinguish one from the other. Your piece, however—it was nothing but a list of questions and doubts. No attempt to provide any answers. A lament, really. You were painfully aware of your limitations—and played to them in a way that was rather interesting…Questions are all that matter. The answers don’t belong to you.” -pgs 222-223 "In journalism, truth is too easily rendered irrelevant, subject to the design and construction of facts. In fiction, facts are irrelevant, subject to the storyteller's quest for truth. Truth is dangerous. The novel is the most subversive expression of truth there is. Because the greatest truths can be hidden in the fiction of a novel." -page 229 I will be thinking about those passages for a long time.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sherri

    I would actually rate this as closer to 3 1/2 stars. I couldn't quite rate it 4 stars because the ending seemed rushed and out of sync with the rest of the story. While this story is about the experiences of a second generation Indian/Pakistani immigrant, I think it is much more a story about family, mothers, daughters and sisters. Saira, while growing up in America, is raised to follow her family's Indian/Pakistani culture, including the importance of family. While traveling to a cousin's weddi I would actually rate this as closer to 3 1/2 stars. I couldn't quite rate it 4 stars because the ending seemed rushed and out of sync with the rest of the story. While this story is about the experiences of a second generation Indian/Pakistani immigrant, I think it is much more a story about family, mothers, daughters and sisters. Saira, while growing up in America, is raised to follow her family's Indian/Pakistani culture, including the importance of family. While traveling to a cousin's wedding in Pakistan, Saira learns of family secrets that challenge and perhaps encourage her to choose a path for her future that is at odds with her family's culture. This book has many passages that are eloquently written, memorable and meditative. My favorite: "If? There's no if. There is only what is. What was. What will be." The author returns to that phrase throughout the book as Saira makes decisions, some of which in hindsight have unintended consequences. The challenges confronting Saira, the background of the history of the Indian/Pakistan split and the family secrets make this book an ideal choice for book clubs.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    A very good first novel with an interesting post-9/11 theme and a historical undercurrent. My main complaint is that it needed a bit more editing. Why did the acquiring editor allow her to quote a side character's boring political speech about journalism at length? My eyes glazed over after about the third sentence, and it went on for more than a page. It had nothing to do with the story, and in fact it made it seem less likely that the main character would actually find him attractive the way s A very good first novel with an interesting post-9/11 theme and a historical undercurrent. My main complaint is that it needed a bit more editing. Why did the acquiring editor allow her to quote a side character's boring political speech about journalism at length? My eyes glazed over after about the third sentence, and it went on for more than a page. It had nothing to do with the story, and in fact it made it seem less likely that the main character would actually find him attractive the way she does. The book's ending veers into the maudlin as well, unfortunately. A lighter hand would have been helpful, and a good acquiring or development editor would have provided that. More careful copyediting would have been welcome too. Alas, fiction publishing, like much of the rest of the industry, is cutting a lot of corners these days.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lori Weir

    A masterful tale of culture--a family's history as it unfolds parallel to modern history--and how individual choices affect so many. A fascinating glimpse into an Indo Pakistani world where family and culture are embedded into the main character's life, no matter how she tries to distance herself. The Indo Pakistani family relationship rules shape the lives and decisions of all the characters, even those who think they are rebelling. Family love is paradoxical - all encompassing, all inclusive w A masterful tale of culture--a family's history as it unfolds parallel to modern history--and how individual choices affect so many. A fascinating glimpse into an Indo Pakistani world where family and culture are embedded into the main character's life, no matter how she tries to distance herself. The Indo Pakistani family relationship rules shape the lives and decisions of all the characters, even those who think they are rebelling. Family love is paradoxical - all encompassing, all inclusive while at the same time extremely smothering, a la "The Joy Luck Club" by Amy Tan. The author has reinforced my belief that regardless of where we come from, we're more alike than we are different. There are universal truths in the human experience--joys and sorrows, arguments and laughter, births and deaths, complicated relationships, and yes... family secrets.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    This one is an easy book to get into. It is a story told from the perspective of young Saira, a Pakistani girl living outside of Pakistan. We journey with her to Pakistan for an aunt's wedding, where she learns of her family's troubles from wonderful gossipy older ladies. In between paans, photos and juicy tales, we fall in love with Saira and see her relationships with her older sister, Ameena, and her parents and extended family through her eyes. The most significant relationship so far seems t This one is an easy book to get into. It is a story told from the perspective of young Saira, a Pakistani girl living outside of Pakistan. We journey with her to Pakistan for an aunt's wedding, where she learns of her family's troubles from wonderful gossipy older ladies. In between paans, photos and juicy tales, we fall in love with Saira and see her relationships with her older sister, Ameena, and her parents and extended family through her eyes. The most significant relationship so far seems to be with older sister, Ameena, but we don't know much yet. The beginning scene opens with Saira having a nightmare about Ameena's death and she wakes to visit with Ameena's daughter who stays in Ameena's childhood room. Can't wait for more!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    A very good book; a compelling and thoughtfully written work. Many favorite well crafted sentences, the opening being my favorite. "I close my eyes and imagine the touch of my mother's hand on my forehead, smoothing away the residue of childhood nightmares." ...."I remember her soothing touch and appreciate it with an intensity that I never felt when she was alive.I shake my head to dispel the longing." "...few cared about Rushdie's novel per se. It was its effect that was the story, not its cont A very good book; a compelling and thoughtfully written work. Many favorite well crafted sentences, the opening being my favorite. "I close my eyes and imagine the touch of my mother's hand on my forehead, smoothing away the residue of childhood nightmares." ...."I remember her soothing touch and appreciate it with an intensity that I never felt when she was alive.I shake my head to dispel the longing." "...few cared about Rushdie's novel per se. It was its effect that was the story, not its content." p.225 "Truth is dangerous. The novel is the most subversive expression of truth there is. Because the greatest truths can be hidden in the fiction of a novel." p.229 "That is what fiction is--truth obscured, less susceptible to manipulation because it is hidden." p. 229

  28. 4 out of 5

    مريم يوسف

    I deeply enjoyed the rebellious element of this book. How culture and tradition are always viewed as barriers that limit our potential, instead of the contrary. Whoever reads this book develops along with its characters. When Saira, the protagonist, adopts a mindset, so will the reader. When she makes certain decisions that aren't quite acceptable in her culture, she has a way of convincing us that, to her, it is. I love when novels of the same genre open up different doors to different perspecti I deeply enjoyed the rebellious element of this book. How culture and tradition are always viewed as barriers that limit our potential, instead of the contrary. Whoever reads this book develops along with its characters. When Saira, the protagonist, adopts a mindset, so will the reader. When she makes certain decisions that aren't quite acceptable in her culture, she has a way of convincing us that, to her, it is. I love when novels of the same genre open up different doors to different perspectives. As an Arab, reading about how other cultures aren't that much different from my own is fascinating. Well done.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Josie

    Beautiful, utterly beautiful. I totally absorbed into the writing of the wonderdul story of culture, struggles, family and pursuing your own path in life. I enjoyed the wonderful stories that are told throughout this book, and read on with a hunger for everything to be alright and turn out ok. The twists the stroy has are both surprising and endearing. For a 1st novel I think it is a great start to what I hope is a budding career for this writer, and I hope to be able to enjoy more books from her Beautiful, utterly beautiful. I totally absorbed into the writing of the wonderdul story of culture, struggles, family and pursuing your own path in life. I enjoyed the wonderful stories that are told throughout this book, and read on with a hunger for everything to be alright and turn out ok. The twists the stroy has are both surprising and endearing. For a 1st novel I think it is a great start to what I hope is a budding career for this writer, and I hope to be able to enjoy more books from her.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    This is a story of Saira, a first generation Muslim American of Indo-Pakistani background. She rebels against her family's culture, faith and values by becoming a journalist who travels the world telling other people's stories. In the process she discovers her own grandfathers' stories and when tragedy strikes her family she has to reevaluate her faith and her place in her family. The story takes place in India, Pakistan, London and Los Angeles. I really enjoyed this book. It made me think about This is a story of Saira, a first generation Muslim American of Indo-Pakistani background. She rebels against her family's culture, faith and values by becoming a journalist who travels the world telling other people's stories. In the process she discovers her own grandfathers' stories and when tragedy strikes her family she has to reevaluate her faith and her place in her family. The story takes place in India, Pakistan, London and Los Angeles. I really enjoyed this book. It made me think about our roles in our families and what obligations we face being part of a family.

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