A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
I've been trying to write this review for two weeks and each time I sit down in front of my computer, I feel too intimidated. How do you write about a story that spoke to you in a way that made it completely unforgettable? But also has left so many others feeling similarly?
Here's the thing. A Place For Us is unlike any story that I've read lately BECAUSE of those things. I listened to Fatima talk about her writing process and what this story means to her at an author event last week. One of the many things I took from the event was how many readers raised their hands to not necessarily ask questions but share their experience with the book, how Hadia's story was so much like their own growing up Muslim in America. Or how Layla and Rafiq's parenting resounded with them as they attempt to raise their own children in this world, children raised by parents of different cultural and religious backgrounds. I didn't raise my hand to share my experience because I was too intimidated, but this is what I would have said.
When I started reading A Place For Us, I had no idea what to expect. Even the summary wasn't enough to make me truly understand the depth of the story I was starting. Sarah Jessica Parker responded to a comment I made on Instagram that I should read it with a box of tissues close by. She wasn't wrong. As I worked my way through the story, meeting the members of Amar's family and learning more about the culture of their home and what led Amar to leave his family behind, I found myself thinking about them when I wasn't reading the book. Almost like, maybe they were a family down the street from me? Or friends from school? I felt so connected with their voices. I had to sit with the book in my hand for a little bit after I finished to process everything.
The character that really resonated with me was Layla. As I begin the work of raising my own little boy as he enters the school system, a little boy with a lot of energy and emotion, Layla's struggles and worry really brought me to tears at some points. Her relationship with Amar felt so much like my relationship with my own son. As Amar's story continued, my heart felt so broken for him and for Layla as well who's well meaning act later on only damaged her son more. The layers between Layla and Amar, Amar and his sisters, Rafiq and his children were masterfully written. As a whole this book and the characters in it left me feeling like I had witnessed something special while reading it. A bit of magic that only the best stories can create, when written with such love and dedication.
There is still so much to say. I folded down corners of page after page of passages and lines I wanted to remember and reflect upon later. There are too many to share here, but they left their mark on me for sure.