Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Marrying Ameera - Rosanne Hawke
Author: Rosanne Hawke
Publisher: Harper Collins
Date of Publication: August 2010
Length: 304 pages
From Harper Collins: Ameera,16, is the daughter of an Australian mother and a Pakistani father. She doesn′t realize it, but her father has made plans to marry her off to a wealthy cousin in Pakistan. When her uncle takes her passport and return ticket away, and confiscates her mobile phone, Ameera is trapped. She will have to go through with the marriage. With the help of an organisation that rescues girls in Ameera′s situation, she must demonstrate strength beyond her years to escape from Pakistan and win her freedom.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m always interested to read novels which explore teens with diverse cultural backgrounds and the impact of this on their lives (such as The Good Daughter), so I was intrigued to read Marrying Ameera. The novel centers around Ameera (born to an Australian mother and Pakistani father and raised Muslim), and the first third of the novel depicts her life in Adelaide, before taking Ameera and the reader to Pakistan. Though Ameera is a dutiful daughter, with an interest in her heritage, she also questions aspects of her upbringing and some of the issues and expectations of being a young Muslim in contemporary Australia.
Despite the cultural differences between Ameera and myself, I felt like she is a character a lot of young women can relate to. Once she is sent to Kashmir (supposedly on holiday to help celebrate a cousin’s wedding), we are able to share her thoughts and responses, as she is a ‘Westerner’ and somewhat of an outsider in new surroundings. Her main conflict – to stand up for herself and be able to make her own choices in life or uphold the reputation and honour of her family is an important one for many teens, and this is very well handled by Hawke throughout the course of the narrative.
She attempts tostand up for herself and yet also seems to be torn with a moral issue – the effect her decisions will have on her family, particularly her father. I also thought that the romance storyline (between Ameera and her friend’s older brother, Tariq) was nicely written and quite subtle – quite a refreshing change from a lot of YA romance (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m always interested to read about different teen relationships and the issues bought out in more diverse pairings).
One of the things that impressed me most with Marrying Ameera is the level of detail in Hawke’s writing. You can perfectly see, hear and smell the marketplace bazaar of Muzaffarabad. You take part in the intricate rituals of a traditional wedding preparation. Rosanne does a fantastic job at explaining Pakistani customs and traditional beliefs, in a clear and easy to understand manner. I also find that her writing is very culturally sensitive – you can see how heavily researched her writing is (and Rosanne herself has taught and spent time in Pakistan) and is able to capture Ameera’s voice (the mixture of Western with the Pakistani influence) authentically. I also thought it admirable that Hawke tackled a somewhat controversial topic for a teen audience, and shares some really insightful observations on the difference between arranged and forced marriages (which was something I wasn’t aware of) and allows the reader to make up their own mind, rather than forcing a Western point of view.
For a novel which makes you think and sheds light on a surprisingly contemporary issue (I think we tend to forget that forced marriages still exist but going from these news stories like this and this, they are a reality), Marrying Ameera is an engaging and commendable read.
PS. Isn't the cover stunning? The picture doesn't to it justice, as it also features gold foiling, but it's gorgeous and I included it as one of my 5 Great Covers of 2010.