Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed – REVIEW
A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacquelyn Woodson, and Adam Silvera.
Maya Aziz is torn between futures: the one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter (i.e.; staying nearby in Chicago and being matched with a “suitable” Muslim boy), and the one where she goes to film school in New York City–and maybe, just maybe, kisses a guy she’s only known from afar. There’s the also the fun stuff, like laughing with her best friend Violet, making on-the-spot documentaries, sneaking away for private swimming lessons at a secret pond in the woods. But her world is shattered when a suicide bomber strikes in the American heartland; by chance, he shares Maya’s last name. What happens to the one Muslim family in town when their community is suddenly consumed with hatred and fear?
“These terrorists are the antithesis of Islam. They’re not Muslim. Violence has no place in religion, and the terrorists are responsible for their own crimes, not the religion and not us.”
I won this via Readers First a few weeks ago and finally got around to reading it. It’s quite a short book at only 255 pages so I was able to finish it in one night which was great as I didn’t want to put it down. Maya is a seventeen-year-old Indian Muslim living with her parents in a small town in Illinois. Her dream is to study filmmaking at NYU but her parents want her to study law or medicine closer to home. The tension between Maya’s dreams and her parents’ expectations is one of the main threads of the story. How can Maya reconcile being a ‘good daughter’ with wanting to do something she knows her parents disapprove of? I thought the situation was skilfully handled and it was easy to empathise with both sides of the argument.
“One thing I’ve learned: people love a camera, and when I’m filming, they see it, not me, so whenever I need to, I can quietly disappear behind my trusty shield.”
Maya is interested in two boys – confident and funny Kareem who is adored by her parents, and popular and cute Phil who her parents are unaware of. I loved the developing relationship between Maya and Phil. It felt realistically mature, and it was easy to see how they brought out the best in each other. The writing style was beautiful with the author often using cinematographic language to set the scene and the chapters at the pool were lyrically described. It really felt like an extension of Maya’s thoughts as a lover of film. What this book isn’t though is an uncomplicated teenage romance.
“But other romances, like this one, are simply short-subject documentaries – lacking traditional narratives and quippy dialogue.”
From the very beginning, there are extracts from a terrorist’s POV and news articles from the aftermath of the terrorist attack. The suspected identification of the terrorist as Muslim leads to Maya and her parents being targeted by someone with Islamaphobic views. I live in a county with one of the lowest percentages of ethnic minorities in England so I can’t say whether the representation of Muslims was correct but I trust the author to have been careful in her portrayal. It read as terrifyingly realistic and unfair though. Some readers might not like the open ending but I felt it was perfect as it stayed true to the rest of the book. It was a mature epilogue that acknowledges the sacrifices people make to pursue their dreams but it still left the reader with a feeling of hope.
|About the Author
Samira Ahmed was born in Bombay, India, and grew up in Batavia, Illinois, in a house that smelled like fried onions, spices, and potpourri. She currently resides in the Midwest. She’s lived in Vermont, New York City, and Kauai, where she spent a year searching for the perfect mango.