Ladies, it’s time to acknowledge and celebrate the many feats we Muslim women have achieved in the past few years. From being part of the Forbes 30 Under 30 list as the first — and only — niqabi (Hafsah Faizal), to having sold more than a million books globally and in 30 different languages (Tahereh Mafi), you have to admit that Muslim women are absolutely killing it in the publishing world.
Now, we have another phenomenally written book by a Muslim woman ripe for reading: Unsettled, by Reem Faruqi.
“If I could choose
From all the days on this earth
To live over and over,
I’d skip today.”
Unsettled by Reem Faruqi follows Nurah, a 13-year-old Pakistani girl who has her entire life turned upside down when her father informs her that they will be moving to Peachtree City, Georgia, all the way in America. Anxious and upset, Nurah must now say goodbye to the people and places she loves and has called home since birth to navigate an entirely different country, culture, and people.
We’re introduced to Nurah and her close-knit family: her older brother by two years and two days, Owais, her parents, both maternal and paternal grandparents, and her best friend, Asna. We get to witness the close bonds Nurah has with each of these people, and experience some of the tenderness associated with those relationships. Nurah and Owais share a typical sibling relationship where they tease each other, but are also fiercely protective of each other and love each other. Nurah’s bond with her Nana is especially heartwarming, and her bond with her Dadi, who has Alzheimer’s, is especially heartbreaking.
“When I tell
Of my father
She doesn’t wish me
A safe trip
A happy life
Lots of love.
Instead, she asks me my name.”
The novel is a series of poems, ranging from free verse, haikus, and rhyming poems, divided into sections based on the life cycle of a flower. It’s a clever play on Nurah’s subsequent growth both as a Muslim and as a young girl. Faruqi has an excellent way of writing. Each poem is cleverly written, and each verse hides a metaphor that can be understood easily and applied in a variety of different contexts. The way Nurah handles grief after her mother’s miscarriage, how she processes loss and guilt and happiness, is all so well-written that it almost feels like you, the reader, are actually in her shoes.
While the transition between living in Pakistan and living in America, and adjusting to the changes, is a major plot point, Nurah’s internal struggle and growth is another plot point that is definitely one of the highlights of the entire novel. We see Nurah going from discarding her kurtas and salwars made by her grandmother to wearing jeans and shirts to fit in at school. And we see just how much that affects her. It’s quite amazing to see the thought process behind those changes and then see how Nurah decides not to let anyone dictate how she chooses to dress and learns to accept herself as she truly is, a Muslim immigrant from Pakistan.
The story of Nurah is not only very relatable, but also very commendable. We have a young teenager who is clearly going through an identity crisis and learning how to do everything the “American” way and yet, she‘s also very mature, owns up to her mistakes, learns to embrace who she is and tries her best to be positive. Unsettled is definitely a book that will easily capture the hearts of many, and I cannot wait to add it to my bookshelf.
Get your copy today.