Welcome to Reader vs. Reader (anyone have any wicked name suggestions???). Two librarians who have read the same book will discuss it critically. They may agree, agree on certain points, or completely disagree. RvR will challenge your reading comfort zone and dig deeply into the text to find potential problems or subtle brilliance. And maybe both.
In , Andrea and Pam both read
Two sisters. Two lives. One future.
Sohane loves no one more than her beautiful, carefree younger sister, Djelila. And she hates no one as much. They used to share everything. But now, Djelila is spending more time with her friends, partying, and hanging out with boys, while Sohane is becoming more religious.
When Sohane starts wearing a head scarf, her school threatens to expel her. Meanwhile, Djelila is harassed by neighborhood bullies for not being Muslim enough. Sohane can’t help thinking that Djelila deserves what she gets. But she never could have imagined just how far things would go. . . .
The Quick Reactions:
|Pam: A definite thumbs up from me. I loved their discussions of feminism and belief and religion and everything.
||Andrea: Thumbs up. Short book, but man the emotional punch it packs.
Snippet of our conversation (Warning: spoilers everywhere!):
Pam: I loved the looking back/current time narrative structure.
Andrea: That bothered me a couple times, but over all I liked it. I think it irritated me because I wanted more details. Like if I had to put out one complaint I would have liked to know more about her death. How did he get her down there?
Pam: Mmm, it wasn’t super clear why exactly he decided to take it to that extreme, but I think that’s kind of the point? Extremeism is not the norm of a religion.
Andrea: I can agree to that. I can also see why not knowing the details makes us empathize more with Sohane. There are many times that details are never know and the survivors just have to live with that
Pam: It really made me stop and reflect because I realized that when I was teaching there, about half the girls in my classes wore hijab, but it was college. And like Sohane, they didn’t debate. I couldn’t understand it but now I feel like I get it. If they pushed too hard, they’d be kicked out of school. Ugh, I feel so ignorant now. And they all came in from the suburbs on the train like where Sohane and Djelala live. And they were so very sweet but wouldn’t debate anything, which was the point of conversation class. I feel so awful for pushing as much as I did. This might have been the first time they could wear hijab to school without being kicked out.
Andrea: It’s kind of cool that you get that reflection though! New window into an old experience.
Pam: Also: their grandmother was pretty awesome, and so were her friends. It’s such a short book, but I would have loved more of her.
Andrea: Yes, I loved the g’ma scene!I also love how many sides of feminism we get to see. It was awesome that a short book could pull out so many nuances
Pam: Yes! The scene where she goes to the rally/vigil a year later and is kicked out for wearing her headscarf was like a gut punch. Because “feminism”.
Andrea: Yes! But she did that scene so skillfully. Also, she did it perfectly via Sohane a bit as well. Showing how Sohane looked down on Djelala until it finally just clicked.
Pam: So powerful. All those intersections of family and religion and gender and nationality were really skillfully handled.
Andrea: Indeed. And while at times they were so personal to the situation, it was also such a reflection of life. Like how she thought her sister was a slut for wearing tight jeans.
Pam: And how SHE would never do that because it would make HER uncomfortable, therefore everyone should act the way she feels.
Andrea: Yes! But how wearing the headscarf should be okay because it’s what she wanted. The duplicity of how we think about ourselves and about others.
Pam: And also that very black and white way of looking at good vs. bad. Sohane experiences it herself at school once she wears her headscarf and suddenly instead of being treated as usual, like the smart girl and the quiet girl, she is an enemy because she Broke the Law, which is an awful law.
Andrea: Mmhmm, or how neither way of life was without haters so to speak. Even their grandmother has her son looking down on her.
Pam: All of that is really embodied in the sisters’ relationship: I love her I hate her but at the same time.
Andrea: Yes. The title of this book fit so well. 8 words that describe the feels of this book
Pam: There were some nitpicky translation things but overall I thought it was really well done. Like Lilac, where they live, is a suburb called Les Lilas (the lilacs) east of Paris. I didn’t get why they translated the place names. ???
Andrea: Yeah, it was a little weird. Honestly, had they not said every so often they were in Paris I would have forgotten. The setting just wasn’t very grounded. Of course, that could be a translation/foreign book thing.
Pam It was pretty vague–yeah. I think if they had left it it would have been slightly more obvious??? But the whole am I French/am I Algerian/what am I is a real struggle for so many people there and I’m really glad there’s a book about it. I think in the US we focus a lot on the racism in our country without thinking that other countries that seem “better” have it too, and in some ways, more cruelly. I would never want to live there again because France is so horribly racist. Because invading parts of Africa and then letting them pick up the pieces after the wars and then trying to deny those French citizens access to the country of France is super nice. -_- Like the reporter who approached her? That was so realistic. It’s very anti-religion anti-North African.
Andrea: Nods. It was very eye opening about the experience there Although, it felt so universal as well. I could have easily believed it was America
Pam: Yes! Especially now when racism is even MORE out in the open
Andrea: Mmhmm. If she would have said it was the US in 5 years, I would have been like “yeah I can see it”. So, I like that it was a view into Paris, but that it was all universal as well. Any time could pick up that book and relate
Pam: Yeah, it wasn’t dated in references. I didn’t realize it was from 2005 until I just checked. I thought it was much more recent. I’m going to promote this book so much when I return it!
Andrea: Same 🙂 YAY for solid thumbs up books!
Pam : Without any reservations!
Stay tuned next month when we’ll duke it out over On The Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis . If you have a suggestion for what a future read, please let us know!