Weekend Pick for May 26, 2023
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Upon contemplating my last selection for the month of May, I HAD to select Sabaa Tahir's All My Rage, this year's Printz Award winner. I admit I wasn't familiar with her when this book award was announced but as I read it, I quickly became convinced that she is fantastic.
I was lucky enough to listen to her on a YA panel during the 2023 Tucson Festival of Books. She was funny and passionate and writes from her heart and experiences. I love that she is a champion for daydreaming and brings characters into her stories that reflect her Pakistani heritage, something she saw lacking reflection in the books she read growing up in the Mohave desert of California.
As we close out May and the celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I encourage you to read widely no matter the time of year.
PS-So remember how I mentioned I love to read books that have been brought up repeatedly in conversation? If my description hasn't sold you on All My Rage, listen to fellow YA enthusiast Sahba's recommendation below!
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, I want to shine a spotlight on All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir. This book not only highlights the little represented Asian American community that lies in the Middle East, but it is also written by an author from this same place.
The story follows the journey of two intertwined Pakistani American students navigating adult responsibilities with teenage minds. Sal evolves from a kid scared, ashamed of himself, his religion, and his body, to Salahudin, a man proud of who he is and not afraid to stand up for it either. Throughout the course of the story we find out an unknown that even Sal doesn’t know about himself, he was sexually assaulted as a child. He has aversions to touch, and the laundry, which make relationships and working at his family's hotel quite difficult. He doesn’t remember the assault, but navigates the echoes of its trauma. He also loses his mother, his father being a drunk he has to step up to save the family business. He clings to the idea of saving the business so dearly because he feels it is a piece of his mother. He turns to dealing drugs to keep the family afloat. He is and has been friends with Noor as long as she has been in this country. Their relationship navigates twists and turns, deaths, prison, and comes out on top.
Noor has her own evolution, from a scared, oppressed orphan, to an educated student with a life full of love and forgiveness. Her unknown hidden in the story, and in her life, was the abuse she faced for years at the hands of her “rescuer”, Uncle Chachu. She finally faced it and her abuser in the end, triumphing and living out her dream of going to school. This YA book does a great job of balancing adult themes and youth challenges in a graceful way. The author additionally highlights racism in such a real way, not a that-will-never-happen-to-me way.
As an Asian American Middle Eastern American myself, it was wonderful for me to see myself represented in the media, and this book can do that for others as well. The book opens a conversation about familial abuse, religious expectations, sexuality, and loss. This gripping coming of age story is a must read, with zigzags that you’ll never see coming!