Whatever was I doing that it took me a year to pick up Sara Farizan’s If You Could Be Mine?
Set in contemporary Iran, a land where the penalty for being caught kissing another girl might be being beaten, imprisoned, or perhaps equally likely, execution, 17-year-old Sahar, is in love with her wonderful, but perhaps less committed, best friend, Nasrin.
All this is scary enough, but teen love grows even more complicated when Nasrin succumbs to pressure to marry. Farizan does brilliant job of sorting through Sahar’s emotions and her options – including Iran’s unique legal/social/religious/political structure where homosexuality may be punished by death but sex-reassignment surgery is legal and accessible. Coming of age in a land where one might be able to love the one she wants – but not as herself, not in the body she wants to be loved in…. Whew!
As universal as all of the best coming-of-age stories, the sense of threat and danger – and the forging on regardless – will resonate with many of us who came out in the Bad Old Days, as well as with many teens here who are also coming out into dangerous environs. Or, of course, with anyone who loves a good tale. But I’m not the first to love this novel:
If You Could Be Mine won both the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction and the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction (and the first book to win both awards), the Lammy for LGBT Children’s/YA, the 2014 ALA Rainbow List Top 10 and more.
“Frank, funny, and bittersweet…”
–The New York Times
Farizan’s new YA novel, this time about an Iranian-American girl, Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel, published this fall, is on the top of my stack.