Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review: If You Could Be Mine

If You Could Be Mine
By Sara Farizan
Published: August 20, 2013

In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?

My review:

I wanted to read this book partly because I was not familiar with the plight of homosexuals and transsexuals in Iran. I was surprised to find that while homosexuality is illegal, it is perfectly legal to be a transsexual and that the government even helps pay for the surgery. The main reason I wanted to read this book however was the predicament that Sahar found herself in. Now that Nasrin's engagement has been announced, time is running out for their relationship. Sahar is so desperate to be with Nasrin that she contemplates becoming a man in the hopes that they can be together.

It was really sad to see not only what Sahar faces but also Ali, her gay cousin, and Parveen, a friend of Ali's who has gone through sex reassignment to become a woman. Other memebers of Parveen's support group have also suffered prejudice and cruelty even though their status is legally recognized. There is also the character of "Daughter", a very young prostitute who dreams of studying Arabic but sees no way out of her life. These characters and their struggles were really moving. In contrast, I found Nasrin to be an annoying spoiled brat who wants to be pampered and adored. 

Sahar is not perfect by any means-she is really living in a naive dream world when it comes to the idea of stopping Nasrin's marriage but she is motivated by love at least. I am glad that this book was about much more than Sahar's relationship with Nasrin because I found it difficult to like Nasrin.  Nasrin is almost purely selfish. There were times that this made me feel irritated with Sahar because of all that she was willing to give up for someone who didn't quite deserve it.

Instead of just focusing on their relationship, the book also looks at Sahar's broken relationship with her dad who has kind of given up on life since the death of Sahar's mom. The main focus of the book is on the plight of people who are gay or transgendered in Iran and the ultimate decision that Sahar must make. There are moments in this book that are very emotional. I can't imagine that kind of pain. I really felt for the characters and all they had to go through just for trying to be true to themselves. 

It takes Sahar awhile to grow up and figure out what is best for herself. Through her new friendship with Parveen and a new understanding of Ali and Nasrin, I think Sahar is at a better place and able to make peace with herself and her dad. I liked how she reached past her own pain to help Daughter. At the beginning, she was kind of self absorbed but by the end of the book she really has matured. While I didn't care for the romantic relationship between Sahar and Nasrin because it felt like it was almost one-sided, I did care about Sahar and the other characters. I wanted to see them find some happiness and in a way they do.

If You Could Be Mine is a sensitive portrayal of what life is like for the transgendered and gay community in Iran and it is the story of a young woman who has to learn some hard truths about love and growing up.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher


  1. Nasrin was pretty awful but she had her moments of sweetness with Sahar that helped me care more about Sahar's decision to try to be with her. I thought the ending was pretty optimistic and I was satisfied with it.

  2. Great review for this book! I've been curious about the book for a while now, but your review is the first I've read for it. Sounds like it will be a very interesting read. :)


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