Book Review: The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

My Rating: ★★★★★

Genre(s): Young Adult; LGBT+

Format: Audiobook by Audible, narrated by Richa Shukla

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Plot: 
Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer. But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective. Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?

Pros:

  • The cover. Look at the front and then look at the back! Absolutely stunning!
  • The audiobook was very immersive, and the accents really helped me get into the story.
  • Rukhsana could be any gay teen with disapproving parents.
  • I got a glimpse into the Muslim culture in such a personal way.
  • Rukhsana’s friends were so great.
  • Rukhsana’s grandmother’s diary played a much bigger role in this than I thought it would.

Cons:

  • Some of Rukhsana’s thoughts were repeated throughout the plot (I can’t think of anything specific, but they were presented as new thoughts each time).
  • Her parents made me so fricking angry.
  • I felt like the resolution with the school was too easy.

My Thoughts: So, I had an Audible credit, and this popped up as a recommendation for me. I one clicked it after listening to the sample, but otherwise went in blind.

And I was completely blown away by the story that unfolded before me.

Rukhsana is a gay high school senior living in Seattle. She hasn’t come out yet, because she’s certain that her very strict Muslim parents would not approve. But when her mother catches her making out with her girlfriend, Ariana, shit hits the fan. She is taken to Bangladesh to see her family, but she soon realizes that her mother may have had ulterior motives.

The plot follows Rukhsana through the hardships of being gay in a community where that could literally cost a person their life. Her relationship with her parents becomes strained, and she tries to do what she can to keep her friendships with back in Seattle intact. She knows she needs to find a way out — but she doesn’t know how.

This book was, in one word, emotional. I felt horrified and angry and so sad for Rukhsana, and I wanted to hit her parents. I felt love for her cousin and grandmother. I loved Ariana. Sabina Khan wrote a truly emotional, real story — one that (I think) represents Muslim culture well, both in America and in Bangladesh.

I loved this book so much that I went and bought the hardcover and the Kindle version just to give her the support she so greatly deserves!

We need more books like this.

Links:
Goodreads
Amazon
Sabina Khan

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