Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

Okay, first of all, I was utterly, unbelievably frustrated reading this book. I was getting too emotional, I felt anger was boiling inside me.

Congratulations and thank you, Aisha Saeed, Written in the Stars is painfully beautiful. This is a great piece of writing that you will never want to put it down. Great story, great plot and twists, strong characters, and important issue that anyone should be aware of.

Plot

Written in the Stars is a story about Naila, a 18-year-old senior who is about to graduate from high school. She is a Pakistani descent, but never once steps foot in there. The only home she knows is Florida.

Even though Naila lives in a big city, her family always sticks to the tradition. She has rights to choose what shoes or clothes to wear, she has rights to aim high, and she has been accepted in college because she wants to be a doctor. However, she never gets to choose the man of her life. Since forever Naila has been told that her family knows the best and will never disappoint her. That is why Naila is forbidden to see any boys. Even standing near a male friend would freak her parents out.

But Naila can’t help falling in love with Saif, her high school sweetheart. Being in a secretive relationship is not easy for them, particularly for always being dishonest to Naila’s family. Deep down, Naila always convinces herself that someday her parents would understand and give their blessing to their relationship; that arranging a marriage for her is not always the best way to find him. Naila has found the one.

Everything goes wrong when Naila’s parents find out the truth. Frustrated, they decide to have a last-minute family vacation to Pakistan to remind Naila her roots and where she comes from. Naila agrees and considers that it would be great to finally meet her extended family. Moreover, probably it could calm her parents down and open up their eyes.

In Pakistan, at first Naila is excited to see new faces, new places, and new traditions. People come and go, give mesmerized look and ask her curious questions about America. Naila also befriends with her cousin Selma who feels like a long-lost sister. They share and tell stories about everything, except one, boys.

However, one cannot keep a secret forever. It comes into one point where Naila learns that she is in Pakistan not for a family vacation, but to get married! After seeing Naila with Saif, her parents assume that getting married sooner is better for Naila. Not with Saif, but with someone they have chosen.

My Review

I needed to stop halfway through to put myself together. This book is so painful, makes me angry and depressed. Like what the author said, even if the story is fictional, forced marriage is reality and still haunts millions of girls today. Sometimes forced marriage doesn’t stand alone; it also followed by child marriage. Especially in a poor family, young girls are married off to lift the family’s burden. “One less mouth,” they say. But forced marriage also frequently happens because of the tradition.

This book shows that in a patriarchal society, women always the ones who take care of family’s pride and dignity. If a woman has done something that wounds it, she would be a disgrace for the whole family; even worse, the clan. Women sometimes do not allowed to show themselves off because their identity is blurred and fused with family’s identity.

“Everyone is talking about us now. They’re laughing at us.
How can we ever show our face anywhere again?”

Furthermore, it is not surprising that they are associated with domestic life and expected to stay silent, invisible, and behind men’s back.

“Can you cook a rice?” […] Do you know how to sew and stitch as well?”

For many young girls, they are not allowed to decide without the father’s/parents’/family’s consent. Most of the times men are considered more powerful than women. This assumption that “traps” and put women into a subordinate or even second-class citizen position.

However, I like how the story shows how strong Naila is. She defies those ‘feminine’ quality and stereotype. Even though she is oppressed and expected to always obey and stay silent just because she is a girl, she isn’t just some a damsel in distress who motionlessly waits for her prince charming to come. She always tries to find her way out.

I rate the book ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Written in the Stars
Author: Aisha Saeed
Year: 2015
Page: 277 pages
Publisher: Paulsen Books

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