Two siblings Sohane and Djelila are France-born Muslims. They are the third generation of immigrant from Algeria who live in Lilac housing project. Sohane is a senior and Djelila is a year younger than her, and their bound is undeniably close. Since little, they have shared everything; stories, happiness, sadness, laughter, secrets. Even until they reach teenage life, they still share bedroom in their cramped apartment.
When they are reaching puberty, they choose different pathways. Most importantly, Sohane and Djelila are confronted to choices in defining their identity as Muslims. While Sohane starts going to mosque to pray, Djelila chooses to hang out with their friends, bleaches her hair, wears tight clothes, smokes, and drinks. She thinks that she has rights to choose what she wants, despite her religion. Sohane understands Djelila’s choice and always being supportive even though deep down, Sohane hopes Djelila stop trying to fit in and be what she used to be.
Sohane’s fear turns into reality when Djelila is bullied with a group of youngsters, who are their neighbors in the housing project complex. They say Djelila is not Muslim enough and a “shame to her religion”. On the other hand, Sohane decides to wear a headscarf when it is banned all over France. And she is threatened to be expelled from school.
Either choice has its own consequences.
The novel is opened by a scene where a group of people march on the street holding a banner written WE HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN YOU, DJELILA! Since the beginning, we’ve known that Djelila has been passed away. She is burnt alive with her neighbor, Madjid, because he reckons that Djelila has violated Islamic values, and she “deserves” to get lessons. Throughout Sohane’s point of view, the readers are invited to the past years to understand why and how it happens.
Honestly, I read the book slowly because I didn’t want it to come to end. In my opinion, the book is too short and can be explored more deeply because there’s so many issues I needed to know more. This book widely talks about feminism and the dynamics how society treat women. While Sohane and Djelila’s parents are really moderate; they send the girls to school and they let them to choose whatever they want, at the same time, the society pushes them to be subordinate, even invisible.
“You know what’s so stupid? Those guys bother me because I don’t cover my hair and you’re expelled from school because you want to cover yours. Isn’t it ironic?”
Both Sohane and Djelila, no matter how “conservative” or “liberal” they are, face their own consequences in defining their identity. It is more than a matter of religion. The prejudice and injustice are greater because, one, they are Muslims, two, they are ethnic minority, and three, they are women. They get multiple discrimination because the barriers they face are layered.
I don’t know if it’s related or not, but in 2002, Sohane Benziane was burnt alive by her former boyfriend to only “scare her” but led her to unintentional death. This act was widely disparaged women and, as stated in BBC, “sent France several centuries back.”
Overall, this book is a must-read for those who concern about feminism and women’s movement. The language is easy to understand and does not present the issues in an academic way, but directly relates to the context. Besides that, it also tells the readers about sisterhood, family, and friendship that will warm our heart.
One minor drawback of this book is, the translation is not really smooth, where the tenses used is sometimes jumbled. I was sometimes confused why events happened in the past used present tense. But apart from that, it’s a worth-to-read book.
I rate the book ⭐⭐⭐
I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister
Author: Amelie Sarn, Y. Maudet (Translator)
Pages: 152 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press