After hearing all the Rep Picks for great upcoming books back in February 2013, one title went to the top of my list to read: If You Could Be Mine, by Sara Farizan (Algonquin Young Readers, $16.99, out today). Sahar and her best-friend Nasrin, live in Iran. They have been friends since childhood and Sahar has been in love ever since, at six, Nasrin pulled her hair and said. “Sahar, you will play with me because you belong to me. Only me”. Innocently telling her mother that she would like to marry Nasrin, Sahar learns that such a desire is haraam, a sin. The two girls, now seventeen, keep their relationship a secret. When Nasrin’s parents arrange for her marriage, Sahar is distraught. She begins to look for ways to keep the two of them together. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime — punishable by death — but being born into the wrong body is regarded as nature’s mistake, a disease that can be cured by corrective surgery, which is sanctioned by the state. As Sahar investigates this option, she struggles with understanding her love for Nasrin and societal definitions of sexuality. Caring only about staying with Nasrin, Sahar is forced to confront the very clear distinction between being a lesbian and being transgender.
The story is infused with Iranian words and customs that will be of interest to readers who enjoy learning about other cultures. It also raises some very challenging questions about sexuality and categorization. But overall, it is a well-written and universal story about a girl growing up and trying to find herself. It’s a story about love and the things we’ll do to hold onto to it and a story about that first discovery when you start to see the world outside of your childhood. If You Could Be Mine is Sara Farizan’s first novel and it is bold. I look forward to seeing more from her in the future.