Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali
by Khan, Sabina

Hoping to hide her authentic self from her conservative Muslim parents until she can depart for college, 17-year-old Rukhsana is caught kissing her girlfriend and whisked away to Bangladesh, where she fights an arranged marriage by consulting the wisdom she finds in her grandmother's diary.

Sabina Khan writes about Muslim teens who straddle cultures. She was born in Germany, spent her teens in Bangladesh, and lived in Macao, Illinois, and Texas before settling down in British Columbia with her husband, two daughters, and the best puppy in the world. Visit her online at

Rukhsana Ali chafes against her conservative Muslim parents and their hopes for her future. The 17-year-old has her own plans, like going to Caltech for engineering and openly being with her girlfriend, Ariana. But when her parents ultimately find out about Ariana, they're quick to send Rukhsana to Bangladesh to be married. Can she balance fighting for the life she wants for herself without devastating her family? Khan's moving novel brings humanity and nuance to the topics of arranged marriage and familial obligations, and her characters are beautifully fleshed out. Rukhsana's genuine love and respect for her family and culture amplify the stakes of her choice to determine her own path, and Khan's account of Bangladeshi traditions, food, and various aunties to dodge rings true. While some characters might initially seem very black-and-white, as Khan gradually peels away the layers of their backstories, they become more fully formed. This moving novel offers readers a deep look into Bengali traditions and dreams for a more inclusive future, with a resilient girl at the heart of it all. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Bangladeshi-American Rukhsana Ali must choose between her family's wishes and following her heart. Although her Muslim immigrant parents approve of her professional dreams of becoming a physicist at NASA, Rukhsana is sure that they won't be as enthusiastic about her personal dream of spending her life with her secret girlfriend, Ariana, who is white. After winning a prestigious scholarship to Caltech, her professional ambitions seem within reach-until her mother catches her kissing Ariana and she is whisked away to Bangladesh with plans to arrange her marriage. As she battles her parents' homophobia, Rukhsana simultaneously struggles to help Ariana and her friends back home in Seattle understand the weight of the cultural and social stigmas that she has to fight. Along the way, Rukhsana finds unexpected allies, including her grandmother, who encourages her to fight for what she wants. This witty coming-out story is populated by colorful, nuanced personalities who never lapse into stereotypes. Unfortunately, the fast pace leaves readers little time to digest the most intense moments, including some physical and sexual violence. Likewise, the sheer amount of action leaves certain characters, like Rukhsana's spoiled but loving brother, insufficient time to fully develop. However, the story is told tenderly and unflinchingly, balancing the horrors of homophobia against the South Asian men and women who risk their lives to fight it each and every day. A coming-out story featuring diverse characters and a richly rendered international setting. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus 2019 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

No parties, no shorts, no boys. These were my parents' three cardinal rules. But what they didn't know couldn't hurt them, right? I quickly changed out of my NASA pajamas and into my favorite black crop top and dark-blue vintage jeans, liking the way they accentuated my curves. According to Mom no one needed to know that I had boobs, much less a belly button, except for me, Allah, and my future husband. Of course, the whole "no boys" rule was a moot point in my case, but fortunately my parents didn't know about Ariana."Rukhsana, Mom's never going to let you out of the house wearing that."Startled, I spun around to see my brother, Aamir, leaning lazily against my door frame."Knock much?" I said, quickly pausing the music playing on my phone."I did. It's not my fault you couldn't hear me over that screeching you call music." Aamir smiled as he sauntered into the room and plopped down on my bed.Of course, my brother was right. I would never be allowed to go out wearing this. Which was why I was planning to throw on my oversized school hoodie to once again become the shapeless blob my parents preferred to think of me as."Aamir, you know this isn't my first rodeo." I ruffled his hair affectionately. "Plus, you always have my back, right?""Yeah, yeah, don't worry, I'll cover for you," Aamir said, pushing away my hand. He was very particular about his hair. "But it's going to cost you," he added with a grin."What do you want this time?" I pulled the bulky hoodie over my head."Something good. I haven't thought about it yet." He surveyed my outfit. "Ariana's going to run away when she sees you, but at least Mom will be happy."I punched him playfully in the arm before going downstairs. The smell of chai led me into the kitchen, where I found the pot bubbling on the stovetop. I inhaled its spicy aroma deeply, allowing the cinnamon and cardamom to soothe my nerves. It was almost five o'clock, time to head over to Jen's house to finish getting ready for the party. But first I had to convince Mom to let me go.

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