Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2018 with Sabina Khan

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty-six authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!


About Sabina Khan

Sabina Khan is the author of The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, a YA Contemporary, coming in Spring 2019 from Scholastic. She is an educational consultant and a karaoke enthusiast. After living in Germany, Bangladesh, Macao, Illinois and Texas, she has finally settled down in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and three daughters, one of whom is a fur baby.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads


I read my first book in a hospital in Germany after an appendectomy when I was five years old and I was hooked. It was the first in the Twins at St. Clare’s series by Enid Blyton. When I was eight my family moved to Bangladesh and I switched to reading books in English. I still loved and read everything by Enid Blyton and even though it never occurred to me then that this was so sad, I could never imagine myself having the kind of adventures the characters in her books were having. So, I just accepted that those experiences were for other people. I still read avidly in my teens, but never found characters who went through anything even remotely like what I was going through. Despite a happy childhood, not seeing myself at all in anything I read magnified the doubts and insecurities that come with adolescence. While I loved reading about Jo March and Jane Eyre for school, as well as characters in the romance novels I devoured as a teen, I could never relate to them. I can’t be sure when exactly during my childhood this happened but at some point, I internalized the notion that I didn’t matter, that my experiences were not important. And this was something that took me years to unpack.

When I moved to the US for college in the 1990’s and some years later began my married life, I was overjoyed to find books by authors like Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Bharati Mukherjee and Jhumpa Lahiri who wrote largely about the immigrant experience. It was the first time in my life that I could completely relate to a character. I was inspired by the strength of characters who, like me, had left their homes, families and childhood friends behind to start a new life and faced loneliness and racism along with joy and triumph. Like Ashima Ganguli in The Namesake, I too longed for my mother when I gave birth so far away from home. It made me feel seen to read about someone else who experienced the same homesickness and heartache as I did while waiting for my new country to become home. Even reading about a character longing for a traditional dish her mother used to make helped me feel connected.

By the time my daughters started reading, they were not interested in the immigrant experience. Instead they wanted to read about girls like themselves, children of immigrants who had been raised in North America. But until recently, they were never able to find books about characters who, like them, straddle cultures and therefore have unique experiences.

In the past few years I have been excited to read many excellent diverse young adult books and share them with my daughters. I often stop to reflect how much these books would have meant to me had they been available when I was that age. Being able to read what a character like Dimple Shah, Maya Aziz, Winnie Mehta or Mei Lu go through as they struggle to figure things out would have meant the world to teenage me. Reading these stories by authors like Sandhya Menon, Samira Ahmed, Nisha Sharma and Gloria Chao brings back vivid memories of the angst and the excitement I felt when I was younger. It invigorates me to know that things are finally changing and that even though there is still a long way to go, at least young readers today from all backgrounds have characters to admire who look like them and live similar experiences.

Title The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali
Author Sabina Khan
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
To Be Published January 29th 2019 by Scholastic Press
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

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?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge