Raise Your Voice 2016 with Tanaz Bhathena

Raise Your Voice is a special annual month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader whose purpose is to celebrate diversity and inclusivity in literature, with a particular emphasis on #OwnVoices stories. In it, authors recommend books with sensitive, positive and accurate representation that will help to create a resource of diverse books that marginalized readers can turn to when they need them most. Your voice matters. Raise it! For a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates, click here.


About Tanaz Bhathena

Tanaz Bhathena was born in Mumbai and raised in Riyadh, Jeddah and Toronto. Her short stories have appeared in various journals, including Blackbird, Witness and Room Magazine. Her debut YA novel, What We Left Behind, will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books For Young Readers / Macmillan in the winter of 2018.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads


(You can add Written In The Stars to your Goodreads shelves Here!)

As a first-generation Indian immigrant to Canada, I spent years struggling to find the familiar in teen fiction. I eventually switched over to adult novels, finding solace in the works of Rohinton Mistry, Arundhati Roy, Shyam Selvadurai, Kamila Shamsie and other South Asian diasporic writers. Many of the protagonists were too old for me to relate to completely, but at the time I was willing to overlook that in favour of reading about India and other parts of South Asia – a region that I still hold a deep cultural affinity to.

It was not until I was nearly thirty, that the We Need Diverse Books movement emerged. I began perusing teen fiction again. I found Written In The Stars by Aisha Saeed, a book that was partially set in Pakistan and also written by a Pakistani-American author. The premise of the book was even more interesting: about a Pakistani-American girl who is forced into a marriage not of her choice.

Forced marriages are a contentious topic in South Asia. Few like to admit that these things can still happen in 2016, but that they do is a reality which is both inherently familiar and despicable to many of us who grew up in the region and its diaspora.

Written In The Stars was the sort of book I read with gritted teeth and clenched fists, that had me shedding tears at some points. I related to the book’s protagonist Naila in so many ways: from her desire to please and obey her parents to her shock at discovering that she is to be married off to a man she doesn’t know, against her own wishes.

While Naila’s situation is extreme (as the author mentions in a note at the back of the book, not all Pakistani or South Asian parents are like this), it is real and Aisha Saeed has not shied away from showing this reality. With simple and elegant language, she has portrayed the various cultural struggles both first and second generation immigrants face in North America.

For me this #OwnVoices book was important, not only because it is authentic, but because it showed me that strength can be found even in the darkest of times, and that it is possible to heal from even your worst scars.

Title What We Left Behind
Author Tanaz Bhathena
Pages N/A
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords
To Be Published 2018 by Farrar Straus Giroux Books For Young Readers / Macmillan
Find It On Goodreads

Zarin Wadia is 16, a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a troublemaker whose romantic entanglements are the subject of endless gossip amongst the girls in her class. When she is found dead after a car accident on the Al-Harameen Expressway in Jeddah, with a Parsi boy who is not a student at Qala Academy, the religious police arrive and everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is called into question.

Using the family as a lens for society, What We Left Behind explores the themes of love, prejudice and gender discrimination in India and Saudi Arabia – two countries that are struggling to hold onto their traditions even as they adapt to a rapidly changing world – countries where female virtue is still inextricably linked to family honour.

One response to “Raise Your Voice 2016 with Tanaz Bhathena”

  1. Alexa S. says:

    Oh, I loved Written in the Stars! It was such a moving story – and I felt similarly when I was reading it.
    Alexa S. recently posted…BookTube Review • Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children (Part 1)My Profile

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