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Ya Review: Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan

Title: Zara Hossain is Here

Author: Sabina Khan

Year Published: 2021

Category: YA fiction (LGBTQ)
Pages: 256
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map) USA (TX)

Summary (from Amazon): Zara's family has waited years for their visa process to be finalized so that they can officially become US citizens. But it only takes one moment for that dream to come crashing down around them.

Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Zara Hossain, has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas, since her family moved there for her father to work as a pediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family's dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.

But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara's house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara's entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she's ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.

Review:  I enjoy a YA novel about immigrants and trying to fit into the US and this one was really well done. I read it in one day, feeling pulled in from the start.

The author has put a lot of her own family's experiences into this story and it shows. It feels authentic and personal with the Pakistani cadence and nuances of language, foods, familial relationships, etc. As someone who has spent a bunch of time with my ex's Arabic family, this all felt familiar (yes, I know Pakistanis aren't Arabic) and real. 

Zara's relationships with her friends, her love interest, and her parents are all positive and healthy, something that is often missing from YA books. Through all of the positivity, there is the awfulness of Islamaphobia, racism, homophobia, and blind hatred. This aspect of the story is also handled well, showing its impact on the characters differently depending on their disposition.

The author does an excellent job showing micro-aggressions, overt racism, and the impact of both. In addition, she shows how the immigration system in the United States is broken and the impact it has on an individual family, not just as a general issue. 

Challenges for which this counts:
  • A to Z--"Z"
  • Diversity--Pakistani and LGBTQ characters and author (July challenge: LGBTQ)
  • Popsugar--Title starting with Z

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