Publisher: Alonquin Books
Release Date: 20th August 2013
Edition: e-book, review copy
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love – Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret – until Nasrin’s parents announce they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively – and openly.
Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped inside a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth risking her true self?
If You Could Be Mine is a unique and thought-provoking debut. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
With a premise that I’d never really encountered before and the lure of a forbidden love story, I was eager to get stuck into Sara Farizan’s debut from the first time I heard about it. As the release date got closer the reviews started rolling in and there were a little disappointing. I started to worry that it wouldn’t live up the promise of the idea. Luckily, I loved it.
I immediately connected with Sahar. She was thoroughly in love, dedicated to Nasrin and so, so passionate. She was also rather young and innocent; her insecurities plagued her and she saw herself as inferior to Nasrin. She’s just such a real seventeen-year-old girl. I think that’s one of the things I liked most about If You Could Be Mine; it wasn’t just the trials of a homosexual relationship in Iran, it was about the trials and tribulations of first love. I didn’t like Nasrin, however. She’s spoilt, manipulative and I just, there was something about her that got up my nose. She just didn’t seem as invested in her relationship as Sahar was. She wasn’t willing to take a risk whereas Sahar was prepared to risk it all. To give up your identity for love; that’s the ultimate sacrifice, and one I really didn’t want Sahar to make.
All of the girls’ problems stemmed from their home country of Iran and its rules against homosexuality. Even though the Western world still occasionally struggles to get it right when it comes to gay rights, the overwhelming opinion is that love is love. Not so much in Iran. Being caught in any activities even hinting at being gay is enough to get you arrested, hurt or even executed. Then came the outright ridiculous rules about women and the archaic oppressions. I don’t mean to offend anyone; I just can’t see how that’s still acceptable in 2013. It made me angry and frustrated. Women aren’t allowed to show their elbows, they are still entrapped in arranged marriages, money is everything and they are at the mercy of men. The culture of Iran, Tehran in particular was vividly captured, especially with Persian words and phrases thrown effortlessly into the narrative and the fact that it was made clear by Sara Farizan that they were conducting this affair in Persian and that they didn’t speak very much English.
If You Could be Mine is an involving and thought-provoking debut and I’m really interested to see what Sara Farizan will deliver next.
Thanks to Alonquin and NetGalley for the review copy.