Hi! And welcome to the Zara Hossain Is Here Blog Tour! I am extremely grateful for Hear Our Voices and their work for setting this tour up! I’m so excited to show off this new YA contemporary from Sabina Khan! I was huge fan of The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali so I jumped at the opportunity to share with you her newest book, Zara Hossain is Here!
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.
From the author of the “heart-wrenching yet hopeful” (Samira Ahmed) novel, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, comes a timely, intimate look at what it means to be an immigrant in America today, and the endurance of hope and faith in the face of hate.
R E V I E W
Zara’s family has waited years for their visa process to be finally completed so they can become US citizens until one moment brings everything to their knees. Her family’s visa status becomes threatened after a student at Zara’s school vandalises her home. And now everything is up in the air as they must decide what is truly best for them, and for Zara, whether she can give up herself for her family’s safety.
Zara Hossein Is Here packs a heavy punch. Zara keeps her head low, trying her best to evade the constant islamophobia she faces at school. Being an openly queer Muslim in post 9/11 America brings the exact unwanted attention she doesn’t need from school bullies like Tyler.
So she keeps her head down, continuing to work with her Social Justice club to raise her voice and others around her. There, she meets Chloe, who is looking for a place to fit in after coming out as a lesbian to her Catholic family. It’s not long before they start dating, and for once, Zara is happy. But when Tyler goes too far, Zara has no choice but to call him out. Her family wake up one night to find their house defaced, and the night ends with Zara’s father in a coma, having been shot by Tyler’s father. The incident spirals out of control: threatening her father’s employment, immigration status and the space that Zara once called home.
What I loved about this book was the complexity of Zara’s story that will resonate with so many young immigrant teens out here. From the characters to the subject of immigration, nothing is answered easily but acknowledging the flawed system they reside in. When their status is threatened, Zara’s parents want to return home to Pakistan while Zara is keen to stay. The wait time and eggshells her family must walk on, waiting on a day that almost might arrive. For her parent’s, it is a sign to stop fighting for a country that placed these hurdles while Zara is adamantly not to let the racists push them into giving up. Both sides are valid in their reasoning, and the conversation it brings highlights the complexity of the US immigration process while also making it accessible for younger readers to understand the struggles faced by immigrant families.
Overall, a remarkable book that I know will be best in the hands of the teens that truly need stories like Zara. If anything, I feel like this book could’ve been more; the story is rushed, touching upon the essentials before really meditating on the message and moving onto the next. It is a thoughtful tale of being an immigrant in America and what it means to endure in the face of hate.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sabina Khan is the author of ZARA HOSSAIN IS HERE (Scholastic/ April 6, 2021) and THE LOVE & LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI (Scholastic, 2019). 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, two daughters and the best puppy in the world.