Sara Farizan will be speaking at Book Riot Live 2016, November 12 and 13 in New York City.
Before reading this book, I had no idea that homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran, but being transgender is legal—and gender re-assignment surgery is even sponsored by the state. Sahar begins to explore the gay and transgender community with the intention of transitioning in order to be with Nasrin. As she meets those who have undergone the surgery and learns more about the dangers and discriminations they face, she questions what transitioning will mean for her identity. As Sahar grapples with the future, she has to examine the differences between gender identity and sexual identity, in addition to deciding what sort of daughter she wants to be.
Leila’s story addresses family expectations and the secrets we keep from our friends, families, and social groups. The fear of disappointment that Leila struggles with is a strong (and universal) emotion that many LGBT teens can relate to, and Farizan’s portrayal of Leila’s Persian community allows her to explore a great intersection of sexual, cultural, and class identities.
Farizan’s books aren’t just about coming out or coming into your sexual identity, but about coming of age in a world that doesn’t always feel safe. Although Sahar and Leila are as different as their settings, their stories share similarities that are important for every reader—themes of being true to yourself in every aspect of identity, and opening your eyes to the diversity of the world around you. Farizan’s writing is sharp and emotionally resonant, whether she’s writing about the danger of persecution in Iran or the drama of high school relationships in Boston. Do yourself a favor and pick up both books!