Unsettled by Reem Faruqi, 322 pages, Can be read in about two hours depending on your speed, Middle Grade
“When I get mad, I am not like the water in a rice pot simmering slow. I am calm calm calm and then I explode. I am a teakettle waiting to scream.”Nurah, p. 205
One of the reasons why I don’t typically like poetry is that I typically need to hear it spoken for it to have any impact on me. One of the reasons I’ve been enjoying Faruqi’s books in verse is because she writes the type of poetry I can feel just by reading it. I also really appreciate the way she plays with formatting and font size, which helps bring the words to life without hearing the speaker’s intonations.
Like Golden Girl, Unsettled follows the life of a young Muslim girl living in Atlanta. In this case, Nurah originally lives in Pakistan and immigrates to the US…or rather, her parents decide that’s what’s going to happen. The story follows Nurah’s life as she settles into the US and tries to make the difficult transition from a home where she belonged to a new home where belonging isn’t a guarantee.
Having grown up in the suburbs of Atlanta, a lot of Nurah’s struggles resonated. I often felt like an outsider because of my Browness, my desiness, and my non-Christianness (Hindu in my case). While there is a lot I couldn’t quite understand, it was really nice to read a story about a young South Asian girl trying to fit in…a story I would have loved at that age.
There is a lot packed into this story, from the larger themes of the immigrant experience, the teenage girl experience, surviving anti-Muslim/South Asian violence, and finding confidence in a sport to smaller moments like a beloved grandparents Alzheimer’s, an anembryonic pregnancy, and domestic violence.
I was especially impressed with how Faruqi covered the last three topics. Many might critique the story for not delving into them very deeply, but to me, it was a testament to Faruqi’s writing. We don’t always know all the finer details of what happens in other people’s lives. Sometimes we just get splashes. In this case, Nurah gets splashes and given her age and relationship to the various characters impacted by these events, those splashes make sense. It is also a really good way of introducing even more complicated topics in an age-appropriate way.
This is the second of Faruqi’s books I have read in as many months, and I have to say I really do love her writing and storytelling. I look forward to reading whatever she releases next!