The first book I decided to pick up for this reading challenge was That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim. My choice was partially because I received an ARC from a goodreads giveaway and partially because I had already started reading it (on May 5) before I fully decided to do the #AsianLitBingo reading challenge. This book fulfills the Asian Muslim MC category.
Warning: This review does contain spoilers!
I’m going to be completely honest here; six chapters in and I wanted to DNF this book. The fact that Shabnam lied about what happened to Chotay Dada and was embarrassed of him enough that she hid at the mall bothered me to no end. I really didn’t think I would be able to get over my anger about that. Never mind that I hate liars, I find it difficult to understand why someone would be ashamed of their own culture and family members who look and act differently than them. Shabnam also seemed like a very whiny and negative character, which are traits that I don’t particularly enjoy in a narrator. However, I decided to stick with the story.
Shabnam experienced so much growth over the course of the story and I am glad that the author included personal growth in the story. I liked how Shabnam and her father began to bond over Urdu poetry. There was a reference to the Urdu poetry, however, that is problematic in that it touches on the topic of m/m pedophilia in such a way that western audiences will easily misconstrue as embracing homosexuality when it is, in fact, a serious problem of child abuse. The growth that Shabnam experienced in her friendship with Farrah was very realistic. My favorite part of the story though was how Farrah encouraged her to learn about Chotay Dada. I love how Sheba Karim tied all of the threads of the story together in the end.
All in all, I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars. I think it was a good read and had fun learning more about Pakistani-American experiences. The book dealt with some adult issues, but the overall tone was very much appropriate for the age of the characters. However, I ultimatley only barely enjoyed the story and I think that it has misleading information about serious cultural issues in Pakistan and the Middle East.