Review of “The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali” by Sabina Khan

Khan, Sabina. The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali. New York: Scholastic Press, 2019.

Hardcover | $17.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1338227017 | 326 pages | YA Contemporary

4.5 stars

To preface this review, I am including a content warning. The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali deals with and/or portrays the following: racism/colorism, homophobia, Islamophobia, hate crimes, rape and domestic abuse, starvation, drugging, forced marriage, starvation, and sickness and death.

That being said, Sabina Khan does her utmost to portray these issues in the most poignant manner possible, particularly when it comes to the evolving conversation around South Asians and LGBTQ rights. I rooted for Rukhsana from the beginning, in that she had this impossible choice in choosing to be with who she loves and being ostracized by her family and their society, and choosing to do what her parents wanted, and at best only being able to be with her girlfriend in secret as she was forced into a marriage she didn’t want.

I also really enjoyed exploring the family’s perspectives on Rukhsana’s marriage, and it unfolding on how it was such an ingrained tradition that actually had some dark secrets for both her mother and grandmother. This did leave me feeling a bit disconcerted, due to this plot point unfolding through her grandmother’s journal entries which she shares with Rukhsana, and it led to a couple of the graphic, sensitive issues I was not prepared for coming to the forefront. It made sense in the context of their culture and societal structure, but they were still painful to read, and would especially caution potential readers about those. However, as with the other topics, I do feel Khan did her best to depict them as sensitively as possible.

All that being said, this is definitely not a book for the faint of heart. However, it is one that discusses important issues that are important today. And I would recommend anyone who is prepared to engage with this book and the topics it discusses to do so.

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