cover image When a Brown Girl Flees

When a Brown Girl Flees

Aamna Qureshi. Tu, $23.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64379-505-8

Pakistani American 18-year-old Zahra Paracha feels suffocated by her mother’s controlling nature and is consumed by guilt over a decision Zahra made that she believes is at odds with her Muslim faith. A few weeks after her high school graduation, she runs away to Long Island, N.Y., leaving her family, community, and impending nuptials in California. When she arrives, she heads to a local mosque to clear her mind; there, she befriends sisters Haya and Sadaf Chaudry, who take Zahra under their wing. Zahra, who sometimes navigates her anxiety and depression through self-harm, has been wrestling with her relationship to Islam. But as she integrates herself into her new community, she learns to reconnect with her faith and starts to unpack her feelings surrounding her secrets and the family she left behind. Expository passages depict Zahra’s conversations with God, whom she asks for forgiveness and mercy. Didactic and moralistic prose by Qureshi (The Man or the Monster) summarily renders the characters’ experiences with suicidal ideation, slut shaming, and emotional and physical abuse, while messaging surrounding love of culture, family, and faith provide plentiful food for thought. An author’s note discusses the novel’s inspiration. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)