Review: The Writing on My Forehead by Nafisa Haji

25 Apr

The Writing on My Forehead: A Novel The Writing on My Forehead: A Novel by Nafisa Haji

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received this book from a Goodreads first reads giveaway. I signed up for several books that looked interesting, and was excited to hear I was selected for this one.

I found this book both entertaining and thought provoking. In one sense, this is the story of Saira and her sister. It is the story of of a girl growing into a woman and of the meeting of cultures. It is also the story of an extended family, and many other sibling pairs within it. More than anything else, it is a story of relationships.

Saira is a child of Indo-Pakistani immigrants to the US. Her sister seems to be quite happy in the role she is cast into by their parents’ culture, but that just isn’t the person that Saira is meant to be. Even as a young child, Saira always wants to know “why” and always pushes at her prescribed boundaries.

A trip to Pakistan at age 13 introduces Saira to some of her extended family and her family’s history. She continues asking “why”, and begins to hear the stories of the relationships that helped form who her parents are, and to form their attitudes towards her sister and herself. These come together as she grows older and begins to experience a run of tragedies, ending with one hinted at in the beginning of the book.

I found almost all of the characters interesting, likable (in their own way), and individual. In spite of each character having his/her own personality, each pairing (sibling or romantic) contains an echo from other relationships in the family, through different times and locations.

Going into this book, I didn’t know very much about the history of the relationship between India and Pakistan. Although I was glad to know more, I was saddened to think about how much strife is going on in that part of the world, and reflect on the breadth of it. This is a theme touched on briefly in the book.

The writing was very good. There were a few points where it felt clumsy, or where the reader was told things perhaps we should have been left to discover on our own, but these were rare. For the most part, the writing stayed out of my way, which I appreciate in a book.

I’d recommend this book, and will keep my eyes out for others by the author. I give it a high 4 stars, wishing once again for half stars.

View all my reviews.


Posted by on April 25, 2009 in books, reviews


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5 responses to “Review: The Writing on My Forehead by Nafisa Haji

  1. Sharon

    April 27, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Looks like a good book! Thanks for stopping by my place. You are right about the Nevada Barr books.

  2. Hena

    September 1, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    I found this to be a very compelling read, and was pulled in by the author’s perspective of a Muslim living in India during partition. I enjoyed the book thoroughly.

  3. Amber Khan

    September 19, 2009 at 9:22 am

    The book does not offer anything special in fact tends to be a drag sometimes. The stories of the protaganist’s ancestral past could’ve been made shorter. They were quite a bore. The writer’s paradoxical narrative of Saira’s family seemed quite incongruous. For example, her grandfather’s love for ball room dancing, his modern thinking for his wife, and then Saira’s father being a doctor in the US, and her paternal grandfather being an edcuated individual, then how come she had to coax her parents to go to college. People from south asia with that kind of background, living in the west may instill moral values in their children but are very keen for their children to have professional degrees. I think in describing three generations of this particular family the writer lost her footing. Sorry, but I was not impressed.

  4. Sawsan Alsayed

    May 15, 2011 at 2:08 am

    when i start reading this book, i found the bigining was not so atractive, but it started to be from the tenth chapter. i didn’t like the details of Khaled Khan lecture while she ignored all the details of the affair part, i went back to read to find if i miss any chapter without reading. i didn’t understand how she treated her child later with so cold imotions. also some of the indian words i didn’t understand as there is no explanation ofr some even i am moslim and we use some of these abreviations.


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