[review] The Harem by Safia Fazlul

Disclaimer: Provided with finished copy from Tsar Publications for an honest review.

Goodreads summary: Farina has only one dream: to be free and move away from Peckville, a Muslim ghetto in a large city. She is eager to escape the clutches of her strict parents who will not let her drink, party or have any kind of contact with males. As soon as she turns eighteen, she sets her dream in motion and gets her own apartment. The only problem is that her minimum-wage job leaves her feeling anything but liberated. How can she resist when her ambitious best friend Sabrina proposes an infallible business idea? How harmful can running as escort agency really be? Will she finally be freed by her increasing wealth and independence, or will she remain enslaved by her increasing guilt?

The HaremWith so many books on my tbr list, it takes something special to catch my attention. What initially drew me to this novel was the Canadian author, the women of colour protagonist, and the focus on the intersectionality of race and gender. These last two kept me happy with the book even though the pacing did not quite meet my needs.

Farina is unlike any character I’ve had the opportunity to read about before. I’m not sure if this reflects Fazlul’s ability for realism as a writer or my own lack of reading about Asian-american protagonists more, but for me it was an opportunity to understand a bit more about a person who is not like myself. Farina is strong and selfish and split between the expectations of the community and the country in which she was raised. This split, aptly shown on the cover of the book, creates the drive of the book.

Imarana and Sabrina are Farina’s best friends and act as foils to Farina. I wish we had the opportunity to have more of both of these women’s stories. Imarana especially goes through a huge transformation over the course of the book, but because the story is told from Farina’s perspective and there are some large time jumps, we really don’t get to see that development.

Those time jumps are part of the pacing problem I had. I realize that they are necessary to cover the long time period, but it also felt like some of the more “exciting” parts of the story got skipped over. In the end, that’s okay because this book really isn’t about entertainment or excitement. This book explores a deeper meaning: how do you be true to yourself when you’re not quite sure who that is?

I am glad I read The Harem by Safia Fazlul. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in race or gender studies and especially to anyone who would call themselves a feminist.

Don’t just take my word for it!

“The Harem is EXACTLY what I wish NA was, and that I hope it can be – stories that are real, raw, and that deal with important issues in a complex manner.” – Rachelia @ Bookish Comforts

“Some may find this book a little shocking. It’s blunt and to the point about a number of topics – prostitution, sex and drinking to name just a few.” – Sam Still Reading

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About megtao

Student. Writer. Nerdfighter. Fights for love, justice, and awesome.
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2 Responses to [review] The Harem by Safia Fazlul

  1. This book sounds really interesting! I like that it explores identity, and how to find the truth of yourself when you’re torn between what you’ve grown up with or known all your life and something completely new.

    • megtao says:

      It’s more of two identities she’s grown up with. Her family life is based on the traditions of her birth country, but she’s saturated with American culture too. Fazlul shows some of the struggles people who are second generation immigrants must face, and as someone who has never faced that problem I felt better for having read it. I would definitely like to read more like it to further broaden my understanding.

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