Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking those links, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no extra cost to you.The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
Published by Scholastic Press on January 29, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, LGBTQ, Young Adult Fiction
Format: eBook (337 pages)
Purchase: Amazon • IndieBound
Add Book: Goodreads • Bookhype
Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents' expectations, but lately she's finding that impossible to do. She rolls her eyes when they blatantly favor her brother and saves her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don't know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech. But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana's plans fall apart.
Her parents are devastated and decide to whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Through reading her grandmother's old diary, Rukhsana gains some much-needed perspective and realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love without losing the connection to her family as a consequence.
Proceed With Caution:
This book contains homophobia, child abuse, forced marriage, death, rape, drugging, and child marriage.
The Love & Lies or Rukhasana Ali is narrated by seventeen-year-old Rukhsana as she’s preparing to leave her home in Seattle to attend Caltech with her girlfriend. At least that is the plan. Rukhsana’s parents are very strict and conservative, so they have no idea that she’s a lesbian and she hopes they don’t find out until she’s out of the house. Unfortunately, they do find out and take her to Bangladesh to find her a husband.
The Love & Lies or Rukhasana Ali made me furious. I was seriously so mad while reading this, but I couldn’t put it down. Rukhsana’s parents’ behavior is inexcusable. They say they’re doing all of this out of love and for her own good and to save her reputation and theirs, but OMG. Holy crap. Rukhsana repeatedly tells her friends and her girlfriend that she can’t come out because of her parents and they just assume she’s over-exaggerating. But even Rukhsana didn’t know to what extremes they would go to to hide her identity.
Rukhsana goes through hell. Her parents manipulate her at every turn to get her to go along with their plans. They don’t even care that she might lose out on a full ride scholarship because maybe her husband wants her at home rather than at school. Anything is better than being a lesbian. The Love & Lies of Rukhasana Ali goes deep into their prejudice and fear. Deep. At one point they even assume she must be possessed. That was horrific.
Where The Love & Lies or Rukhasana Ali lost me a bit was at the end. It’s very after school special. Rukhsana’s parents put her through way too much for this much of a happy ending. I mean, I’m glad she gets a happy ending, but it came about too quickly. There needed to be much more time and space and healing going on. It goes from Rukhsana having to literally flee the country to avoid becoming a child bride at her parents’ hands to them all happily attending LGBTQ+ support groups together. I don’t have a problem with her still wanting a relationship with her parents, but it didn’t need to be immediate.
The Love & Lies or Rukhasana Ali is a hard read. There is just so many horrendous things happening. It’s not all bad, as Rukhsana does have some support as she tries to make her way back home, but overall, the majority of this book is horrifying. Which is why that ending sticks out so much. But when someone tells you that they don’t feel safe coming out, believe them! Even without such stark cultural differences, just believe them!