Rummanah Aasi
 Traces the intense bond of three orphaned siblings who, after their parents die, are left to raise one another. The youngest, Kausar, grapples with the incomprehensible loss of their parents as she also charts out her own understanding of gender; Aisha, the middle sister, spars with her "crybaby" younger sibling as she desperately tries to hold on to her sense of family in an impossible situation; and Noreen, the eldest, does her best in the role of sister-mother while also trying to create a life for herself, on her own terms.
    As Kausar grows up, she must contend with the collision of her private and public worlds, and choose whether to remain in the life of love, sorrow, and codependency that she's known or carve out a new path for herself. When We Were Sisters tenderly examines the bonds and fractures of sisterhood, names the perils of being three Muslim American girls alone against the world, and ultimately illustrates how those who've lost everything might still make homes in one another.

Review: I am a fan of Fatimah Asghar's poetry and I was super excited to hear that they would be releasing a debut novel at the end of 2022. When We Were Sister is a deeply personal, lyrical, and heartbreaking read. Using vignettes and poetry, Asghar has created a story that follows three young orphaned Pakistani sisters who have to fend for themselves and group. 
    After their father is murdered, Noreen, Aisha, and Kausar are taken in by their Uncle, their mother's brother, who keeps them completely separate from his own family, an ex-wife and their two sons who live in a rather well off home. The girls are enticed by the promise of a "zoo", but it's really a run down one bedroom apartment that has a hallway of neglected animals and is infested by roaches and mice. Uncle forgets to supply their refrigerator with food and takes the girls' government checks and deposits them into his own account for stock and gambling investments. Since Uncle leaves for long periods of time, Noreen is defaulted as "sister-mother" and to the best of her ability takes care of her sisters. Aisha is the typical rebellious middle child and Kausar, our narrator, is the sensitive wide eyed sister who tries to appease everyone. Each sister does her best in navigating their own grief, either channeling it through their studies in hopes of leaving their grungy apartment in hopes of a new future, into their art, or into simmering anger that it threatening to spill out. 
   The fragmentary nature of the book may not appeal to some readers, but it worked for me. When I picked up the book, I found myself reading quickly and rereading lines that were full of haunting images and pulsing with heartache. Since Asghar's background is poetry, it's clearly evident that they were very conscious and precise with their wording. The spaces between the sentences and the silence between the sisters speak volumes. I actually would have liked the book to be a bit longer. It's conclusion has a time jump that seems added on. I would liked to have witnessed each sister's journey during their time apart and brought back together again, but still I did enjoy this very intimate story about grief, family, sisterhood, and coming of age.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, a scene of sexual assault, and guardian negligence and abuse. 

If you like this book try: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir
1 Response
  1. This one sounds intense, but good.

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails