Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan

Book Description

Zara’s family has waited years for their visa process to be finalized so that they can officially become US citizens. But it only takes one moment for that dream to come crashing down around them.

Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Zara Hossain, has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas, since her family moved there for her father to work as a pediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family’s dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.

But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara’s house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara’s entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she’s ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.

From the author of the “heart-wrenching yet hopeful” (Samira Ahmed) novel, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, comes a timely, intimate look at what it means to be an immigrant in America today, and the endurance of hope and faith in the face of hate.


Thoughts and Themes: I don’t recall why I waited so long to read this book, I just know it has been on my shelves for a while before I decided to request the audiobook from my library. I’m glad that I finally got to this book because it covers a lot of important topics and I found that it handled those things quite well. There is the main plotline of this book in which a student, Tyler, is harassing Zara Hossain due to her race/ethnicity, and then there are side events that occur along with this.

This book covers Islamophobia, sexuality and religion, hate crimes, friendship, family, and more. While there is a lot going on in this book, I think that the transitions occur seamlessly and there is no moment in which you are overwhelmed with everything going on. Well you are overwhelmed because of events that happen just like the family in this story is overwhelmed but that makes you feel all the emotions of this book more.

I also really enjoy how this book discusses children following in the shoes of their parents due to their upbringing. I like how we get to see both discussions regarding this, with Zara explaining how she doesn’t agree that Tyler only did things because of his dad’s beliefs. I liked seeing how she points out how Tyler can think for himself and he only feels bad because he has gotten caught. I like that they point out how people of color are responsible for several generations when white people aren’t ever held responsible for their actions, it’s like there is always an excuse for the things that they do.

I also really like that we get to see white people’s reactions to Tyler and his actions including his attempt at an apology for his father’s actions. I thought it was important to see that alongside Zara and her family’s response as they aren’t able to just move past the events that took place. I also like that we get to see people who are on Zara’s side and those who believe her family deserved what happened. I thought it was good to see that these thoughts still exist even if people like to hide their beliefs and only let them out in microaggressions.

I really liked the way Zara has to explain why it was difficult for her to make a decision between staying in Texas or going back to Pakistan. I liked that she shows how it’s difficult regardless of what decision she makes. I think it was important that she shows if she stays in Texas she deals with racism but if she goes back to Pakistan she has to hide her sexuality and that is leaving a piece of her behind.

Characters: I really love all the characters that are introduced throughout this book as I felt that they were all well-developed and added something to the story. In this book, you get to meet several characters through their interactions with Zara. You get introduced to her family, her friends, her girlfriend, some teachers and staff at the school, as well as the kid who is bullying her.

I really loved the relationship between Chloe and Zara that you get to see developing through the beginning of the book. I liked how Zara was able to introduce Chloe to her family and they talked about coming out to their families. I also liked how both of their experiences with their queerness is different because of their family’s beliefs. I thought it was great to see Chloe try to explain how her parent’s religion dictates how they respond to things that she does. I also really like how while Zara doesn’t understand how Chloe’s religion impacts her being queer, Chloe will never understand what it’s like being a person of color.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Zara and all of the adults that are in her life. I liked seeing how much support she has from her family as well as other people in her life. I liked learning about the SJC and the instructor who is responsible for hosting them. I love the moment in which Zara’s mother defends her daughter against someone else talking about her daughter’s sexuality. I really liked how people come to Zara’s defense when it comes to her sexuality and religion, it was great to see what support should look like for LGBTQ+ youth.

Author Information

Sabina Khan is the author of the upcoming YA novel MEET ME IN MUMBAI, as well as ZARA HOSSAIN IS HERE and THE LOVE & LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI. She is an educational consultant and a karaoke enthusiast. After living in Germany, Bangladesh, Macao, Illinois and Texas, she has finally settled down in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband, two daughters and the best puppy in the world.

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