Beneath My Mother's Feet
by Amjed Qamar
Simon and Schuster
in bookstores June 17, 2008
ARC provided by the author
We don't typically review YA books at A Year of Reading. We also don't typically meet authors of new and already highly-acclaimed books in the hallways of our school! When Amjed introduced herself to me and told me a little bit about her book, I knew I had to read it. I curled up on the couch with it on Mothers' Day and I was hooked immediately. It turned out a little ironic to read it on Mothers' Day (see review for details), but I am convinced that this book deserves every bit of praise it has already garnered. This is a book you must read, and Amjed Qamar is a new author to keep your eyes on.
Nazia is a modern-day Pakistani girl living in Gizri colony, a working class neighborhood in southern Karachi. She is 14 years old, loves school, and is promised in marriage to her cousin back in the village where her father's family lives. Nazia's mother is focused on preparing Nazia's dowry for her wedding, and Nazia's friends tease her for being "a good beti, a dutiful daughter." These traditional mother-daughter roles are soon put to the test when Nazia's father is injured in a construction accident and Nazia's mother takes her out of school to help earn money by cleaning houses.
Things go from bad to worse when Nazia's dowry is stolen, her father loses the rent money, and the family winds up homeless. This shift of fate gives Nazia (and the reader) the opportunity to meet strong and capable women whose lives expand her understanding of the power that women have, even in a culture that seems to be all about the fathers, uncles, and brothers.
Through it all, Nazia's mother works to keep her children with her and to keep Nazia's wedding on track. Nazia, in helping another servant child attempt to escape his fate, discovers the inner strength she needs to choose her own path as well.
This is a well-paced story filled with the sights, sounds, smells, and flavors of a variety of levels of status in modern Pakistani culture. However, Nazia's struggle to choose her own path in life is, at its core, the common story of every girl on the brink of her future, every girl who must break her mother's heart by choosing a way of her own and not the one her mother has hoped and planned for all her life.
Beneath My Mother's Feet has received much early acclaim:
- Kirkus starred review (May 15, 2008 issue)
- Junior Library Guild Selection (April-September 2008 catalog)
- Book Sense nomination
- Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick (Fall 2008)