Which Girl Do You Know?

A Girl Like That - Tanaz Bhathena

That girl. The one all the rumors are about. The ones that involve the boys, drinking and other taboo actions. What do you really know about her? Do you know the image that is constructed by the rumors, the hushed voices, and the glares? Or do you know the girl who wants to be accepted for who she really is? Which version do you Choose to know and interact? How do different versions of the same story portray the same person?

 

Pro:

 

  • The protagonist Zarin is a courageous and complex character. Her story is told by her own voice and those of her boyfriends and classmates. Each version does not exactly relate to the story Zarin tells of herself. She is so closed off because of the labels her past has placed on her involuntary. She immediately decides to fully embrace her tainted reputation and embrace the status thrust upon her. She feels broken and misunderstood to the point that she may not even understand herself. At times she is ruthless and unempathetic with the people around her to the point of cruel. But as you get to know her, this is a way to hide her true self and the constant pain she undergoes. We have all been there, the rumor, the whisper, that person that people stare at. Yet she seems to be able to handle what is thrown at her with a sense of broken grace which makes her relatable.
  • Bhathena touches on many sensitive subjects such as rape, drugs, abuse and male privilege. Many books have touched on these subjects but Bhathena adds another layer to these subjects by adding religion to the mix. Bhathena places her story in Mumbai and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia which adds the cultural restrictions of the Middle East. Zarin navigates through her culture by going against the grain. Fully embracing what is taboo and looked down on in her community and culture. From the simplest actions as smoking to riding in cars with boys, she rebels. The bullying that Zarin goes through is not stopped or disciplined but it seems rather as a way to make Zarin conform. Through the eyes of all the female students, male privilege and sexual assault are always hanging over them. Pressuring them to hide and submit. It is interesting to see a culture and society that is so different from America. It was interesting to read about a culture in which the protagonist was Americanized but fully apart of the culture.

 

Con

 

  • There are several voices in the novel. All depict a different version of Zarin and the world she lives in. Showing how society works for different genders and economic levels. This gives the story depth and perspective in how individuals view others differently. This was interesting although Zarin’s voice and the story seemed to get lost through other people’s perspectives. This may have been the intention of Bhathena, in displaying how people’s perceptions can create a story for a person and unrealistic histories or expectations. At the end of the story, I was left with a bittersweet connection with Zarin. I wanted to know more about her and how she came to be.

 

Quotes

  • Memories can be like splinters, digging into you when you least expect them to, holding tight and sharp the way wood did when it slid under a fingernail.
  • Talking.. Only led to a revelation of secrets
  • If you could make a girl laugh, you could make her yours
  • A person’s home tells you a lot about who they are
  • People came into our lives, people left
  • Stories… would always change the course of our lives, the greatest ones being retold over and over again not to simply convey morals or life lessons, but to bring people together.
  • You can never lie to another lier
  • To live in this world, you need to follow a certain set of rules and behave in ways society deemed appropriate.
  • Because a bird only learns to fly when its wings are broken
  • Love is more important than anything else in the world. And you deserve love as much as anyone else