Title: If You Could Be Mine (2013)
Author: Sara Farizan
Genre: Young Adult, LGBT
Extent: 247 pages
Review: Sahar has been in love with Nasrin since they were six years old, but Iran is no place for two girls in love with each other, and if they were found out, they could be beaten, imprisoned, and even executed. The only way for their relationship to work—publicly—is if Sahar could undergo sex reassignment surgery and become a man. When Nasrin’s parents arranged her to marry, Sahar knows that time is running out. Should she risk her true self for love?
First things first: Nasrin annoyed me to the ends of the earth, and I think that’s part of the reason why I couldn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. She was extremely vain, spoiled rotten, and incredibly selfish, and there wasn’t one thing in her that I liked. I couldn’t understand why Sahar was in love with her except that she was apparently really beautiful (physically), which isn’t nearly enough to make me root for them as a couple.
Because of this, I felt disconnected and also frustrated with Sahar, whose life and decisions at this point pretty mudh revolved around Nasrin. I felt like she loved and worked for Nasrin so much more than Nasrin loved and worked for her, and this made me want to shake Sahar so hard so she would open her eyes and move on to someone better—someone who would actually stand by her side when she needed it.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen—instead, Sahar got deeper and deeper into it that she actually considered getting a sex reassignment surgery. Apparently, while homosexuality could get you executed, the Iranian government sees gender dysphoria as nature’s fault, and sex reassignment surgery and hormones are easily accessible.
I found this friggin’ crazy and completely horrifying, and I think that just illustrated how much we need more books like this one: to bring forth aspects of cultures around the world that we’re not really exposed to, to remind us that we still have to fight for the most basic of human rights. In this particular way, this reminds me of Written in the Stars, just with a different focus.
The main thing that I liked about If You Could Be Mine was how authentic the setting felt. This felt like Iran, through and through, and the characters speak, think, act and sound like they’re from Iran, too. We also see glimpses of the culture that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the main plot, but were refreshing anyway because it helped illustrate the society for me.
This book also brought up an important issue that I think not all of us might be conscious enough of: that transgenderism and homosexuality are two completely different things. I know there are some still ignorant people who think that if you are a man who likes men, then you must want to be a woman, and if you are a woman who likes women, then you must want to be a man… though the truth, in many cases, couldn’t be farther from that.
The ending felt a bit abrupt to me, and it left me with only the thinnest shred of hope that things would get better for Sahar. In many ways, I felt incredibly sorry and also terrified for her—her story is fictional, yes, but I have no doubt that there are people in the world experiencing what she experienced, and it’s honestly heartbreaking.
Overall, If You Could Be Mine was an authentic, unique and eye-opening read. I didn’t really connect with any of the main characters but I absolutely enjoyed how real the setting felt, and I think it’s an important book to read. A cultural LGBT! You don’t get that too often.