A cultural dilemma

marrying ameera TITLE =MARRYING AMEERA

AUTHOR =ROSANNE HAWKE

GENRE =CULTURAL ISSUES, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 AND UP

This is quite a gripping novel, dealing with some complex issues. Ameera is an Australian girl with a Pakistani father of the Muslim faith and an Australian mother of Christian faith. This makes Ameera’s life more complex and rule bound than many Australian girls of her age: her father expects her to be a good girl and only go out with her brother along to protect her (or the Muslim brother of her friend). There are formal expectations when conversing with others – enquiries about family always come first – and Ameera shouldn’t be talking to boys anyway, let alone thinking about having a boyfriend.

Ameera loves her father and respects her Muslim background and wants to do the right thing. So she knows she shouldn’t talk to Tariq, her friend Maryam’s brother – he may be from a Pakistani family but he is Christian not Muslim – so even though he is good looking and sends her heart aflutter, he should be out of bounds. Yet when her Dad finds out she has spoken to Tariq at a party, Ameera does not expect her father to be so stern and unforgiving. When he sends her to visit her family in Pakistan as punishment, little does she expect that he may have been planning an arranged marriage with a Pakistani man – what now for Ameera’s dreams of going to uni and having a career?? What now for her broken heart and her love of Tariq?? Will she see her mother again?? Australia again… let alone Tariq??

Rosanne Hawke handles a complex situation with skill and care. She is at pains to show the beauty and richness of the Pakistani culture – from their fables and folktales to their food and clothing. The richness of their celebrations, the importance of family is strongly portrayed – and how this can be both a positive (when Ameera’s brother comes to help rescue her) and a weakness (when her uncle is so willing to sacrifice Ameera’s wishes for her father’s demands). Hawke also tries to distinguish between culture and religion as she explores the idea of arranged marriages. And whilst Ameera may fear an arranged marriage, Hawke shows that this may have more to do with the way her father has controlled the situation – not allowing her to have some say. Her female cousins in Pakistan are proof that all arranged marriages may not be so bad – in fact, if the girls themselves are included in the arrangement, it can provide fulfilment and joy.

Hawke’s portrayal of the complexity of the Pakistani culture in Australia at the start of the novel underscores the multicultural issues that lie at the heart of this novel. And the views of the younger generation provides hope for the future: her brother is still keen to uphold the Muslim faith but he sees things differently from his father – he has a more tolerant approach.

The main characters are generally well rounded – and the idea of family honour and shame is shown to be so important that even the hard line approach of her cousin can be understood (although his thuggish tactics cannot be supported). The difficulties facing Ameera at novel’s end are clearly portrayed. And the complexities of assimilating different cultures and religions are clearly portrayed too.

Perhaps the only weakness in the novel is the depiction of the love between Ameera and Tariq – they appear to become very devoted to each other when really they know so little of each other??

However, girls in Years 9 and 10 are sure to enjoy this novel. Whilst the last third of the novel is certainly gripping and full of action and suspense, there is also plenty of food for thought.

If you want to know more about the author and her knowledge of Pakistani culture then check out her website here.

Highly recommended (dma) *****