Marrying Ameera by Rosanne Hawke
Angus and Robertson, 2010. ISBN 978 0732291440.
(Ages 14+) Recommended. A sense of foreboding pervades the atmosphere of Ameera's house in Adelaide, where she is mildly testing her father's restrictions upon her movements. A good Muslim daughter, she spends time in his rug shop, is dutiful at home, and always gets her brother to accompany her or at least bring her home from times spent with her girlfriends. But she is beginning to balk at the heavy handedness of her father, and turns to her Australian mother for help. But she too is confined by her husband's wishes, and although sympathetic, has promised her husband that their children will be raised Muslim. Ameera sees her brother going out with friends, having a license and a car, having a girlfriend, and more importantly she sees her friend's brother, Tariq.
Rosanne Hawke has again written a story redolent with understanding of Muslim attitudes and culture, one that will inform as well as intrigue while secondary readers follow the path Ameera is sent on by her constrained father.
Flying to Pakistan ostensibly for her cousin's wedding, Ameera comes to realise that it is her wedding she is attending and so breaking free of this situation takes up the remainder of the story.
Rosanne Hawke first came across the germ of this tale when on study leave in Pakistan, meeting a couple who helped recover girls sent to Pakistan to marry against their wishes. The repugnance of forced marriage is given full reign as Hawke follows Ameera's trail. Girls in secondary school will cry out as I did at the impossible situation her father has put her in, but with western sensibilities will find her continued meek obedience hard to accept. Readers will cheer when she escapes and returns to Australia, but will see that she has exchanged one sort of captivity for another, having now to watch lest someone try to take justice into their own hands. I found this section of the story hard to read as Ameera wanted to forgive her dictatorial and hypocritical father.
For the vast majority of the world's women, arranged marriages are a norm, and for some, forced marriage can be the result, but for many Australian women, both of these are abhorrent. This book looks forced marriage in the eye, while readers are encouraged to assess the ideas behind freedom of choice and arranged marriages with more understanding and compassion, and, as with all of her books, extend their appreciation of the mix of cultures and ideas that make up today's Australia. Marrying Ameera not only tells us a good story but along the way many readers will question the ideas of forced marriages, arranged marriages and freedom of choice.