If You Could Be Mine

In Iran, it’s a crime punishable by death to be gay. Sex reassignment surgery is covered by the government health program, though, and regarded by many as a way to fix a “mistake.” Sahar, 17, has been in love with her best friend, a girl named Nasrin, since they were 6. Sahar even lets herself dream that one day they might marry. But when Nasrin’s parents announce her arranged marriage will take place in a matter of months, Sahar must decide just what lengths she’ll go to for true love.

Related: Iran, Middle East, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Young Adult (ages 14-18)

One thought on “If You Could Be Mine

  1. Seemi Azia & Melissa Wilson says:

    Being a homosexual is “wrong” in many cultures and religions (including in many spaces in the United States). Yet people have the human right to love whom they chose.
    Except in Iran they don’t. This plays out in If You Could Be Mine (Farizan) as well in a much more balanced and nuanced way. Like Moon at Nine, this is the story of forbidden lesbian love in Tehran. Except it is set in the present day and the girls’ love is torn asunder by marriage rather than death. This novel challenges some Western stereotypes of Iran/Islam by introducing the idea that the government will pay for transgendered people to have gender reassignment surgery under the premise that it is not the person’s fault if she is born in to the wrong body. Who knew? It also shows a Tehran that has spaces for homosexuality at its fringes. It is still a dangerous place, but it is inhabited by some people who understand about different kinds of love. To me Moon at Nine’s setting was some living dystopian hell while this Tehran was a place that seemed human. And isn’t that the point of reading international literature?
    Seemi, I am interested to hear what you thought of If you could be mine.
    I had the same concerns of insider/outsider issue while reading Moon at Nine that you had, Melissa. I also agree that most religious states were/are against LGBTQ issues, as was the case in the US until very recently. I also believe that Ellis is struggling as an author in her recent ventures especially. Her novel, No Safe Place also left a lot to be desired in character development and setting choice, as did Moon at Nine. She seems to want to say too much and ends with a weak narrative that neither does justice to the topic nor the historical layout of the regions she chooses to represent.
    Before getting off of topic with Moon at Nine I wanted to add that the punishment for being lesbian was not only from the government but also from Farrin’s parents. They are not only represented and mean and evil by being messed up in their style of living but especially so in what they do to their daughter. She is left as a wife of her father’s servant who wants her to live in filthy and unlivable conditions for the rest of her life. Their money and power saved her from death but gave her a life that is death every minute of every day. They are non-practicing westernized Muslim people living their lives as best as any go-getter couple could, under their circumstances. Sadira’s voice is completely silenced before she is hanged. The reader knows nothing about what she is going through except the final line in which Ahmad says that she is dead. Muslim leaders of the regime that both the girls come across are presented as disinterested, almost bored, with how the regime’s constructing image as malevolent and unapproachable. They have already made up their minds as to the punishment and there is no question in how they want the final outcome to be.
    You Could be Mine is almost the opposite of what Moon at Nine is. It is a stronger narrative with sincerity of an insider voice (Farizan). It provides a present day view of life in Iran and projects a different take on the same issue with a twist; In Iran, it is not illegal to be transsexual, as it is to be gay or lesbian, and the state will pay for sex reassignment surgery because it is seen as an essential medical procedure.
    One thing that does come across in both narratives is that Iranian women are presented as strong, independent individuals who have a strong voice and make up their own destiny. Be they negative characters like Pargol and Principal Kobra in Moon at Nine and positive ones such as, Farrin, Sadira, Sahar and Nasrin they are represented as ambitious and forthcoming never receding and oppressed.
    Seemi, I agree that the female characters in If You Could be Mine are constructed as having agency. I cannot agree with you, however, in terms of Moon at Nine. I am not sure ANYONE in this text, male or female, has any power due to living in the repressive setting Ellis writes of that may or may not be accurate. Just think of the fate of the two main female characters-forced marriage and death. How can that signal any kind of power or strength?
    The Iran of Moon at Nine is the terrible place that we Americans know based on our very limited exposure of its culture. When I was growing up, Iran was the scary place where Americans were being held hostage. Today, if I relied on my information to come from the mainstream media only, Iran is the number one enemy where people are shouting “Death to America and to Israel” while harboring the means to blow up the whole world with their hidden weapons of mass destruction.
    And if we don’t look for other ways to know about a culture, we won’t learn anything. I recently watched the Iranian film “A Separation” and it blew me away for being a great film as well as a movie that showed a place of people with lives and problems I can easily relate to. Yes, the women don burkas when leaving the house, and then wear them while fighting for justice and living full lives.
    If You Could be Mine helped me to understand a “foreign” culture in a similar way. It doesn’t pander to stereotypes and gives the reader the space to experience an Iran where life is different AND the same as life is here. Ironically, this would be a book I couldn’t use with students where I work in Louisiana, as it would be considered too scandalous. I say “ironically,” because the media positions the United States as “free” compared to Iran. However, the freedom to read about queer issues is not allowed due to the pervasive Christian culture that shuns homosexuality. The same people who bemoan Iran and its repressive Islamic regime are the legislators who do vote against making the LGBQT community a protected group.
    Again, this is why reading outside your own culture is so important. It allows the reader to experience the other as well as making room to critique the familiar. This is a powerful way to help children and adults to think for themselves and to become truly critical thinkers.

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