That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

That Thing We Call a Heart

Shabnam Qureshi is a funny, imaginative Pakistani-American teen attending a tony private school in suburban New Jersey. When her feisty best friend, Farah, starts wearing the headscarf without even consulting her, it begins to unravel their friendship. After telling a huge lie about a tragedy that happened to her family during the Partition of India in 1947, Shabnam is rea...

Title:That Thing We Call a Heart
Author:
Rating:
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:288 pages

That Thing We Call a Heart Reviews

  • Lisa

    I enjoyed this one! It was a quick read that boiled down to: growing up. Shabnam is a wonderfully flawed character. I appreciated getting a closer look at Pakistani culture and Muslim background. A contemporary to add to your TBR for sure.

  • Emily May

    From the very first page, I had a feeling I was going to love

    . Shabnam's narrative voice snared me right away with her snark and humour, and it went on to become a really great book about

    . It also manag

    From the very first page, I had a feeling I was going to love

    . Shabnam's narrative voice snared me right away with her snark and humour, and it went on to become a really great book about

    . It also managed to surprise me, which doesn't happen too often in YA Contemporary anymore.

    This is an ownvoices story about a Pakistani-American teenager and explores the diversity among Muslims. We see the difference between Shabnam, her mother, her best friend Farah, and Farah's devout mother. Karim shows how there is no one way to be Muslim, especially in today's world, and especially for women. Farah is a strong-willed, punk-loving feminist who wears a hijab and is proud of it. She describes herself as:

    Shabnam is actually quite uncomfortable when Farah firsts starts wearing the headscarf, and she is not sure if she even considers herself Muslim. She defies conventional Islam, though many of her family are more conservative and traditional. Non-Muslim readers would do well to pay attention: Islam covers a diverse group of people who all have different beliefs and behaviours. Some are extremely pious, others not so much. Some Muslim women very feminist, others not.

    What really surprised me about

    is that I thought I knew what I was getting into: another cute contemporary romance, but with a Muslim protagonist.

    . It wasn't what I was expecting, and that was great. It's actually about the importance of friendship, in this case between Muslim teenage girls, and about poetry. It contains honest (and funny) discussions about all the hairy smelliness of being a teenager.

    It's also a seriously sarcastic

    . Some of the humour is pretty dark:

    Also,

    :

    I loved her so so much. So much.

    Just to warn you, though: if you were offended by the content/quotes from the recent

    scandal, I don't recommend reading this book. Shabnam is a complex, messy teenager and, as such, she does some really unlikeable things. Some of her comments could be construed as racist, fatphobic -

    - or just bad taste. But, as she says:

    Maybe this doesn't count for something for others, but it does for me. I thought she was a

    and I can't wait to see what characters this author creates in the future.

    was just a hilarious, smart and charming novel.

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  • Sarah

    (I received an advance copy of this book for free. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

    This was a YA contemporary story about a Pakistani-American girl called Shabnam, who had a summer romance.

    Shabnam was an okay character, although I didn’t like the way she made up a story about her great-uncle and his experiences during Partition. I also thought it was a little silly of her to let something

    (I received an advance copy of this book for free. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

    This was a YA contemporary story about a Pakistani-American girl called Shabnam, who had a summer romance.

    Shabnam was an okay character, although I didn’t like the way she made up a story about her great-uncle and his experiences during Partition. I also thought it was a little silly of her to let something like a headscarf come between her and her best friend, surely she should have just accepted her friend for who she was regardless of whether she was Muslim or wore a hijab?

    The storyline in this was about Shabnam meeting a boy called Jamie over the summer before going to university, and falling in love. There was some Urdu poetry involved, and a storyline about how Shabnam had fallen out with her best friend because she chose to wear a hijab, but mostly it was about Shabnam falling for Jamie, and Jamie not telling her that he loved her back. I did appreciate the friendship between Shabnam and Farah when it was back on though, and it was interesting to read a book with a Pakistani-American main character.

    The ending to this was alright, although it wasn’t exactly a happily ever after.

    6.25 out of 10

  • Karla Mae (Reads and Thoughts)

    *ARC Kindly provided by HarperTeen thru Edelweiss*

    It is rare to find a book with a Muslim lead-character. So I always get excited whenever I encounter one and read it. The Thing We Call a Heart might be the 3rd Muslim book that I’ve read and I’m happy and excited to be given a copy for a review. *wink*

    “I had a simple plan. Get through the summer. Go to Penn. Begin anew. Don’t look back.”

    Just like it is being rare to find a book with a Muslim lead-character it is also rare for me to find a book t

    *ARC Kindly provided by HarperTeen thru Edelweiss*

    It is rare to find a book with a Muslim lead-character. So I always get excited whenever I encounter one and read it. The Thing We Call a Heart might be the 3rd Muslim book that I’ve read and I’m happy and excited to be given a copy for a review. *wink*

    “I had a simple plan. Get through the summer. Go to Penn. Begin anew. Don’t look back.”

    Just like it is being rare to find a book with a Muslim lead-character it is also rare for me to find a book that I consider to be totally character-driven and reading The Thing We Calla Heart is one of those rare times.

    Shabnam is a complex character. I had a hard time gauging who she really is I begin the story. She’s awkward, self-conscious but intelligent. She came off self-centered for me on most parts of the book and she frustrates the crap out of me most of the time as well but I still liked her – she’s flawed and she’s real.

    Farah is Shabnam’s best friend and I like her just as much as I like Shabnam. They did have a bit of a fall-out in the beginning of the story after Farah started wearing a jihab without telling Shabnam but they did manage to work things out between them.

    Of course, a love interest paved its way as well into the story into the form of a non-Muslim boy who’s very interested into the Muslim culture named Jamie. I never actually liked Jamie. I’m skeptical about his character from the beginning but it seems to fade whenever he makes or feel Shbnam special but nonetheless all throughout the story, I never liked him.

    To say I’m surprised how Shabnam and Jamie’s story went is a complete understatement. I’m not going to go into details on what happened between these two but for me, the right thing happened because it opened a lot more for Shabnam.

    It never gets old learning about the Muslim culture and history. I enjoyed reading about Urdu Poetry and learning about The Partition.

    I love how different the Shabnam I met at the beginning of the story to the Shabnam on the last page of this book. Overall, this story is all about growing up. Figuring what you wanted in life and trying to understand life itself.

    “Though sorrow is life destroying, we cannot escape it, as we have a heart.”

  • Lauren ✨ (YABookers)

    : I received a free copy via Edelweiss for review purposes.

    Shabnam is a Pakistani-American teen, just finishing up high school when her friendship with her feisty BFF Farah begins to unravel when Farah starts to wear a headscarf without consulting Shabnam. Shabnam starts to make some kind of bad decisions - from kissing the most racist boy in school to telling a huge lie about her family and the partition of India. The end of her school year is really starting to suck; but now Shabnam

    : I received a free copy via Edelweiss for review purposes.

    Shabnam is a Pakistani-American teen, just finishing up high school when her friendship with her feisty BFF Farah begins to unravel when Farah starts to wear a headscarf without consulting Shabnam. Shabnam starts to make some kind of bad decisions - from kissing the most racist boy in school to telling a huge lie about her family and the partition of India. The end of her school year is really starting to suck; but now Shabnam needs to get through the summer before college. Things start looking up when she meets the charming and romantic Jamie who gets her a job at his Aunt's pie shack for the summer. Shabnam starts discovering her first love, Urdu poetry, and begins to repair her friendship with Farah - and with Farah's help, Shabnam discovers the truth about Jamie, and in turn, learns about the important of friendship and love in all it's forms.

    I really loved

    . It deals with so many issues but it's done so seamlessly. It's about love and friendship, heartbreak, family, Urdu poetry, and forgotten history. Not to mention the characters are so well developed. I loved our protagonist Shabnam, and I especially loved Farah - our badass, hijab wearing, feminist BFF.

    Whilst romance is pretty big chunk of the book,

    is definitely a book that explores love between friends and family. I loved her friendship with Farah. At times, Shabnam is a bad friend - she's selfish, and not exactly a good listener. When her best friend Farah starts wearing a headscarf, Shabnam is not exactly understanding; subconsciously, she starts to distance herself from Farah. I absoloutely adored Farah - she's empowering, feminist, funny, feisty and I would absolutely read a book dedicated solely to her. Thankfully, as the book progresses, Shabnam develops and repairs her relationship with Farah and realises how selfish she was being.

    Additionally, I adored her relationship with her parents. I loved her affectionate and caring mother, and I even enjoyed her passionate, yet lazy, father. I especially loved how Shabnam and her father connected over their love of Urdu poetry - it was definitely a lovely addition. I'm a sucker for loving and supporting familial relationships so this book is everything I look for in contemporary YA.

    And last but not least, there's lots of talk of what it's like to be a contemporary Muslim girl, defying conventional stereotypes, what's it's like to be a hijab-wearing Muslim girl and how that doesn't necessarily = good Muslim girl.

    There's also discussions on the Partition of India and the Bosnian Genocide, two often forgotten parts of history.

    This book is a real gem. It tackles so many important relevant issues and I think it's messages about love and identity will resonate with a lot of readers.

  • Cait • A Page with a View

    If you're only reading a few books this spring, make sure this is one of them. The whole thing is so well done!!

    This was a coming-of-age story that takes place during Shabnam Qureshia's last summer before college. When Shabnam's best friend Farah starts wearing hijab they begin to drift apart. Shabnam hates all of the attention where everything is now focused on Islam, so she doesn't always support her friend in public. Farah "

    If you're only reading a few books this spring, make sure this is one of them. The whole thing is so well done!!

    This was a coming-of-age story that takes place during Shabnam Qureshia's last summer before college. When Shabnam's best friend Farah starts wearing hijab they begin to drift apart. Shabnam hates all of the attention where everything is now focused on Islam, so she doesn't always support her friend in public. Farah "

    Farah fashions her headscarf into Princess Leia buns, wears a scarf with raised fists, has a totally unique sense of style, and is just unapologetically herself. She's an amazingly inspirational feminist and I'd love to have a whole other book with her rants:

    At the start of the story Shabnam is embarrassed to be seen with her great-uncle who wears a black vest & shalwar kameez and has a long beard. While she's avoiding being seen with him at the mall she meets a random cute guy. Those two end up spending the summer working at a pie stand and Shabnam falls in love super fast like a Bollywood movie. (I wasn't that into the romance, but luckily it's NOT the cliche summer YA love story at all).

    Shabnam's socially awkward mathematician father has a deep love for Urdu poetry and they grow closer throughout the story by discussing it. I adored her father and all of the other scenes of ordinary moments like the Bosnian men playing cards in the donut shop. (PS I neeeeed a donut shop like that to be near me).

    This story really is about different types of love -- friendship, families, and romantic. All of the discussion of Sufi poets & love was SO well done, too. I think I might have been so enthusiastically into this story because it involved several topics I really care about (I've spent a lot of time studying the Bosnian genocide, Partition, and Sufi poets, so that was a solid blend for me). Those discussions were really powerful and so, so important. But at the same time I think this story is just straight up relatable no matter what!! If you know nothing about those topics, this would be an amazing place to start.

    The writing is really strong and gives Shabnam's narration a totally genuine and lovable tone. It was refreshing to see such casual & open discussions about love, sex, how people say ignorant things, body odor, religion, etc because it made all of the characters totally realistic. And the book feels like a character study, which actually worked really well because characters themselves are what make this book so utterly charming and powerful. I had to stop reading halfway through and preorder a finished copy because I was so into this story!

    .

  • Haniya (Voracious Bookling)

    New Edit: My mention about Prophet's Balls wasn't accurate! I'm so sorry! Farah and Shabnam just say jokingly a hadith (which doesn't exist btw) about Prophet telling to kick someone in the balls if they hurt your bestie. Thanks to Abeer for pointing out the mistake! :) So sorry I interpreted these lines wrongly. I was just so overwhelmed by Farah's character.

    P.S: Other than this part, I still strongly standby with my whole review!

    Original Post:

    (Along w

    New Edit: My mention about Prophet's Balls wasn't accurate! I'm so sorry! Farah and Shabnam just say jokingly a hadith (which doesn't exist btw) about Prophet telling to kick someone in the balls if they hurt your bestie. Thanks to Abeer for pointing out the mistake! :) So sorry I interpreted these lines wrongly. I was just so overwhelmed by Farah's character.

    P.S: Other than this part, I still strongly standby with my whole review!

    Original Post:

    (Along with shots of problematic pages)

    NOTE: THIS IS A NEGATIVE REVIEW OF THIS BOOK AND DO NOT LEAVE ANY HATE COMMENTS PLEASE IF YOU REALLY LIKED THIS BOOK! THIS IS MY OPINION AND I HAVE A RIGHT TO SHARE MY VIEWS.

    This book revolves around Shabnam, a Muslim girl whose mom is a practising Muslim and idk what her dad is, he's either an atheist or a Muslim. She has a best friend, Farah, whose a kind-ish practising Muslim. And then we have the cutest character, Chotay Dada, who faced great struggles during the migration of Pakistanis!

    Now on to what I found problematic, the first thing is that I'm a Muslim and whenever I see wrong kind-ish stuff in books revolving around Muslims, it triggers me. Shabnam is a Muslim but her life isn't totally Muslim like, it's like she kisses random guys, let's guys touch her and has no issues whatsoever with losing her virginity (Its prohibited in Islam to date guys or kiss them or loose your virginity without nikkah). Her friend Farah wears Hijab, prays and fasts (which I loved) but she does drugs like ummm what?!!? There was not a single proper Muslim character other than Chotay Dada. His character is legit so good! Her father is so confusing, one time he goes like Qur'an should be changed as people are evolving and the other time he's like Allah is the best (Dude your an adult you have a daughter, stop being confused and choose what you want to follow). There's also a usage of fabricated hadith and the denial of a Hadith by Farah! It's okay if Farah is a feminist but she can't deny what has been said by our prophet (SAW) as she's herself a Muslim. 

    Her relationship with the white boy was also questionable making the book totally non Muslim. It would have been great if the guy was a Muslim!

    Please I don't want any hate comments! This is just my opinion and I had to share it! The writing skills of the author is amazing but I just couldn't get my head around the plot! It's totally your choice if you want to read it! You might love it but it might be triggering for some Muslims! 

  • Jen Ryland

    Loved this one so much!

    Ah, that amazing feeling when you start a book and just click instantly with the narrator. I fell so in love with Shabnam's curious, snarky, sometimes politically incorrect take on life.

    This book takes place during the end of Shabnam's senior year and the summer between high school and college. Shabnam's stuck at home with her parents, forced to escort her visiting great-uncle to the Apple store for fun. When she's offered a job at a pie shack, she jumps at it, and develo

    Loved this one so much!

    Ah, that amazing feeling when you start a book and just click instantly with the narrator. I fell so in love with Shabnam's curious, snarky, sometimes politically incorrect take on life.

    This book takes place during the end of Shabnam's senior year and the summer between high school and college. Shabnam's stuck at home with her parents, forced to escort her visiting great-uncle to the Apple store for fun. When she's offered a job at a pie shack, she jumps at it, and develops a crush on her cute co-worker, a college student.

    Shabnam is Muslim and a first generation Pakistani-American. She's puzzled by her parents' marriage (ha- who isn't?) finding it hard to reconcile her mathematician father's detached absentmindedness with his preoccupation with Urdu ghazals (a structured yet ardent love poem). When she's called on in class when the class is discovering the Partition of India in 1947 (creating two separate nations, India and Pakistan) she impulsively makes up a huge lie about her family's experiences at the time.

    Shabnam has also drifted apart from her former best friend, Farah. When Farah started wearing hijab, Shabnam didn't understand how her fiercely independent, feminist friend could adopt what she saw as an oppressive custom. The story follows Shabnam's romance with Jamie and traces the ups and downs of her relationship with Farah.

    I just love books like this, books that teach me about a culture I'm not familiar with, but also remind me that we all have so much in common -- embarrassing parents, friendship troubles, dreams and insecurities about love.

    Highly recommend this to readers who love irreverent narrators and coming of age stories, and interesting portrayals of female friendship.

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