Written in the Stars
Imagine that you are young, just out of high school. A family
vacation trip to your parents' homeland, Pakistan, goes horribly
wrong. You are trapped in your worst nightmare with no hope of
escape. Worse, it is your own parents, the people you love and trust
the most, who have put you in this predicament. That is the plight of
Naila, narrator of Aisha Saeed's Written in the Stars.
As the story opens Naila is finishing her senior year in her
Florida high school. Unlike her peers, she has to be very secretive
about having a boyfriend, Saif. She is not even allowed to go to
school sporting events. Her parents, particularly her mother, are
very conservative and concerned with their reputation and status in
the Pakistani community. She must do her part by being the perfect
daughter, even accepting her parents' right to marry her off to
whomever they find suitable.
All through the year that she has been in this relationship
Naila has been nothing but circumspect. After all soon they will have
the freedom of being away at college. But she does let her friends
talk her into going to her prom where her parents catch her dancing
Naila's parents are beyond furious. She has disgraced them in
the eyes of their friends, ruined their reputation. She must never
see Saif again. And she is not to return to school--not even for her
graduation. In fact on the day of her graduation she, her parents,
and her little brother are on a plane to Pakistan, headed for a visit
with extended family. Little does she know they will return to the
States without her.
What makes this story truly poignant is that, although these
particular characters are fictitious, forced arranged marriages are
still trapping girls in foreclosed futures. As Saeed points out in
her author's note, this abusive situation happens all over the world,
including the United States. It is only possible within a world in
which girls and women are seen as property to be traded and sold
rather than as sentient beings. Naila's sister-in-law describes this
"Life is full of sadness. It's part of being a woman. Our
lives are lived for the sake of others. Our happiness is never
Written in the Stars is a must read for all feminists between
the ages of 16 and 96.
On a personal note, I have two daughters in their twenties. From
their earliest infancies I have only wanted them to grow up to live
their dreams. I can't imagine forcing them into marriages with people
they scarcely know.
A great big shout out goes out to all who raise awareness of and work
to end this cruel tradition.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod