The Writing on my Forehead (P.S. Series)

The Writing on my Forehead (P.S. Series)

by Nafisa Haji


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061493867
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/02/2010
Series: P.S. Series
Pages: 308
Sales rank: 802,025
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Nafisa Haji's first novel, The Writing on My Forehead, was a finalist for the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award. An American of Indo-Pakistani descent, she was born and raised in Los Angeles and now lives in northern California with her husband and son.

What People are Saying About This

Wichita Falls

“Grab a cup of chai (tea), and curl up in a big chair to read; time will fly and you’ll want to refill your cup before you even think about putting this book down. (The story) will stay with you for a long while.”

Khaled Hosseini

“A moving meditation on the meaning of family, tradition, and the ties that bind. Lyrical and touching. A story of mother and daughters, and of a young Muslim woman at crossroads, shaped by the forces of her past, her religion, her roots, her culture, and her own determined will.”

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The Writing on my Forehead (P.S. Series) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was completely taken by this beautifully written debut Novel by Nafisa Haji to the point that I had to read it twice to fully savour the rich prose with which this author writes. The Writing on My Forehead(which in many cultures denotes "destiny" or "kismet" --- a hidden meaning as the author uses a more literal reference in the book)is a mesmerizing story about Saira Qader, a rebellious second-generation immigrant woman, and her journey to find herself, to come to terms with a recent haunting tradegy, and above all to give meaning to her life. As a journalist travelling all over the world to bear witness, she revisits, unearths, learns from, and is inspired by the "devilish details" in the wisdom of old multi-generational stories of her family that grew up in the Indian Sub Continent---stories of courage, scandals, and independence. This book has rich, complex, yet touchable characters that come to life and stay with the reader much after the last page. For a debut novel, this is a six star performance and I remain eager to read more from this author in years to come. Highly recommended !!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is definitely not as good as the Kite Runner, but it is interesting enough for you to keep reading.
NormaS More than 1 year ago
This was an easy read and I couldn't put it down. I had to keep reading to see what happened next. The author brought the characters to life, had you involved emotionally with them. Although the theme was about a different cluture than I was raised with the actions of the characters were universal. It reminds us that we are all the same. I did not expect the ending, which was a good thing. A surprise ending is always welcome. I was sorry to finish the book and say goodbye to the characters. I wanted to know more about their lives.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In California, teenager Saira Qader is a second generation Muslim-American whose views on life radically differs from her immigrant parents from India and Pakistan respectively. She even senses the gap between her and her older sister Ameena who married the choice of their parents. Saira wants to attend college like most of her school friends plan to do, but knows her overprotective old country (that is before the 1947 partition) parents want her settled in marriage to someone they choose.

In 1983 at a family wedding in Karachi, fourteen years old Saira attends by herself as her mom and sis refuse. She is stunned to learn her mother lied about her maternal grandfather; instead of being dead, he lives in London far from his days as a Gandhi freedom fighter; he is patriarch to another family with his British soulmate and three offspring. That revelation leads to her going to college where she experiments with drugs and sex; once she graduates she becomes an international war correspondent which leads to an estrangement with her family. A few years later, she comes home as her mom is near death and her sister is a totally devout Muslim. Not long after mother¿s death father returns to India while soon after that Ameena is shot in mob retaliation for 9/11 because she wears a hijab. Saira begins to look again at her Asian roots vs. her Americanization.

This is an intriguing glimpse of a Muslim-American family struggling with tradition of the first generation and the assimilation of the second. The story line occurs over a few decades so the audience obtains the metamorphosis, especially of the lead character Saira. The cast in America, London and in Pakistan (incredibly prfound is her Aunt Big Nanima) is fully developed so that the audience learns the impact of globalization on American assimilation. This is a deep look at a Muslim making it in the United States.

Harriet Klausner
DubaiReader on LibraryThing 11 hours ago
Great twist at the end :)I really enjoyed this novel, it started off well and just kept getting better - until at the end we discover something that I never would have guessed. That, for me, is the sure sign of a good book.The central character is Saira, the younger sister of Ameena. Although Ameena is very happy in her arranged marriage to Shuja, this is not enough to convince Saira that she wants to settle down to married life. Living in America, travelling to Pakistan, Saira also has relatives in London; she has absorbed much of her Pakistani culture while simultaneously becoming a young American. This of course causes internal conflicts but also provides a huge supportive extended family. I loved the feel of this worldwide family with its many wonderful characters. The huge network was ultimately responsible for providing Saira with her career choices and one of her relationships and in spite of calamities along the way had a wonderful 'feel-good' quality.The story begins with Saira as a young girl and takes us through her days as a student and eventually an international journalist.The title is beautifully apropriate, also evoking the closeness of the family.I can't believe this is the author's first book, I hope she won't leave it too long to write another.
sagustocox on LibraryThing 11 hours ago
Nafisa Haji's The Writing on my Forehead transports readers into another culture and the struggles that members find themselves in as the world around them evolves, causing clashes between modernity and the past. Told from the point of view of Saira, readers are taken on a very personal journey into the past, uncovering the deep secrets of Saira's grandmother and grandfather as well as her own parents. The dynamic between Saira and her sister is only partially shown, with the point of view of Ameena silent. From fate to choices, each character must follow their path to the end -- no matter what it holds for them."I close my eyes and imagine the touch of my mother's hand on my forehead, smoothing away the residue of childhood nightmares. Her finger moves across my forehead, tracing letters and words of prayer that I never understood, never wanted to understand, her mouth whispering in nearly silent accompaniment. Now, waking from the nightmare that has become routine -- bathed in sweat, breathing hard, resigned to the sleeplessness that will follow -- I remember her soothing touch and appreciate it with an intensity that I never felt when she was alive." (Page 1)Saira grows into an independent woman who is running from her culture and tradition to find herself grasping for it in the darkest moments of her life. As an American with a strong Pakistani-Indian heritage and a mother reminiscent of Mrs. Bennet in Pride & Prejudice, it is no wonder that she rebels against tradition and culture to become a traveling journalist."I shudder, now, to think of how my mother, trying hard and failing to be subtle, got the word of my availability -- accompanied, I learned later, by a full-size, glossy headshot -- out on the proverbial 'street' where desi families gathered and speculated, assessed and collated young people into the 'happily ever after' that getting married was supposed to promise." (Page 191)Haji's prose is eloquent and engages not only the readers' sensibilities and emotions, but their inquisitive nature as family secrets are unraveled. Saira is a complex character who searches for a center, an axis on which she can revolve and become grounded. While she is connected to family, like Mohsin and Big Nanima, throughout her life because they are in effect the outsiders of a culture she rejects, she continues to struggle with her other relations -- her sister, Ameena, her mother and her father -- because they represent to her a culture she finds limiting. The Writing on my Forehead provides a variety of topics for discussion from political imperialism and its consequences to the tension between the modern world and tradition and the modern dilemmas facing adolescents striking out on their own to the loss of family -- making this an excellent book club selection that will inspire debate and introspection.
LiteraryFeline on LibraryThing 12 hours ago
I love family stories. My own family's included. When my maternal grandparents were alive, I loved listening to them talk about the past. After they were gone, I found quite a few treasures among the old photographs and letters my grandmother had held onto during her life time. I wanted to know everything about them, about my family. As an extension, I am quite fond of novels where a character delves into her own family history, whether it be uncovering a long held family secret or finding strength in the past by those who came before--often both.The Writing on My Forehead by Nafisa Haji is one such novel. Framed around her own story, protagonist Saira reaches into her memories for answers to help her through a very difficult and tragic time in her life. Alongside the present day story is a coming of age story as Saira sets out on her chosen path. Bucking tradition, family and faith, she refuses to marry and pursues a career in journalism. And yet it is that very tradition, family and faith that will be there for her in the end.I liked Saira. She is intelligent and curious about the world around her, unafraid to ask questions. Raised in the United States, she is faced with a culture that values individuality and another, her family's, that is more centered around family and tradition. I was reminded of Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, which also touched on this topic. I really appreciated how the author handled the cultural aspects of the novel. Although Saira may have chosen an unconventional path, characters like her sister, Ameena who was more traditional, were not painted in a negative light. Both lifestyles were portrayed realistically--having negative as well as positive aspects.One of the most interesting characters was Mohsin, Saira's cousin. He had discovered their grandfather's journal in a trunk in the attic and shared the grandfather's story with Saira. Roshan Qadar had been an activist, fighting for the betterment of the Indian people. Mohsin hoped to follow in his footsteps. Mohsin, her grandfather and the example of her favorite aunt are what shaped Saira's choices in life. My only disappointment is that more time wasn't spent on Mohsin's story, especially given the important role he played in Saira's life once she became a journalist.That favorite aunt of Saira's was a favorite character of mine as well. Big Nanima, as Saira called her, is a professor in Pakistan. She had never married, not so much by choice but by circumstance. She had studied in England and was a great inspiration for Saira. Even while she encouraged Saira to make her own choices in life, she also asked her to remember her family and not be so quick to toss away the traditions the family held so dear.I thoroughly enjoyed The Writing on My Forehead. There is so much that we can learn from the stories of our families. While Saira's own story at times seemed secondary to the stories of her family members, it is a rich novel; while at times tragic, it is also full of redemption and heart.Source: Book provided by publisher for review.
kiwifortyniner on LibraryThing 12 hours ago
I loved the characters in this book, the chief one being Saira Qader a Muslim American of Indo-Pakistanin descent. She did not want to follow the traditional expected path like her sister Ameena who married and had a daughter. She chose instead to become a journalist and travel the world. She identified especially with her favourite Aunt who had also bucked the system. But after five years travelling the world tragedy stirkes her family and she is forced to look again at the decisions she has made and work out how to deal with the future. She realises that sometines choice is taken away from us and we are lead in an unexpected direction.As she is grappling with the turmoil we hear from her the stories of other members of her family and the different ways their lives have taken them - her grandparents and her parents and her Aunts and sister and we have a great picture of the whole family over the years. We learn of secrets kept and lies told. An absorbing read.
peacelover on LibraryThing 12 hours ago
I was completely taken by this beautifully written debut Novel by Nafisa Haji to the point that I had to read it twice to fully savour the rich prose with which this author writes. The Writing on My Forehead(which in many cultures denotes "destiny" or "kismet" --- a hidden meaning as the author uses a more literal reference in the book)is a mesmerizing story about Saira Qader, a rebellious second-generation immigrant woman, and her journey to find herself, to come to terms with a recent haunting tradegy, and above all to give meaning to her life. As a journalist travelling all over the world to bear witness, she revisits, unearths, learns from, and is inspired by the "devilish details" in the wisdom of old multi-generational stories of her family that grew up in the Indian Sub Continent---stories of courage, scandals, and independence. This book has rich, complex, yet touchable characters that come to life and stay with the reader much after the last page. For a debut novel, this is a six star performance and I remain eager to read more from this author in years to come. Highly recommended !!!
amanderson on LibraryThing 12 hours ago
An involving depiction of a young Muslim-American woman growing up caught between two cultures and deciding on her life's path. Packs a bit too much in as far as experiences but well written and engrossing. Great details about Pakistani and Indian and Muslim culture.
ImBookingIt on LibraryThing 12 hours ago
I received this book from a Goodreads first reads giveaway. I signed up for several books that looked interesting, and was excited to hear I was selected for this one.I found this book both entertaining and thought provoking. In one sense, this is the story of Saira and her sister. It is the story of of a girl growing into a woman and of the meeting of cultures. It is also the story of an extended family, and many other sibling pairs within it. More than anything else, it is a story of relationships.Saira is a child of Indo-Pakistani immigrants to the US. Her sister seems to be quite happy in the role she is cast into by their parents' culture, but that just isn't the person that Saira is meant to be. Even as a young child, Saira always wants to know "why" and always pushes at her prescribed boundaries. A trip to Pakistan at age 13 introduces Saira to some of her extended family and her family's history. She continues asking "why", and begins to hear the stories of the relationships that helped form who her parents are, and to form their attitudes towards her sister and herself. These come together as she grows older and begins to experience a run of tragedies, ending with one hinted at in the beginning of the book.I found almost all of the characters interesting, likable (in their own way), and individual. In spite of each character having his/her own personality, each pairing (sibling or romantic) contains an echo from other relationships in the family, through different times and locations. Going into this book, I didn't know very much about the history of the relationship between India and Pakistan. Although I was glad to know more, I was saddened to think about how much strife is going on in that part of the world, and reflect on the breadth of it. This is a theme touched on briefly in the book.The writing was very good. There were a few points where it felt clumsy, or where the reader was told things perhaps we should have been left to discover on our own, but these were rare. For the most part, the writing stayed out of my way, which I appreciate in a book.I'd recommend this book, and will keep my eyes out for others by the author. I give it a high 4 stars, wishing once again for half stars.
msbaba on LibraryThing 12 hours ago
The Writing on my Forehead, by Nafisa Haji, is a gratifying and powerful debut novel by a talented new novelist. It is a splendid, stirring, cross-cultural tale with multifaceted psychological overtones. The book covers twelve years in the life of Saira Qader, an American of Indo-Pakistani heritage brought up in a traditional Muslim family¿a family with many secrets. We enter the book at its end when the main character is introduced to us as a twenty-six-year-old woman in psychological turmoil, a woman tormented by recurring nightmares that the reader does not understand. We are drawn into the mystery of what is occurring, and are compelled to follow the story as it is metered out to us in chronological vignettes starting when Saira is fourteen years old. Saira's story is the story of her family, their relations to each other, and to the country and culture of their birth. This is a family that has suffered and survived many divisions. The book chronicles those divisions and gives them heart-rending depth. The story is emotionally satisfying with an unexpected ending that haunts the readers for many days after the last page is turned. The novel is written as if it were a memoir. I started the novel knowing full well that this was a fictional tale, but soon got caught up in the false reality of the memoir. This literary effect was so successful that, three-quarters way through the novel, there was a scene that caused me to turn back to the cover and assure myself that I was, indeed, reading a novel and not a true-life tale. In that part of the book, Saira asks her career journalist and novelist boyfriend to read and critique some of her creative writing. He returns with this backhanded praise. "You are a leech, Miss Saira. You have stolen the stories of your family and made them yours... You are too presumptuous, putting words in the mouths and feelings in the hearts of people that you have no way of knowing are accurate. Yet, you have done it in a way that seems to honor them, with such sympathy that I can almost forgive your literary hubris." As I read these words now for a second time, I am struck with how accurately they describe this if the author was having fun with the reader and honestly critiquing her own novel. If so, Haji shows excellent insight into her own creation. I am impressed by the author's writing style. It is fresh and vivid. She allows nothing to detract from the delicate methodical unfolding of the plot. Haji is a storyteller. Her prose manages to be elegant without drawing attention to itself¿and that style suits this book very well. I chair a contemporary literature book group and I plan to suggest that the group read this novel. The book leaves the reader with many unanswered questions. I am sure that our book group will enjoy reading this work, and that it will provide an excellent springboard for a fascinating group discussion.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing 12 hours ago
Opening with the adult Saira's longing for the comfort of her mother as she walks down the hall to check on her sister's daughter, this novel is one of family, tradition, and secrets and it quickly turns back in time to Saira's childhood. As the American-born younger daughter of strict, traditional Muslim, Indo-Pakistani parents, Saira never quite fits the image of the girl and then the woman that her cultural heritage insists she be, not like her older sister Ameena. She has no desire to grow up and marry well, being more interested in living a life of freedom, as exemplified by her unmarried, but self-sufficient, much-beloved great aunt back in Pakistan. Her desire for an education and a less constrained life bring her into conflict with her mother especially, a woman who is determined to create for Saira the same contented, married life sister Ameena has embraced. But Saira rebels in small and large ways, especially after her journey back to Pakistan for a cousin's wedding where she uncovers family secrets, the consequences of which continue to reverberate far past the borders of Pakistan. The secrets give her a different view of life, but they also, ultimately, intrigue her in a way that finding a suitable husband does not. And so Saira follows her own path, deviating from what is expected, becoming a journalist, focused on the small details, the bearing witness. But just as she bears witness to others' suffering in war torn areas around the globe, she will be drawn back in to her family's intimate life when tragedy strikes.Haji's novel is beautifully written, taking on identity and family in the context of the second generation, that generation still so tied to the culture from whence their parents came but oftentimes wanting to assimilate, rejecting their cultural history partially or in full. Saira is in a difficult position, both American and Indo-Pakistani and so many outside forces, current and historical, contributed to her character, the Partition of India, the Western concept of love, the Muslim faith and its tenets, the culture of the American teenager. She is a character who is completely appealing and as she reveals her story and that of the neglected family secrets, I was drawn into a world both like and unlike mine in so many ways. The characters felt real though some of the revelations towards the end of the novel, mostly about Saira's generation, were quite obvious and predictable at least to me, including the one involving Saira herself. Haji has taken the story of a family and skillfully woven major events in the modern histories of India, Pakistan, and the United States into the more personal narrative. Only when cousin Mohsin is regaling Saira with their shared grandfather's service with Gandhi does the history seem to overwhelm the story itself, becoming more a history lesson than a piece of a fictional plot. It feels at this point as if this is inserted in its entirety for an audience who can't be assumed to know about Gandhi, the British Raj, and the Partition at all. And perhaps that's a fair assessment of the English speaking and reading public but it is the only time the novel descends into the didactic, generally preferring instead, to let the personal speak for the universal, and doing it successfully. The ending of the novel feels a bit rushed, as if Saira is more comfortable telling the story of a more distant past than of her years outside the family fold, the immediate past, and so the deaths and her grief have, perhaps a bit less of an impact than they could have had if her more current life been included more in the plot. But overall, Haji has written an insightful book on family and relationship and the complexities of both. She has created characters who are not "other" but are us, despite differences in cultural expectation and superficialities. The book is engrossing and despite minor flaws, flows pretty seamlessly through until the reader turns the last page and sets
alexdaw on LibraryThing 12 hours ago
I found this book a bit difficult to get opens with a dispute between two sisters. Their mother chastises the younger one for being too boisterous and impulsive. I felt sorry for the younger daughter growing up in such a restrictive domestic environment where gender very much determined your life choices and how you must behave. But the author weaves her tale very cleverly and before too long I was barracking for the rebellious younger daughter and intrigued by her murky family history as told by alternatively gossipy aunts or sage great-aunts. This story kept me guessing to the end. I don't think it's great literature - at times the writing annoyed me with its Mills and Boons style- but the story was worth telling. How much control do we have over our destiny and what do we do/how do we respond when s..t happens?
Litfan on LibraryThing 12 hours ago
"The Writing on my Forehead" is the story of Saira, a Muslim-American woman of Indian/ Pakistani descent. Saira grows up torn between the traditional expectations of a woman in her culture-- marriage and children-- and her own desires to be independent. As her life unfolds, Saira finds herself forging her own path in ways that her more traditional relatives do not always approve of. As she creates her life, she is also drawn into the stories of her family's past. The novel moves easily between past and present, and the author beautifully uses the family's stories to illustrate the idea that no matter where you go, your family and culture are always part of who you are. There are times when the plot twists are somewhat predictable, but even when you think you know what's coming next, the writing is completely engrossing and lyrical. There was never a moment that I felt like I was waiting for the "good part" with this book; it was utterly compelling from beginning to end.
karieh on LibraryThing 12 hours ago
It took me a while to start enjoying ¿The Writing on My Forehead¿. Though I realized this at the time, my copy gives me further proof in that the first marker I placed denoting something I wanted to comment on was on Page 71.Until then, I hadn¿t felt much from or about the character. The words and the story were interesting enough, but there wasn¿t much¿energy, or life behind them. And then finally,¿Something flickered in my mother¿s eyes. Suddenly, the person I had though of as my biggest obstacle switched sides to become my biggest ally. The first sign of support came in the form of silence. That night, my mother offered no further argument against my going.¿ Although it¿s not the main character, young Saira Qadar that says these words, it is in this scene that it felt like she started to really think about things bigger than herself, started to realize what members of her family had experienced in their lives, started to understand that they had an impact on her life, on the choices she would face.This book is story about the past and the future¿letting go of one and making the decision to move into the other. Saira¿s story seems mostly that of an observer¿a passive one at first, and then one that moves into the stories and sometimes changes them irrevocably.A character that enters her life much later on says it far better than I. ¿Fiction is truer than journalism, you ask? But journalism is based on facts. Facts. What could be truer than facts? Well, facts are often disparate and contradictory. Their complexity eludes our understanding. How to assimilate them ¿ these unruly, misshapen entities? Journalists are reporters. Reporters are supposed to report. The temptation to do more than report is irresistible, however ¿ all for a good cause, of course. To clarify, explain, contextualize ¿ to help people understand what we ourselves do not.¿I love the idea of facts as ¿unruly, misshapen entities¿. So often facts are portrayed as cold, unchangeable, set in stone. But facts, especially those about and within the lives of human beings, are rarely ever the same when seen through different eyes.¿In journalism, truth is too easily rendered irrelevant, subject to the design and construction of facts. In fiction, facts are irrelevant, subject to the storyteller¿s quest for truth.¿Saira, as she moves through the lives of her grandparents, parents, relatives and the world beyond, experiences firsthand the great divide that can live between facts and truth. And as she does so, the emotion, the feeling behind her words is finally revealed.¿¿in journalism, you have to maintain your distance. You can¿t bear witness if your eyes are full of tears.¿That distance proves to be very difficult for Saira, especially when it comes to the big secret of the novel (that¿s not a secret at ALL so it bothered me how carefully Haji was trying to write her way around it). As Saira grows up, the facts she discovers come with a price. As she becomes more involved in the story that is her life, she starts to understand how sometimes it is impossible to make a choice that is right on all counts. Most choices are right for some people and once made, seem incredibly wrong to others.¿And is that not something you will regret? Later?¿ Her question was in the wrong tense. The answer I repressed was a bittersweet mixture of regret and remorse already realized, processed and assimilated into who I was. Later was not something I worried much about.¿By the end of the book, I cared a great deal for Saira, and although mine is a life very different from hers¿I felt that I¿d been shown a great many truths. There is some joy and a great deal of sorrow in this book, but in the end there is the story of a girl who becomes a woman¿in a family and a world she may not completely understand, but is determined to experience .
bachaney on LibraryThing 12 hours ago
The Writing on My Forehead is a family history told from the perspective of Saira, a young woman who has grown up in LA and is the daughter of immigrants from India and Pakistan. The novel starts with Saira looking in on her young sleeping niece and then flashes back to Saira's own childhood. The novel then traces the next 30 years of Saira's life--from childhood to adulthood--and her struggles against the rigid Muslim and Indo-Pakistani traditions of her family. As Saira learns more about her family history, she is more set upon defying the traditions that surround her. By the time Saira has reached adulthood she is a successful journalist hiding a huge family secret that will blow up in the turbulent days following 9/11. Nafisa Haji's writing in this novel is crisp and fluid--she moves easily from one topic to the next and her descriptions make the reader feel as though she is traveling Saira's life journey with her. Haji does a wonderful job of unfolding Saira's personal story and her family's larger story on parallel narrative threads. The interaction between the generations is wonderful, and you get a sense of the complicated task of growing up in a large interconnected family. The novel has wonderful pacing until the last 50 pages, when it feels like the novel is rushed to the end. I wish the author had spent more time with the conclusion of the story, because it was so rich, I reached the end wanting more. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. If you enjoyed The Kite Runner or The Namesake, you will enjoy this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Walks in
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He heads in takes off all clothes and waits