Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Payback (fiction)

There are laws against forced marriage in England.
But if Halima returns to Pakistan with the family for her brother's wedding...

On this World Wednesday, we see today's England through the eyes of a young teen girl who emigrates to London from rural Pakistan with her family.

There, dusty roads and the rules of village elders. Here, motorcars and subways, small enclaves of immigrants clustered together against the big city, speaking their native languages in neighborhood shops.

There, all marriages are arranged by family. Here, young men and women meet people outside their clan, outside their region, outside their religion.

Halima is not trying to rebel for the sake of rebellion, but she does want the opportunity to choose a Muslim husband on her own, not be promised to someone far away as mere repayment of a debt.

Rosemary Wells' excels at putting real-life situations at the heart of her books - grab Payback today at your local library or independent bookstore and read another story behind the headlines.

Book info: Payback / Rosemary Hayes. Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2009. [author's website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: When Halima’s father whisks their family from rural Pakistan to London, she worries – will he truly allow her to finish school there before arranging a marriage? In the village, he’s an important landowner who has worked overseas for years to send money back home; in London, he’s just another immigrant laborer who speaks English poorly and clings to old customs.

It’s difficult, going to middle school understanding so little English - if only Ammi had allowed Halima and her older sister to watch the village leader’s satellite television to hear the language! Their brothers had moved to London earlier with Baba, so they know the language and the subway and everything.

Thankfully, there are other Pakistani girls at her school and teachers who patiently help all the immigrating students learn English. Meeting boisterous red-headed Kate at high school helps Halima bloom, as the friends join the debate society and try to understand each other’s world.

But things aren’t smooth at home, as Baba continues to control his sons’ lives, as Ammi counts on her daughters as translators, as the parents begin to arrange marriages as if the family was still in Pakistan.

When Halima finds out that she was promised in marriage years ago by Baba to settle a debt, she decides that her future belongs to her. Can she really leave her family? Can she run far enough away to escape their control? How far will her Baba’s sense of family honor push him to find her?

Halima’s struggle to honor her Muslim heritage while continuing her education is based on a true story of forced marriage and kidnapping in England today. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.


  1. This sounds like a fascinating book. I know this is a dilemma for many foreign teens who are pulled between their culture and the culture they've just moved into. I'll have to keep my eyes open for this one.

  2. What an interesting book. It makes one wonder about forced marriage and kidnapping of Muslim girls in America.

  3. Sounds very interesting. And am important book to be available in libraries.

  4. And Halima is not trying to be a complete rebel and abandon her culture; she just wants to help select her future husband from acceptable Pakistani young men in London.

    Forced marriages among southeast Asian emigrants to Western countries are more common than many of us realize.


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