“It’s selfish and horrible, but in this terrible moment, all I want is to be a plain old American teenager. Who can simply mourn without fear. Who doesn’t share last names with a suicide bomber. Who goes to dances and can talk to her parents about anything and can walk around without always being anxious. And who isn’t a presumed terrorist first and an American second.”
This line. This one, right here.
This is why you need to read this book.
Love, Hate, And Other Filters follows the failproof YA formula – a smart, quirky girl gets attention of her longstanding crush, has to hide her true passion from her parents who’ll never understand, has the requisite ride-or-die best friend and supportive older figure who just ‘gets her.’
And let’s not forget the relationship that is perfect on paper, but doesn’t sing to her soul. We have that one, too.
Remove the Love from the title and let’s focus on the Hate, And Other Filters. Ahmed’s book addresses the nuance and layers in Islamophobia as experienced from Maya Aziz. Layered between the secret rendezvous and requisite Indian functions is a thoughtful, realistic representation of what it means to be both Muslim and American in 2018.
It’s not easy. Particularly when you share the same last name as the suspected terrorist in an attack on a nearby town.
Ahmed does this seamlessly. It’s only after you’ve finished the book that you can appreciate the nuance and the varying degrees of racism and prejudice that many people of color face here. Some of the characters and plot lines feel stereotypical – Maya’s parents feel one-dimensional to me, and her burgeoning relationship with Phil is a little bit tired (swimming lessons as a pretense to be half-clothed, a secret hiding spot). Mercifully, these mainly occur in the first half of the book. The second half is rich with Maya’s turbulent journey of what it means to be an American, an Indian, a Muslim, and a young woman in present-day America.
It’s incredibly refreshing to see myself in contemporary literature, and for these stories to be celebrated and read beyond our community.
May it lead to a more empathetic, welcoming America overall.