The Sweetness of Tears
…Haji’s follow up to The Writing On My Forehead (2009) is a moving, multigenerational story.
Chowk.Com, Pakistan Link, Dawn
…Haji has separated herself from the company of ordinary story-writers and might just find herself included in another league.
Nafisa Haji, with her second novel, has employed themes of family, religion, lingual diversity, sectarian and national divisions, to establish herself as an advocate of humanitarianism and peace. She skillfully and objectively deals with polarities like faith and uncertainty, betrayal and trust and so on….Her work is a fast and easy read; it captivates the reader till the last page and the story resonates in the reader’s mind after he is done with it.
Haji is a creative storyteller who manages to encompass the issues of religious conflict, cultural traditions and practices, identity, freedom, love, personal foibles, secrets and lies, recrimination and reconciliation without being didactic; it is all part of the narrative and flows naturally. Her keen ear for dialogue and remarkable understanding of human emotion make her characters believable and interesting.
The Sweetness of Tears goes beyond…providing dynamic stories through even more dynamic characters. The story is so compelling, that I couldn’t put down. I recommend this book to all those who are trying to find answers and navigate through the complex, yet deeply connected world that we live in today- and that is everyone.
…Haji tells the story of intertwining lives and faiths in the wake of 9/11….I was gripped by the unfolding plot and the revelation of relationships hidden and discovered. With her words, Haji takes you to the streets of Pakistan, to the inner courtyard of a home with a fruit tree leaning over a wall, to the customs of a faith that so many people malign and misunderstand.
Haji’s sprawling second novel is a family saga that expands over several decades to explore the history of Islam, the reach of Christianity, the horrors of the war in Iraq, and several other hot-button issues….the author alternates viewpoints to deepen and connect her characters….and the many threads eventually cleave to illustrate how a complicated blend of race, religion, culture, and tradition can create peace rather than conflict.
The Columbus Dispatch
It takes nerve to name the heroine of your novel after Louisa May Alcott’s most beloved character….but the two probably would have found plenty to talk about….the most compelling parts…take advantage of family stories of life back in Karachi just after Pakistan was separated from India. The memories of both Jo’s father, Sadiq, and his mother, Deena, reveal much about a complex culture where Sunni and Shiites bump up against one another, worship takes many different forms and class and tradition shape destinies….The book is at its best when it…settles into the rhythms of everyday experience and of the type of storytelling that opens the reader’s eyes to other lives.
The Writing On My Forehead
San Francisco Chronicle
The Writing on My Forehead is not only a family history but also a social history with an ambitious arc. Haji deftly illustrates how the Qaders’ lives intersect with defining world events. (Haji is a) talented new writer of sense and a distinct sensibility.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Nafisa Haji…has poured her bittersweet wisdom through the filter of imagination to craft a sublime first novel…It is to Haji’s credit that each of these many characters is exquisitely drawn….The story [has a] a vivid, documentary-like feel. Yet it also bears the confident, truthful feel of fine fiction, of a layered story that carries implications beyond the fortunes of its characters….This book, if widely read, will go a long way toward deconstructing stereotypes about American Muslims, and that, on top of its value as a work of fiction, makes it a treasure.
In her debut novel, The Writing on My Forehead, Nafisa Haji has written a captivating story about a little girl’s growth from childhood defiance to discovery of long-hidden secrets to eventual understanding and acceptance….Haji’s words beautifully illustrate the strengths and the weaknesses that make Saira and her relatives full and vibrant characters. She also manages to give the reader a positive and consistent sense of devotion to a shared culture, even if each character sees things through a different lens. Anyone with a family steeped in tradition or simply dealing with the conflict between the traditional and the modern will relate to this moving portrait of love in all its forms.
Wichita Falls Times Record News
Grab a chai (tea), and curl up in a big chair to read; time will fly and you’ll want to re-fill your cup before you even think about putting this book down. Although “The Writing on My Forehead” is a work of fiction, it feels real and personally makes you understand the hurt another culture endured during America’s blackest days.
Nafisa brings a refreshing presence….And if one adds to that mix a backdrop of South Asian history which includes Gandhi, the Partition of 1947, the flight of immigrants to Pakistan and then to the West, the problems faced by their children growing up, and last but not least the tragic events of 9/11, the novel certainly does not lack potency.
Haji traces in her impressive debut the fortunes of a family divided by secrets and lies as much as by the 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent…Haji achieves an effortless commingling of family and social history in this intricate story that connects a young woman and her family over continents and through generations.
Loss, forgiveness, love, redemption. The themes in Haji’s novel run through all our lives. Her deeply moving and beautifully written novel about different generations of an Indo-Pakistani family takes the reader on an emotional journey into how family and traditions define us and our choices in life. It’s a fast read, but its deeper meaning resonates long after the last page.
Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner
Nafisa Haji has written a moving meditation on the meaning of family, tradition, and the ties that bind. The Writing On My Forehead is lyrical and touching. It is a story of mother and daughters, and a story 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.
Saira, the protagonist of Haji’s first novel, is a young American woman whose parents are immigrants from India and Pakistan. She spends her early life resisting her mother’s pressure to follow tradition and marry within her culture….The best parts of the story are the rich characterizations of Saira’s extended family, especially great-aunt Big Nanima and cousin Mohsin, who have successfully bucked tradition as well. Saira’s mother, so well intentioned in her tunnel vision, is also a wonderful creation….The struggles of second-generation immigrants are well presented, calling to mind novels like Monica Ali’s Brick Lane. In addition, the climax is powerful and satisfying, as Saira belatedly comes to recognize the inescapable tug of family. Recommended for all libraries
“The Writing on My Forehead” is an elegantly written look at family dynamics and how cultural traditions shape lives. Haji’s natural prose draws the reader in with intelligent and inquiring thoughts. She poses questions and doesn’t give all the answers, allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions and continue the dialogue long after finishing the book. Deeply moving, “The Writing on My Forehead” is the quintessential human tale — full of triumphs, hardships, pain and hope.
Chattanooga Times Free Press
Just as Saira’s mother tenderly traced the words of protective prayers on her daughters’ foreheads each night, so too does this book leave a stamp on us. As we open ourselves to this culture, it becomes inscribed within us, as if its rich history was written onto our foreheads.
The Writing on My Forehead by Nafisa Haji explores how a family’s history––one spanning continents, love affairs, and political revolutions––can both haunt and heal.
This impressive debut follows the life of Saira Qader, a Muslim American of Indo-Pakistani descent who rejects the cultural traditions of family and duty to become a world-roving journalist.
Haji deftly positions her appealing heroine as witness to her family’s history…A masterful first novel.
A welcome glimpse into a much-misunderstood culture…