A Place for Us

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

Hadia, a first generation  Muslim American whose parents hail from India, is getting married as the story opens.  Their estranged brother and son, Amar, will be attending after a 3 year hiatus of not seeing any of his family.  It is obviously a family in distress whose love is apparent.
As the story unfolds,  Amar isn't able to comply with the strict upbringing that his father demands.  He is a favorite of his mother which only adds to the destruction and disappointment of his father.  Hadia, the oldest daughter, seems to be fulfilling the spot that Amar was suppose to occcupy.
Amar falls deeply in love with a young woman and there the deception and lies begin  by the  character who might not suspect.   From that point on, Amar unravels as do all members of his family, leaving no one untouched.
It is hard to believe that this is Mirza's first book.  Her writing grabs you immediately with its beautiful prose and captivating story.  If this is any indication of her future writings,  I am undoubtedly a fan!
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A gorgeous character-driven tale that I'm glad to have taken my time to finish. Mirza meticulously explores the complicated dynamics within this Indian-American Muslim family by jumping back and forth in time to examine events from multiple perspectives and focusing on the minutiae of everyday life. The final portion devoted to Rafiq's point of view truly ties everything together. My sole complaint is that readers are treated to very little of middle sibling Huda, who adds so little to the overall story that I don't fully understand the point of her inclusion. However, this is a minor quibble with a book containing such richly drawn characters that they practically leap off of the pages.
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I was a bit skeptical of this book because of the celebrity imprint. However, as Sarah Jessica Parker has chosen a literary novel versus a glamorous coffee table book, I was compelled to look into it. This is a careful, well-written book despite its anachronisms (no doubt, these were included to make the book more palatable to a Western audience.) What's most interesting is how we see certain events through multiple perspectives -- this kind of writing takes a bit of craft and skill which is not often found in debut novels. Also not found in debut novels by writers of South Asian origin is the restraint that Mirza has shown here, reminiscent of another wonderful writer of similar origins: Jhumpa Lahiri.

[Full review will be published at PopMatters.com and I will add the review then.]
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This book was wonderful in terms of character development.  I have given it to lots of patrons at our library and told all my friends about it.  I enjoyed the slow pace and the inner thoughts of the characters. Part four was my favorite part of the whole book.
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This novel continually astounded me with the beauty of the writing. On the surface, it is a story about an immigrant and first generation Indian-American family. Layla and Rafiq come from the Muslim Shia community in Hyderabad, India. Living in California, they raise three children. Spanning several decades, this story tells of their lives, and their children’s lives, of the struggles between their long held traditions, faith, and way of life, versus what their children encounter in this modern culture.
But there are even more universal themes here, ones that resonated with me on an intense emotional level. The family-- the relationships between spouses, between parent and child, and between siblings-- are portrayed with great insight and with great detail to the emotional nuances that occur over a lifetime. This is also a story of faith, one that grows beyond rigidity and rules, to encompass mercy, forgiveness, and love. This one will stay with me for a long time.
My thanks to Netgalley, the author, and SJP through Hogarth/Crown Publishers , for providing me an advance copy of this book. This is one I will buy, both for myself and others.  

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2299831327
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This was such a great novel - I loved falling right into this family and seeing what it was that hard torn them apart. That said - I have read a string of novels about Muslim families just recently (Home Fires, Three Daughters of Eve, this one) and the other two were also SUCH good reads. If I had to rank them, this one would be third of three. Home Fires winning by far.
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This was a GEM 9f a read! 5 brilliant stars for A Place For Us. It s a complex and emotional story about a Muslim family who are first generation Americans - trying to navigate parenthood while simultaneously preserving their culture and faith.. This  character driven family drama has many layers weaved into the plot. It jumps between timelines and perspectives, gradually establishing a comfortable rhythm. The reader is allowed an intimate view into this family's struggles and strengths as well as their successes and failures. It is ultimately about being human and how our own experiences affect future generations.

Although this story started off a tad slow for me, the prose was engaging and ultimately kept me engaged. About a third of the way through I was hooked and by the halfway point, I was mesmerized. This story was one that required time to digest and process after finishing. I was emotionally impacted and needed some time before writing this review. It made me think about my own parenting - the flaws I've made as well as my hopes, my dreams and my expectations that I have for my children and the impact of such. 

If you are en emotional reader like me, then you will most likely be drawn into this book. It is one that will leave you heartbroken yet satisfied and pondering long after you finish reading. Enjoy!!

A heartfelt thank you for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. It is available now for purchase.
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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars for A Place For Us by @ffmirza and @sarahjessicaparker , and a huge thank you to @prhinternational for sending this free copy to me for review.
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The story is about a family, who tries a find a place in a foreign country despite the differences. A couple who try to raise their three children in a very challenging environment. Their children who try their best to follow their parents teachings, traditions and religious views. A heartfelt story of the relationship of a father, with his daughters but mostly his beloved SON.
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This story is beautifully put together, it shows how, when sometimes we try to do good for our loved ones and they dont see that way. Being the oldest sister i could understand SO many things from Hadia’s (the oldest daughter) POV. But what really broke my heart was the dad’s story towards Amar. I dont have a son or a brother. But i could feel all the feels from the sisters, fathers, mothers and even Amar him selves POV.
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Let me tell you that the writing is not glazed in fancy literature. The book almost has YA feels. And that it is heavy on the heart. Specially if you are desi, because you can related to almost everything. I would highly recommend this book. Words can not do justice so i’ll stop now and let you read and decide for yourself 😅❤️
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#bibliophile #prhpartner #prhinternational #randomhouse #partner #ad #sponsor #fun #love #cute #happy #picoftheday
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A Place for Us opens just before the beginning of an Indian family wedding in California. The bride, Hadia, is hoping that her brother, Amar, will show up. No one in the family has seen him for three years, but Hadia hopes their bond is strong enough to bring him back, despite the problems with their father that made him run away. Amar does attend—marking the wedding as both an ending and the beginning of Fatima Mirza’s debut novel about complicated family relationships.

A Place for Us is one of those novels I welcome because, beyond the larger sphere of human nature and relationships it shares a smaller slice of life unlike any I know. Hadia’s family is Muslim and Mirza’s portrayal of their lives is fascinating and sometimes unfathomable. Although set in modern times, the pervasive cultural belief is the importance of a male heir so the pressure is put on the woman to bear males and for those males to succeed and further the family line. Really? Still? Just as far-fetched are the beliefs that women are responsible for men’s sins of desire and are incapable of taking care of themselves.

Archaic misogyny aside, there is the beauty of unfamilar rituals and their impact on the participants:

Her mother touched Hadia’s forehead with her index finger and traced Ya Ali in Arabic, the gesture done for protection and luck before every first day of school, every big exam…Something about the movement of her mother’s finger on her forehead, the look of concentration on her face as she prayed, calmed and comforted Hadia.

The tenderness of scenes like this bring the novel to life, which is necessary because A Place for Us is largely an introspective novel. There is very little action or plot and much of the novel’s information is relayed in flashbacks. Initially, this makes for an odd juxtaposition because although there is very little action happening, Mirza cuts quickly back and forth in time amongst generations, which can become quite confusing.

As things settle, Mirza focuses on the innermost thoughts and motivations of Hadia, her mother, and, in the last part, her father.  Much of these memories revolve around Amar and their history with him with each feeling they failed him. This is poignant, in the way of all family secrets and pain, but we never hear from Amar, the character at the center of all their lives, which left me unsatisfied. Mirza shares only his vague sense of never belonging, but doesn’t do so in enough detail for me to have gotten a sense of why he felt this way and why he chose to remove completely himself from the family. Despite these shortcomings, A Place for Us is an exquisitely written debut and Mirza a promising writer.
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A PLACE FOR US by Fatima Farheen Mirza is a thought-provoking debut which deals with the inter-generational relationships and personal lives of a Muslim family in America. Parents Rafiq and Layla are from India. They struggle to impart their values, language, and religious traditions as the children (daughters Hadia and Huda and son Amar) become young adults, all working to balance expectations with their own doubts and daily realities.  A PLACE FOR US is the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint and it received a starred review from School Library Journal. The novel is told from different perspectives and that helps define and build empathy for the characters, particularly the troubled and rebellious nature of Amar. I liked the establishment of this story very much, but felt it then became fairly slow and repetitive. Perhaps that was a result of frequently changing perspective and time periods? Or a feeling that readers needed more explanation to understand the characters?  By the midpoint, I preferred more action and less description which in turn could have also contributed to a shorter book. A PLACE FOR US, with its focus on family dynamics, assimilation, and social messages, could work as a text for Junior Theme, but its roughly 400 page length will be a deterrent to some students. Publishers Weekly called Mirza "a writer to watch" and I hope to read more of her work. This link leads to a helpful discussion guide:  : https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/564304/a-place-for-us-by-fatima-farheen-mirza/9781524763558/readers-guide/ 

This title was highlighted at a recent Bookstall presentation on new Spring and Summer titles by publisher representatives.  More info: https://www.goodreads.com/blog/show/1268-sarah-jessica-parker-s-next-big-challenge-book-publishing
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Thank you to Crown Publishing/SJP for Hogarth, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book!

I was curious to read A Place for Us after I kept seeing it pop up on my feeds, each time with glowing praise. The fact that it's also the debut novel in Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint for Hogarth drew me in even more. Almost as soon as I started the book, I knew it was going to be great, and before I was even a quarter of the way in, I knew I would end up rating it 5/5 stars.

A Place for Us is about an Indian-American Muslim family that includes parents Layla and Rafiq and their three children: Hadia, Huda, and Amar. The story opens with Amar coming home to attend his sister's wedding after being estranged from the family for three years. From there, Mirza takes us back in time to discover how the family came to be broken. This story has everything you could ever want and it's exactly the kind of book I would want to write - one that is subtly powerful in how it unravels the intricacies of complex human issues without being too dense or 'literary'. 

I can tell that Mirza is someone who really gets people. I imagine her as the type of person who always carries a notebook with her (just like Amar) and is constantly scribbling little notes to herself as she observes the people around her. Her character development was phenomenal. I felt for each of the primary characters, and even though some of them did horrible things (the consequences of which could never really be reversed) I found that I loved each and every one of them. 

Overall, this book is about relationships. Mirza captured how no two relationships are ever the same and how you can never truly know another person. While you may think you know someone, you'll never have access to the depth of each person's thoughts, experiences, emotions, and motivations.
Other major themes in the book are identity/belonging and the clash between tradition/religion and the outside influences of Western culture. 

A Place for Us is absolutely wonderful. It's definitely in my top 10 for this year, if not higher! It's one of those ones you actually want to own, just so you can hold it and give it it's special place on your shelves.
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Fatima Farheen Mirza's A Place for Us has been widely celebrated since its release in mid-June. Lauded for the brilliant display of writing found within these pages equally as much as it has been coveted as Sarah Jessica Parker’s first release from her own publishing imprint, SJP for Hogarth, putting on display her own eye for literary fiction. It was a read that built upon itself in a sort of snowball effect: slow and gently vibrating beneath the surface as the foundation was laid then tumbling still gently but faster down the slope. I found myself comparing it to Everything I Never Told You in its elegance of execution and vibrant, meaningful display of first-generation families trying to navigate the complexities of American life, of a culture so unlike their own. This story is told in metaphors and blood ties. It’s told in memories, regrets, hopes and fears. It’s told in a universal language embedded in one specific culture that any reader can see embodied in their own families. Novels like this one remind us that our families are not so strange or cruel or different at their cores. We all speak the same universal language.

There were so many beautiful moments in Mirza’s debut novel—a book written in vignettes of this family’s life like they jumbled together then come back into focus like a stunning glimpse through a kaleidoscope. I won’t give a synopsis here because the one provided is so fiercely accurate, but I will say that there was so much more to the estrangement of the son and brother, Amar, than I had hoped for. At the start of the novel, with no chapter titles or markers for whose POV was coming next, I couldn’t seem to get my bearings enough to plant roots in the narrative and grow with it. But, eventually, I found my way and moved with the story faster and faster as it picked up speed. 
The vignettes were light as a gentle breeze softly lifting a lock of hair, like whispers in your ear. And that was lovely, sure. But, admittedly, there were times when I found myself looking for something more—a climax, any hint of tangible, startling tension. And when I did find it, I couldn’t hold on to it long enough to feel fully satisfied. Perhaps that was the point of the read--Mirza's parting message to us, among others--but it left me unfulfilled. (view spoiler) Yet, I felt like I got an honest glimpse at a culture I’m unfamiliar with, like I was sitting at their dinner table with them. At the start I didn’t feel fully embedded in the story. But toward the end, I knew I couldn’t get up from that dinner table and walk away.

All of the characters, especially the siblings at the forefront of the narrative--Hadia, Huda and Amar--are so beautifully and delicately rendered and allowed to unfold. They are complete characters--their parents Rafiq and Layla included--set in their ways and flaws and hopes and dreams in a way that grabs our hearts because we understand them; we root for them and believe we know what their next moves would be, what their truest fears are. A Place for Us is a character-driven piece with such fully imagined characters who quietly take up the page. It tied loose ends together with stunning clarity (view spoiler). 

I truly loved how embedded in the Hyderabadi culture this novel was. I knew nothing of the culture and traditions—had never even heard the word “Hyderabadi” before—and yet I could feel the resolution with which this family lived in their faith, the effect it had on them, the generations upon generations of history that each of them carried—both in their routines handed down and in their hearts. 

If his father had just hit him back, cursed at him, said to Mumma look how despicable our son is, how batamiz, anything—then maybe he could have gone home again. A punishment was a mercy. It marked the end of a sentence. Without one, he could not imagine recovering from his shame. Nor could he forgive himself for giving action to the hatred he had felt for his father, wanting to hurt him the way he had been hurt by him.


There were moments here where Mirza truly brought these characters into focus even from a Western standpoint, painting them at the time of 9/11—their reaction to it and the fear they carried with them not at all unlike our own. The racism they endured; the ignorance others harbored about them. Those moments stung the way they were intended to; they spoke loudly as they needed to. I will say I'm not a huge fan of the book title or the cover, but this was certainly a brilliant debut from both Fatima Farheen Mirza and this new imprint--both of which I’ll be sure to keep a lookout for in the future! Four stars ****
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Full review to follow soon. One of the best books I've read this year. A family drama with all the emotional turbulence that results when one brother decides to leave the family. Casts a well-needed center-stage spotlight on a contemporary Muslim-Indian-American family.
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Thank you so much to Crown Publishing via Netgalley for the eARC of this beautiful book!  For anyone who’s been part of a family, you know how difficult family life can be. Fatima Farheen Mirza examines the life of one such beautiful and complicated family. The parents are Muslims who emigrated from India, and the children are trying to balance life in America against the strict expectations of their parents. The story weaves through time and memory in a beautiful way, so over time we learn the full family story. It is a story about love, loss, betrayal, and redemption. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes complex characters and family drama.
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Tearjerkingly gorgeous. I did not want this to end. I have never in my life wished for a sequel to a novel, and I cannot imagine there will be one to this, but if there is, I will buy ten copies. What a beauty of a book.
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Are you kidding me?

Unlike the rest of the world, including sweet Sarah Jessica Parker, I did not drool over this one, unless you count the drool that appeared when I dozed off in absolute boredom. I want my hours back! Yeah yeah yeah, I know. I should have ditched it. I guess I was just committed to torturing myself. 

I was so looking forward to this one, rave reviews everywhere, oh I’m sure I’ll love it. The story sounded interesting: an Indian Muslim family living in America. My balloon was full of good air but when I started reading, the great deflate began. 

I’m going right to my lists. I want to be nice and say there was a small Joy Jar, but honestly, it’s a stretch for me to appreciate much about this snooze. But I’ll try.

Joy Jar

-Well written.
-Occasionally profound.
-Some psychological insight and introspection. The reasons we do the things we do, the thoughts behind our actions.
-Nuanced relationships.
-Zeroes in on the little gestures and private things we do, some unconsciously. This was cool.
-Big secrets, extensive guilt. This was interesting.
-Ended my painful procrastination streak: I FINALLY found the time to fill my Amazon cart with must-haves (like food-safe mineral oil for my new cutting board). I looked for any excuse to get away from the book.

(I know, it’s cheating to put that snarky last item on the list, but I can’t help it.)

Complaint Board

-I want noise! The whole damn thing seemed coated in Valium: the tone, the plot, the characters. A three-in-one snooze-fest! The language was so flat I was jonesin’ for some jazz. It was a mumbly monotone, I was a squeaky scream—what a show. I did get used to the quiet language, but it took me about half the book. By that time I had found a bunch of other reasons to hate it. Damn, I should beware whenever reviews say the book is quiet. Nine times out of ten, the quiet will make me climb the walls.

-Hand me the scissors. Is there an editor in the house? A big crime, since it led to prolonged torture, was that this book was WAY too long, like a hundred pages too long. Oh god, did I look at the bottom of the page! Have I really only read 7 percent of this book? Are you kidding me? Could my Kindle page-counter be malfunctioning??

-I’ve heard it all before (which sounds like a line in a croon-y country song). The characters are stereotypes: We have two good daughters, a black-sheep son, a kind mother, a nice dad with a slight temper. Everyone angsty. The plot was trite: Strict parents want their kids to follow traditions and the kids don’t want to; both parents and kids play the hide-important-things game; kids overachieve, underachieve, have forbidden crushes; blah blah blah. (I know, I know, if the story had been infused with juice, I probably wouldn’t be saying it was trite—it’s all in the telling.)

-No touchy-feely for me. I didn’t connect with the characters, partly because they were a bore and partly because they were too passive. It’s that Valium coating I was talking about. Of course, I always like the black sheep, but in this book he was MIA a lot. He was the focus, yes, but we didn’t get to see him or his point of view much.

-One daughter is one big blur. Totally in the background. Huh? Why didn’t she get developed? Just seems weird to have a family saga where one kid doesn’t have shape or voice. 

-Okay, now talk to each other. Even in real life I like talkers, so it’s no surprise that a family of Quiet Ones would drive me nuts. I craved dialogue, interaction. The story is more about what doesn’t get said, and that’s all cool and nuanced. Still, I wanted more in-your-face drama.

-I only see the smoothie. I wanted to see the ingredients hopping around in the blender; I wanted to see the conflict of cultures. Instead, the book is focused on the family and its traditions, not about the problems of assimilating into American culture and not about friendships with people outside their culture. For the most part, it seems like the kids have blended in pretty well. There is some reaction to 9/11, but not enough.

-Today is just a tease. All you want to talk about is yesterday! The book starts with a wedding, but we don’t get back to the wedding until more than half the book is over. At the 59% mark, to be exact. (Of course I know this, since I was constantly looking at the Percent Read info at the bottom of the page, lol.) I was reading about the past. And reading about the past. And reading about the past….okay, can’t we please please please go back to the present? Can we please go back to today? Can we see what happens at the wedding? Don’t leave me hanging for half the book! The past isn’t presented sequentially—it jumps around--and that didn’t bother me a bit. But I would have liked it if the present had come back into focus now and then, between the blasts of the past. I was impatient to find out what was happening in the here and now. I get that the author wanted to flesh out the characters so that when we returned to the present, the actions would be loaded, but my annoyance with the structure of the story was so stubborn, I couldn’t appreciate the author’s plan.

-Religion collision. At first, there was a smattering of religion. I could handle that. I figured it was just there to convince us of how important religion was to the parents, which was reasonable. However, the entire last part of the book felt like a sermon. And as the end was approaching (oh baby let me be done with this book!), the pages became more and more full of religion. And here I was, hoping that we’d return to some drama. But oh no. 

-Sorry, I don’t speak Urdu. Throughout the book, there are phrases in Urdu. This is a pet peeve of mine: I hate it when books include phrases in another language. I’m assuming the writer thinks it adds authenticity, but to me it just puts big blanks into the sentences. I don’t understand the words and phrases and I will never remember them, so what’s the point?
 
-Nit-picky editor at your service. Very occasionally, there was a point of view problem. And yes, occasionally the writer committed the sin of using “try and” instead of “try to.”

-Seriously? This is the ending? I can’t say what I wanted and expected to happen because I don’t want to give spoilers, but I can say that it was drama I was craving. Instead, the ending was mostly talk of religion and regrets. 

I read a million 5-star reviews, many from friends, so I expected to love this book. Plus, I got sucked into the hype that Sarah Jessica Parker generated. (She has just launched a book publishing imprint and chose this as her first book.) I saw her with the author on a talk show. Parker was effusive. Man, what a salesperson! She convinced me that this book was the bending end—I was salivating to get my hands on it. But wait. Parker has always been an actress, not a book publisher. And why would I assume that she would like a book I would like? Geez.

The style of writing made me strangely uncomfortable, like it didn’t match me. It grated on my nerves instead of being soothing or wonderful. I never wanted to pick the book up. 

But just about everyone in the universe loved this book, so don’t listen to me. I’m an alien. 

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
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Thank you to Net Galley and Crown Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book in exchange for an honest review.
This story was so well-written. Fatima Farheen Mirza is definitely an author to savor and enjoy-I hope she continues to write great stories like this one. This is the story of an India family trying to make their way in America. Lots of heartache and secrets along the way. I especially liked the last chapters where the father, Rafiq, gets to tell his point of view. The reader is not really allowed to see what he is feeling until the end. This is a turning point in the story because the reader gets to see another side of him. I highly recommend this book!
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This is a gorgeous book that explores the tensions and challenges of evolving family traditions and cultural expansiveness.  A culture is explored that needs exploration and it is handled with gentle detail and grace which fosters compassion for the reader.  The attention to detail is impeccable and is sensory engaging.  Further the inner conflict of characters is well demonstrated and confronted as major family events, in this case a wedding, brings conflicts and family members together.  Time moves back and forth during the narrative and 911 is present looming and influencing more prominently the inner conflicts of Muslim characters forcing them to turn from cultural practice to drugs and alcohol to cope.  Secrets and betrayals are unleashed as family strives to transcend them.
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I adored this book and have been talking about it nonstop on my blog Modern Mrs Darcy and my podcast What Should I Read Next? And to anyone else who will listen! It's also a top Summer Reading Guide pick at https://modernmrsdarcy.com/srg
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Note: I drafted this post before the decision issued yesterday in Trump v. Hawaii upholding the Muslim ban.  I enjoyed A Place For Us and felt it was relevant when I finished it almost a month ago--today it feels even more relevant.  No matter what the president and the courts have said, Muslims have a place in this country.  This is our generation's Korematsu and I hope that we feel shame over it sooner rather than later.  If you are of the Muslim faith or from an immigrant family and have stumbled upon this blog, hear me say clearly that you are wanted here.  
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