I was aware of the premise of this story before I went into it. It is a book about a queer Iranian girl named Sahar who, due to her culture’s strict laws on homosexuality, is unable to publicly be in a relationship with her girlfriend Nasrin. The apparent solution is for her to undergo a sex change operation, as Iran encourages this option for people who feel that they have been born in the wrong body. Knowing this, I entered into reading IYCBM suspicious of how this somewhat bizarre plot was going to work out, and if the whole story was going to be about exploring the sex-change process that Sahar goes through.
The beginning of the novel suggested it was going to be what I feared, that it would be a novel exploring Sahar’s transformation from F to M just so she could be with the woman that she loved. But by half way I found that it was so much more than this. This is a story about Sahar, how she is at the mercy of Nasrin’s whims and Iran’s laws, how she grows, comes to terms with her love for Nasrin, and ultimately has to make several life-changing decisions.
If you could be mine provides and insight into life in Iran, the obligations people have in this society to their family and country, and why simply moving away to have what you want isn’t such an easy decision. The characters are wonderfully depicted with warmth and love, and I felt for all of them – even the bitter Maryam.
If I could find a potential for improvement, I felt that perhaps the setting needed more imagery. I really wanted to believe I was feeling life in Tehran and what makes this city beautiful – the colours, sights, smells – but it just wasn’t there. The characters took centre stage in this story.
Overall, this is a beautiful story about a young Iranian woman, who finds the strength to ultimately take control of her life.