Author: Samira Ahmed
Edition: UK paperback
Publication date: January 16th 2018
Read: 19th February – 24th February 2018
American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.
There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.
TWs for Islamophobia, racism, suicide, hate crimes, and attempted assault.
If you’re a fan of soft romances and high school drama, but also want a book that challenges racial discrimination, Love, Hate & Other Filters is the one to pick up.
The book centres on protagonist Maya and her struggles to accept her identity as a one of the only Muslim students in her school with Indian heritage. Her desire to follow her dreams of studying film at NYU is one of the driving factors of her character progression from uncertain, apprehensive student to confident, budding film-maker.
I always admire characters with weighty aspirations and can really invest in the route they take to achieving their goals. This definitely happened with Maya; not only did she have to go against her parents’ wishes to follow her chosen path, but also had to endure discrimination and fear while doing so, made her an underdog that I could really get behind.
The main plot is split between Maya’s road to NYU and the abhorrent act of terrorism that occurs near her town. Terrorism is used as a springboard to discuss issues such as Islamophobia, xenophobia, and racism, that are often the repercussions of such events, but is also balanced by Maya’s life as a high-schooler. Her brief love triangle (which is thankfully too short to become tropey) and growing romance with Phil remind us that at heart she’s teenage girl, and should have the same rights as every high school girl: to worry about prom and crushes and her future without having to be concerned about the safety of her family.
Love, Hate & Other Filters is own voices and Ahmed creates a powerful representation of the intersections between Indian and Muslim cultures. She challenges racist ideologies again and again throughout the novel, dismantling stereotypes and discussing their harmful impact on POC. Ahmed weaves subtle microagressions into the plot that are part of day to day life for Muslims and the effect is both raw and sobering. There are also discussions of Maya’s parents’ expectations for her, and how pigeonholed she feels by their hopes, as well as moments of intense clarity about white supremacy western world views.
This books hits the right notes of soft romance, character progression, and important social discussions. Samira Ahmed has done a great job of highlighting issues of discrimination and raising a call to arms while giving us an enlivening coming-of-age story with characters you can root for.