From acclaimed poet Bushra Rehman, who is a key figure in South Asian American literary circles, comes an unforgettable story about female friendship and queer love in a Pakistani-American community.
ROSES, IN THE MOUTH OF A LION
by Bushra Rehman
Flatiron/St. Martin’s Press, December 2022
Razia Mirza lives in a tight-knit Muslim neighborhood in Corona, Queens. She has known her best friend Saima since she was born. Broken into three sections, ROSES, IN THE MOUTH OF A LION first chronicles their friendship as city children who find misadventures among the wild grape vines and weeds growing in the parking lots of Queens. When the friendship ends, Razia’s grief and loss transform her forever. In the second section, Razia befriends Taslima, a new girl in the community. Together, they chafe at the restrictions imposed on them and embark on small rebellions: listening to scandalous American music, wearing mini-skirts, and cutting school to explore the city, as Razia begins to question some of the traditions her parents expect her to follow. Section three takes Razia further afield when she’s admitted to Stuyvesant, a specialized high school in Manhattan. There she meets Angela, who lives with her Bohemian mother in the East Village. Razia is attracted to Angela in a way that surprises her but fills her with a new joy of understanding. When their queer relationship is discovered by a Pakistani Aunty in the community, Razia is forced to choose between her family and her own future. Following Razia from girlhood to young adulthood, this novel beautifully chronicles her journey toward reconciling her heritage and Muslim traditions with her desire to be true to her life path. With humor and pathos, we delve into the emotional complexities of religious communities, female friendship and queer desire.
A key figure in the South Asian American literary and Women of Color feminist circle, Bushra Rehman is a writer and speaker of tremendous power. Her connection with audiences comes from years of being on the road, sharing her particular brand of storytelling, political writing, and poetry. As a young woman, Rehman coedited the anthology Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism, a seminal work on race and American feminism. Inspired by the writers in Colonize This! Rehman’s wrote her autobiographical novel Corona (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013), a dark comedy about Razia Mirza, a young Pakistani woman growing up in a tight-knit Muslim community in Corona, Queens. Rehman’s latest work, Marianna’s Beauty Salon (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2018), is a collection of poems, gathered over twenty years of her life in the South Asian queer activist scene.