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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
The Borderland Between Two Worlds by Ayesha F. Hamid is a memoir that details the author's life in the United States after migrating from Karachi, Pakistan in the early 1980s. Leaving behind the luxury of a high standard of living and the consistency of cultural conventions that embodied their daily lives, Hamid, her parents, and her siblings moved to the States when she was only six years old— a move spurred by health issues and distrust in the adequacy of care to fight it, as well as the notion of a golden goose that brings most immigrants to its shores. Initially, the book weaves back and forth between Hamid's difficulty in high school and her dedicated pursuit of a private college education and her family history in Pakistan, an almost impossible desire to assimilate or, at the very least, find acceptance, and the perseverance of a woman with the strength and fortitude to forge a life of her own with an ultimate embrace of her full, multicultural self.
As someone born in the same year and the same city as Ayesha F. Hamid, The Borderland Between Two Worlds was an instant draw for me. Like herself, I too left Karachi and moved to the West. Where she came at six, I came at nineteen, grateful for a cricket scholarship that would allow me the opportunity to not just dream big, but actually do big things. I chuckled when her grandfather, a cross-settler during the Partition of India, just as my parents had been, was certain his grandchildren would be nothing more than mechanics in America. This is a conversation I'd been party to myself. But this isn't my story, it is Hamid's, and she tells it beautifully. Life as a Pakistani Muslim is not an easy one and is only compounded by the further disenfranchised status of being a Pakistani Muslim woman.
The loss of Hamid's dear friend Sasha over a dress at her wedding is really just the tip of the iceberg. What is striking here is Hamid's decision to stand firm at a moment where an individual with less courage might have wavered. Still, Hamid struggles to reconcile with the choice in a very human way, going so far as to initially try to justify the indefensible reaction of a friend as defensible. This is a level of compassion that Hamid exudes throughout her memoir, particularly in her later years as she champions social justice and advocates for families at the Middle Eastern Center. From a literary standpoint, this is a tightly written and engrossing memoir. From the standpoint of a Pakistani-British father with a seventeen-year-old daughter, this is a novel I will be passing forward to her. Very highly recommended.