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An New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice * An NPR Best Book of the Year * A Padma Lakshmi Book Club Pick
For fans of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, an unforgettable story about female friendship and queer love in a Muslim-American community
“Stunningly beautiful.” —The New York Times Book Review
“An unforgettable voice that moves you from the start.” —People Magazine
Razia Mirza grows up amid the wild grape vines and backyard sunflowers of Corona, Queens, with her best friend, Saima, by her side. When a family rift drives the girls apart, Razia’s heart is broken. She finds solace in Taslima, a new girl in her close-knit Pakistani-American community. They embark on a series of small rebellions: listening to scandalous music, wearing miniskirts, and cutting school to explore the city.
When Razia is accepted to Stuyvesant, a prestigious high school in Manhattan, the gulf between the person she is and the daughter her parents want her to be, widens. At Stuyvesant, Razia meets Angela and is attracted to her in a way that blossoms into a new understanding. When their relationship is discovered by an Aunty in the community, Razia must choose between her family and her own future.
Punctuated by both joy and loss, full of ’80s music and beloved novels, Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion is a new classic: a fiercely compassionate coming-of-age story of a girl struggling to reconcile her heritage and faith with her desire to be true to herself.
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
A Best Book of the Year (NPR, Electric Literature, Autostraddle)
A Finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards and the Gotham Book Prize
A Padma Lakshmi Book Club Pick
“Stunningly beautiful…Rehman evokes time and place like a poet, with descriptions both precise and lyrical, making the streets of this working-class neighborhood come alive on the page… Where a lesser book might have stooped to stereotypes about Muslims or immigrants, Rehman shows readers the complexities within Razia’s community. Individuals are allowed to be surprising, even to themselves, in this deft and empathetic novel.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Razia’s growing pains with her cultural heritage, Muslim faith, parental pressures, queer sexuality, and more lead to self-discoveries that help her reshape complex family and friendship ties. These pages are filled with plenty of 1980s Pakistani and American markers – music, movies, books, clothing – to evoke a singular worldview of the Pakistani immigrant community of that time and place.”
“An ode to adolescence in the vein of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn…As Razia strains against the restrictions imposed by her Muslim family, Rehman ably evokes the period—the AIDS epidemic—and the texture of life in a jumble of immigrant communities.”
—The New Yorker
“Rehman fully immerses readers in Razia’s world, but she writes with contemporary edge. The narrative never seems historical or predetermined. It feels, rather, like the account of a warrior describing her journey.”
—Los Angeles Times
"A queer coming-of-age novel about friendship, love, and loyalty set in 1980s Queens, Roses in the Mouth of a Lion masterfully depicts the complicated and rich relationships among young women—and the lines that are crossed to follow true passion."
“An unforgettable voice that moves you from the start.”
“Razia, a Pakistani American, navigates the whirl of growing up across cultures in 1980s New York. As Razia confronts stereotypes, untangles American oddities, and practices her Muslim faith, her first-person narrative vibrates with humor and honesty.
—Christian Science Monitor
“Beautifully written…Focusing on women and girls’ friendship and queer love in Queens’ Pakistani American community in the 1980s, the novel is quietly ferocious. It insists on Razia’s Muslim faith as much as her queerness and revels in the grey, in between places. Characters and the setting are equally richly drawn and Rehman’s prose is alternately delicate and fierce.”
“As Razia grows, and deviates from the prescribed path, readers won’t be able to help but wonder what will become of her.”
“Razia’s story is a beautiful look into the loving Muslim community Rehman knew intimately…The novel is filled with strong friendships, powerful community ties, and complex family dynamics, and Rehman has captured the beauty (and difficulties) of coming of age.”
“Bushra Rehman’s glittering debut reckons a young woman's sexual exploration with her passion for her culture against the backdrop of '80s New York City…Rehman's queer coming-of-age story is for fans of Ocean Vuong and Nina LaCour.”
“Enchanting and playfully mischievous, Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion tells the story of Razia, who becomes caught in the middle of a budding attraction to her classmate Angela, a newcomer to her close-knit Pakistani-American community. Rehman writes about heritage, faith, and young love with the care and gravity that a coming-of-age tale deserves.”
—The Chicago Review of Books
“Endearingly written, this is a powerful reflection on friendship, immigrant life, queerness and self-actualization.”
“While Rehman's coming-of-age story centering on a second-generation, Pakistani American high schooler is set in 1980s Queens, her exploration of female friendships and queer love feels timely and timeless, exhilarating and emotional.”
“Stellar…Deeply immersive…The scenes brim with the pluck and tumult of young friendship while also portraying the uneasy racial balance that the first-generation children navigate in 1980s Queens…A distinctive and infectious voice takes hold of the reader from the first page.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The beauty of this story is watching Razia become stronger, independent, even rebellious… Rehman's masterful prose, peppered with Urdu phrases, evokes rich emotional and social nuances regarding a particularly sensitive divide between generations in a community of immigrants trying to hold on to their culture even as they make new lives for themselves in a new country.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“I always love a good coming-of-age story but this one hit so close to home I could hardly believe it— a desi girl’s teenage rebellion/friendship/love story, all in my childhood home of Queens? Rehman’s writing is beautiful and compelling, and the main character Razia’s world is one I wanted to linger in.”
—Padma Lakshmi, New York Times bestselling author
“Rehman's storytelling shares the elliptical grace of poetry. Her deeply sensitive protagonist, Razia, comes into sharp-focus like a shaken photograph, and Queens rears off the page in all its glorious vibrancy and complexity. I loved every moment I spent in Razia's company. A stunning novel from a vital writer.”
—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Orange World
“Enchanting, smart, and keenly observed, Bushra Rehman’s Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion shows us the wiry exhilaration of a girl becoming a woman she didn’t know she could be.”
—Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk
“With a poet's sensibility for language, Bushra Rehman has created a tender and multi-layered story of young Muslim women navigating a complicated and racialized world. This novel will break your heart open.”
—Daisy Hernández, author of The Kissing Bug
“An unforgettable novel of almost luminous vitality, rich with the episodic texture of life, heavy with love for its characters, shining with beauty and pain. Rehman’s prose is a knife, and I would let her cut out my heart again and again.”
—Rufi Thorpe, author of The Knockout Queen
“Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion is a brave, beauty-filled book that takes you by the hand and into Razia’s world. This book made me nostalgic for Queens and reminded me to take care of the girl who still lives inside me. I love this lush, lovely book—it deepens our understanding of the human experience and is a fiercely beautiful and honest ode to all girls becoming women.”
—Ishle Yi Park, poet laureate of Queens and author of The Temperature of This Water and Angel & Hannah
“Endearing, irreverent, and engaging. Bushra Rehman writes through the insightfully humorous lens of a sharp second-generation, Queens-bred Desi New Yorker. In Razia, she has created a unique character that is daring, hilarious, vulnerable and fierce. You will want to keep traveling with her long after the book ends.”