Mariam Sharma Hits the Road is a book that tackles friendship, coming to terms with our origin, and putting secrets to rest.
The summer after her freshman year in college, Mariam is looking forward to working and hanging out with her best friends: irrepressible and beautiful Ghazala and religious but closeted Umar. But when a scandalous photo of Ghaz appears on a billboard in Times Square, Mariam and Umar come up with a plan to rescue her from her furious parents. And what better escape than New Orleans?
The friends pile into Umar’s car and start driving south, making all kinds of pit stops along the way–from a college drag party to a Muslim convention, from alarming encounters at roadside diners to honky-tonks and barbeque joints.
Along with the adventures, the fun banter, and the gas station junk food, the friends have some hard questions to answer on the road. With her uncle’s address in her pocket, Mariam hopes to learn the truth about her father (and to make sure she didn’t inherit his talent for disappearing).
But as each mile of the road trip brings them closer to their own truths, they know they can rely on each other, and laughter, to get them through.
(I want to preface this by saying I am not represented in this book and so I cannot speak to the accuracy of the representation here. I realize I don’t say this every review where it’s the case and I’m trying to be better about it.
While I can read things like Chinese American adoption and some other smaller intersectionalities, that’s also a myriad of different experiences there as well. Just saying).
Anyway so I want to list what I really liked about this book which were the varying portrayals of Desi parents. Again, I can’t speak to the representation at all. But it was good to see growing up in America in differing lights through very different perspectives.
Each of them speak to something different: Mariam’s questions about her father (which I could relate a little to as far as this pervasive feeling of wanting to know), Umar’s struggles with his sexuality and religion, and Ghaz’s challenges growing up with her very strict parents.
At the heart of this book is not only Mariam, but also friendship. They are all so different that you get to discover what holds them together. You can read about their inside jokes and the ways they make each other laugh. I appreciated the detail that went into making their friendship believable even as they are undergoing these big changes in their life.
At the same time, it isn’t just this easy carefree road trip. It deals with issues such as Islamaphobia, privilege, and homophobia.
My biggest concern was with how Umar’s sexuality is dealt with. In some ways it felt kind of superficial. Since he was one of my favorite characters, him and Mariam, I was kind of sad about it. I also can’t speak to the accuracy of the representation and this aspect was not ownvoices for the author. But I just felt like, not tokenized, but over emphasized? Honestly, I’m really not sure how to articulate my feelings for this aspect.
I did enjoy the book, and there were parts I really liked, I just wasn’t sure about that aspect. Check it out on Goodreads.
What is your most memorable road trip memory? It doesn’t have to be your memory!