The Writing on My Forehead is a family history told from the perspective of Saira, a young woman who has grown up in LA and is the daughter of immigrants from India and Pakistan. The novel starts with Saira looking in on her young sleeping niece and then flashes back to Saira's own childhood. The novel then traces the next 30 years of Saira's life--from childhood to adulthood--and her struggles against the rigid Muslim and Indo-Pakistani traditions of her family. As Saira learns more about her family history, she is more set upon defying the traditions that surround her. By the time Saira has reached adulthood she is a successful journalist hiding a huge family secret that will blow up in the turbulent days following 9/11.
Nafisa Haji's writing in this novel is crisp and fluid--she moves easily from one topic to the next and her descriptions make the reader feel as though she is traveling Saira's life journey with her. Haji does a wonderful job of unfolding Saira's personal story and her family's larger story on parallel narrative threads. The interaction between the generations is wonderful, and you get a sense of the complicated task of growing up in a large interconnected family. The novel has wonderful pacing until the last 50 pages, when it feels like the novel is rushed to the end. I wish the author had spent more time with the conclusion of the story, because it was so rich, I reached the end wanting more.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. If you enjoyed The Kite Runner or The Namesake, you will enjoy this book.