Internment by Samira Ahmed is our May book choice for the Young@Heart Book Club.
Discuss our latest book for the Young@Heart Book Club on Tuesday, May 12 at 1 p.m. via Zoom. Register online for this virtual book club meeting here.
Rebellions are built on hope. Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim-American citizens. With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.
Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.
“The scariest monsters are the ones who seem the most like you.”
What if you were persecuted for your religion? What if it meant that you could be prevented from doing things, being with people you loved, or even having a normal life? This is reality for Layla Amin and her parents. Forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens, they find they have no rights, no control, and no power. What Layla still has, though, is an abundance of hope and spirit. That tenacity leads her to make friends, form alliances, and lead a revolution.
This powerful story is set in an undefined, yet nearly contemporary, future America. At times, the setting seems a little too pointed, undermining the effectiveness of the story. It is very clear the unnamed president is a direct mirror of the current president. While compelling, it does limit the effectiveness of the narrative. It tends to read more as an attack on an individual than a thoughtful exploration of implicit bias and complicit silence. By creating such an obvious parallel, I can’t help but wonder if the story will seem as powerful ten or twenty years in the future when the political climate changes.
The story sometimes lacks some of the context needed for readers less familiar with Muslim culture and tradition. While the author integrates important pieces, and sometimes explains them, at other times vocabulary or concepts are dropped in without clarification. Still, the elements are thoughtful and engaging. I particularly enjoyed that the author explores many different facets of the Muslim faith, emphasizing there are many ways for followers to express their faith and engage with their community. The theme of not judging another’s spirituality is a strong complement to the larger questions throughout the story.
Layla’s story is full of raw emotion, although in some instances it remains undeveloped or only partially explored. The author’s direct, almost aggressive approach to calling out bias can be grating, but it also forces the reader to examine the issues. At its heart, this is a story about challenging assumptions, taking a stand, and starting a revolution. If it seems appalling, it is only because the story is so relatable and plausible that the reader can’t help but consider this potential reality.
Even if the ending was abrupt and left me wanting more, this story is still a must-read. It will force you to examine how you treat and think about others. It will ask you whether your silence makes you complicit, and what you are willing to fight for. And at the end of the day, I think those are questions worth asking.
Author’s website: https://samiraahmed.com/
- How does Layla’s reaction to her family’s internment differ from her parents’ reactions? Where do you think this divide stems from?
- How do the minders treat the other internees? What motivates the minders’ actions?
- How does life at Mobius attempt to mirror “normal” life? How do the internees attempt to hold onto normalcy and how is that different than the “normalcy” the Director tries to create?
Be sure to register for our virtual Young@Heart Book Club to discuss Internment by Samira Ahmed on Tuesday, May 12 at 1 p.m. via Zoom.