Marina Budhos’s extraordinary and timely novel examines what it’s like to grow up under surveillance, something many Americans experience and most Muslim Americans know.
Naeem is far from the “model teen.” Moving fast in his immigrant neighborhood in Queens is the only way he can outrun the eyes of his hardworking Bangladeshi parents and their gossipy neighbors. Even worse, they’re not the only ones watching. Cameras on poles. Mosques infiltrated. Everyone knows: Be careful what you say and who you say it to. Anyone might be a watcher.
Naeem thinks he can charm his way through anything, until his mistakes catch up with him and the cops offer a dark deal. Naeem sees a way to be a hero—a protector—like the guys in his brother’s comic books. Yet what is a hero? What is a traitor? And where does Naeem belong?
Booklist (September 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 1))
Grades 6-9. Naeem Rahman can’t stop moving. After emigrating from Bangladesh to New York at age 11, he, as a high-school senior, spends his days cutting class and moving through the streets of Queens, hoping to avoid the watchful eyes of his father, stepmother, and half brother; his hordes of nosy neighbors; and especially the police and cameras that cover his Muslim neighborhood. When his friend Ibrahim tricks him into shoplifting, two NYPD officers leave Naeem with a choice. Either go to jail or become exactly what he has always hated—a spy, an informant, a watcher—thereby betraying his family, friends, and community. Budhos, author of two other novels that focus on immigrant teens (Ask Me No Questions, 2006, and Tell Us We’re Home, 2010), presents another effective coming-of-age novel, one that not only confronts without reservation the notion of Islamaphobia and issues of teenage identity but also tackles the grittier aspects of life in this post-9/11 era. What does it mean to belong to a family? a community? a country?
Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2016)
Naeem, a teenager living in an immigrant neighborhood in Queens, finds his grip on life slipping.With his performance in school deteriorating, he feels unable to deal with the disappointment of his hardworking and hopeful Bangladeshi parents–and then there are the inquisitive eyes and mouths of their neighbors. Hoping to avoid them, Naeem keeps himself constantly on the move. But he is always aware that he is always being watched, by cops and by cameras placed all around. He’s taken small risks, but close calls have not been enough to deter him, until one day his past mistakes catch up with him and he has to make a choice between paying dearly or taking a deal the cops offer him: to become a watcher and help them spy on the people in his neighborhood. Having previously written about immigrant teens in Tell Us We’re Home (2010) and Ask Me No Questions (2006), Budhos again tackles identity and belonging or lack thereof, as well as Islamophobia and growing up under surveillance. It’s a slow story, appropriately filled with uncertainty. Action takes second place to a deeper message, and room is left for readers to speculate on the fates of certain characters. While the absence of certainty may frustrate some readers, it also speaks to the underlying takeaway: you can never be sure what others’ intentions are, even if you have made it your job to study them. (Thriller. 12-18)
About the Author
She has published the novels, Watched (Random House/Wendy Lam Books, 2016), Ask Me No Questions (Simon & Schuster, 2006), an ALA Notable and winner of the first James Cook Teen Book Award, The Professor of Light (Putnam, 1999), House of Waiting (Global City Press, 1995) and a nonfiction book, Remix: Conversations with Immigrant Teenagers (Henry Holt, 1999). She and her husband Marc Aronson coauthored the acclaimed Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom & Science (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin, 2010). Their latest joint endeavor, Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro & The Invention of Modern Photojournalism will be published in 2017 by Henry Holt & Co.
Her short stories, articles, essays, and book reviews have appeared in publications such as The Daily Beast, Quartz, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, The Literary Review, The Nation, Dissent, Marie Claire, Redbook, Travel & Leisure, Ms., Los Angeles Times, and in numerous anthologies.
Ms. Budhos has received an emma (Exceptional Merit Media Award), a Rona Jaffe Award for Women Writers, and a Fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts. She has been a Fulbright Scholar to India, given talks throughout the country and abroad, and is currently on the faculty of the English Department at William Paterson University.
Her website is www.marinabudhos.com.
Interview with Marina Budhos via NBCNews
Around the Web
Watched on Amazon
Watched on JLG
Watched on Goodreads