Liana is a Pakistani-Australian teenager who attends Pines International school in the remote mountains of Pakistan. It is just after the killing of Osama bin Laden and there has been a sharp increase in terrorist activity throughout the country… Especially against Americans (any white person, really). One day while she is with friends in the bazaar, Liana is witness to a suicide bomber. Having witnessed such a terrible ac that has become so common place to the region, Liana must learn to live with her PTSD and fears.
Enter Mikal Kimberly, the new music teacher. Mr. Kimberley is a fellow Australian: charming and blonde, and the heart throb of almost every female student in the school. Mr. Kimberley has his own complicated past and has come to Pakistan to seek some closure. It is in music class that the two characters meet and bond over their shared passion for dance.
After an extremist attack on the school, the faculty decide to evacuate the student body and send the children to their homes. It is on the road between the school and the airport that disaster strikes, and it is up to Mr. Kimberley and Liana to save the students who have been taken hostage. Liana must dance, because her life depends on it.
Liana’s Dance by Rosanne Hawke is a peek into a culture that is absolutely foreign to the Western mind. The YA novel is a compulsive read for those afflicted by wanderlust, or those looking to open up their cultural awareness. A blend of social issues and teenage growing pains that are universal with a sprinkling of folk tradition, the book will suck you in and leave you asking for more.
My husband Michael is a Marine Corps veteran who has been deployed to Afghanistan twice so I am familiar with the gender roles and expectations of conservative Middle Eastern culture, but never had I imagined how constricting and all encompassing it really was compared to American culture. Hawke does a phenomenal job of showing readers the realities of women’s lives in this region, while still remaining respectful of the people. There is never the feeling that gender oppression has the support of the entire country, but rather it is a more nuanced and personal issue. Avoiding stereotype is a hard line to toe in this novel, but Hawke manages it gracefully.
If you are looking for something fresh and challenging, Liana’s Dance will sweep you off your feet.
Question of the Day:
What region of the world are you most drawn to? I have been reading a lot of novels set in the Middle East, but I love any book set in tropical rain forest (you’re just asking for adventure and nature).