When I read Alicia Erian’s short story collection The Brutal Language of Love, I thought, “Now here’s someone speaking my language.” I also wondered how she could get any better/appeal to me more. Well, clearly she only improves as she goes because her novel Towelhead is great. It’s not a book for everyone. There is racism. There is rage. There is sex. There is rape. There is molestation. Basically, it is often a hard book to read (in regards to the situations) but it is important, because it is real, it is honest. This is the way life is for some people, possibly more people than we could care to believe.
It is, however, a book that is masterfully written from the POV of the thirteen-year-old Jasira, who has never known proper love and who has been conditioned to accept it from the most unlikely of people. Never once do we feel that Erian is preaching to us through her narrator, or that she is not in the moment as the writer. What we feel instead is that they have become one.
This book will grab hold of you and if you have to put it down to do something else, you will do so with regret. This is not because you are so engaged in the story you can’t wait to see what happens next, rather it is because you care about Jasira, you fear for her, and you want to see how she will survive.