internment review

I was sent Internment by Samira Ahmed from the publisher via Netgalley. All views are my own.

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.

Trigger warnings: physical violence, Islamophobia, torture, death, rape

First of all, please note: I am not Muslim. I would recommend reading reviews by Muslim readers such as Adiba Jaigirdar or Nadia @ Headscarves and Hardbacks.

I read and enjoyed Ahmed’s debut novel, Love Hate and Other Filters, so I thought that I would give her next book a go. Set 15 minutes into America’s future, Internment follows Layla, a Muslim-American teenager, as she and many other Muslims are taken to an internment camp following the rise of Islamophobia in America.

This is a harrowing read. Honestly I went into it not really knowing what I would find, because I didn’t know much about it. In some ways that was great, because I was shocked by it, and in some ways I wish I had been warned so I could have prepared myself.

The book focuses on resistance in the face of hatred and cruelty. Layla manages to find ways to fight and resist the governmental forces who keep her and her parents in the internment camp. Through blogging and peaceful protests, she manages to make herself heard, even when the government is doing everything in its power to stop her. Some reviewers found it unlikely that Layla as a teenage girl could make such a difference – but that’s the whole point of the book, I think. As a teenage girl she has such power to make a difference.

I was really impressed that Ahmed took the time to look at history, continually referencing the internment of Japanese-Americans during WW2, as well as student protests in Germany during the rise of Hitler. I thought that this was a very good way of making Layla’s predicament seem incredibly real, for anyone who doesn’t already know about Islamophobia in modern America already. Ahmed also discusses the ways that black Muslims are treated, and the ways that Muslim women who wear the hijab are often under-estimated, which again I thought was a great message to include.

I’ve seen a lot of criticism for the heavy-handedness of the book, but I didn’t find that to detract from the story at all. Yes, it is blunt. Yes, the main antagonist of the story, The Director, is a bit of a cartoon villain. But this is a book that is ultimately about resistance in the face of institutionalised Islamophobia. I personally think it would have been a disservice to readers to make the book more subtle. It is like being plunged into ice-cold water for any readers who are not already aware of the historical precedents of institutionalised racism and hatred of people of a particular religion.

I unreservedly recommend Internment – it is powerful with its message of resistance and the idea that there will always be someone to to fight the complicit silence that can be seen today.

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