Summary: A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved.
Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school. You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.
This beautifully written debut novel from Tanaz Bhathena reveals a rich and wonderful new world to readers. It tackles complicated issues of race, identity, class, and religion, and paints a portrait of teenage ambition, angst, and alienation that feels both inventive and universal.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us about your work. What was the most difficult aspect of writing A Girl Like That?
The multiple perspectives! Some voices came a lot easier than others.
Where is your favorite place to write? Do you like to have any specific foods or drinks to encourage the process?
I love writing next to a big window. Even while travelling, I’ll always look for a place that has tons of natural light. I’m not much of a snacker, but during breaks I’ll have tea, medjool dates, fruit, sometimes cheese and nuts.
Who are the authors you’ve learned from and been inspired by in your reading and writing life?
There are many, but I’ll list the few whose books I’ve consistently read and loved over the past decade. Rohinton Mistry, Arundhati Roy, Khaled Hosseini and JK Rowling.
Where have you lived and how has that shaped you?
I was born in Mumbai, India. My parents moved us to Saudi Arabia when I was about a year old and I lived in Riyadh and Jeddah for the first fifteen years of my life. Living in a country as an expat can make you an outsider—in that country and your own—but it also allows you to observe things more closely than other people. (I guess that’s what drew me to writing!). In a strange way, though, I’m also now able to navigate different cultures with more ease; I know different words from a variety of languages; like many Third Culture Kids, I enjoy travelling.
On your FAQ page, you list watching Bollywood movies as something you do for fun. Could you share some favorite titles?
Warning: my tastes run into slapstick comedy. Favorites include: Satte pe Satta, Padosan, Hera Pheri (the one with Paresh Rawal), Deewana Mastana, 3 Idiots, Munnabhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munnabhai, and Queen.
I’m currently really looking forward to Padmaavat. (Wait, you said only favourites. Okay, I’ll shut up now…)
What would tell your teen self if you could send a letter back through time?
It won’t get any easier, but you’ll be a lot stronger.
Are you able to tell us anything about The Beauty of the Moment (coming in 2019)?
The Beauty of the Moment begins a year after A Girl Like That. Though it isn’t a true sequel (you can read it as a stand-alone), it follows a girl from Zarin Wadia’s school (Qala Academy in Jeddah) to Mississauga, Canada, where she comes across new challenges and finds new love.
A Girl Like That will be released on February 27th, so we’ll all be able to read it soon. Thanks again Tanaz!