Group Discussion: Love, Hate & Other Filters

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

Review copy: ARC via publisher

Welcome to the Rich in Color discussion of Love, Hate & Other Filters.
**Beware, there are some spoilers ahead.**

Crystal: There are so many reasons for me to love this book. Maya’s voice had me from the very beginning with the words, “Destiny sucks.” Her wry humor had me smiling so many times. Her passion for creating movies is also awesome.

Jessica: Seriously, what an opening line. Maya’s voice definitely grabs you from the get-go. I didn’t think of this until you brought it up, but the way Maya’s passion for filmmaking provides yet another lens for her life is fascinating. I’m looking at the cover (what a great cover), and what the title means is finally registering. I know, I’m a little slow on the uptake. Maya see her life through the filters of love, hate, and the narrative bent of filmmaking. And, on a meta level, the reader sees Maya’s life through her romance, the Islamophobia that harms her, and the snapshot moments of other people’s lives leading up to the terror attack and its aftermath. It really paints a complete picture.

Audrey: I agree, I really enjoyed Maya’s voice and the frequent camera/filmmaking references. Her little asides about how things would go if this were x sort of movie were fun. I really enjoy reading about characters who have passions that seep into many corners of their lives, and Maya’s habit of filming things was a great way to establish her character (and plot-relevant). Sometimes the best way to get to know a person is to dive deep into the things they geek out about, and Maya’s passion for filmmaking was a great way to get to know her.

Karimah: I liked Maya’s voice as well and agree with you Audrey that her “teen movie” asides were great. It gave us a great insight into who she is and how she sees the world, and I truly connected with her. I giggled a couple of times at some of her comments and loved that she had a great sense of who she truly at such a young age.

Crystal: Maya is facing several challenges because of family expectations. Her dreams do not exactly match up with their dreams for her. The love in the family is easy to see, but that doesn’t mean there is smooth sailing. In some ways it makes it even more difficult. It’s hard to go against the wishes of people who love you and want the best for you. I adored Maya’s aunt. If we all had a Hina in our lives, what a wonderful world it would be.

Jessica: I think what really grabbed my heart early on is Maya’s introduction of Hina, where she says that despite being so different, Hina and Maya’s mother are actually best friends. This really set the tone for me of how much love Maya had in her family. Her parents may have had very specific ideas and goals for Maya, but you knew that in the end, they would come to accept what made Maya happy — just like how Hina and Maya’s mother are best friends.

And of course, on the surface, Maya’s parents seem unreasonably strict, and Maya struggles against those restrictions. But when her parents shut down and rule out Maya’s dreams, not out of a desire to control her, but a desire to keep her safe in the aftermath of a terrible event, you can again tell that they do it out of love, even if they aren’t necessarily right. I think anyone – especially anyone from an immigrant background – can recognize that parental instinct, those warnings to keep your head down, do the safe thing, don’t stand out, stay safe. That really hit home for me.

Audrey: As an adult, when I’m reading YA, I often find myself torn between the parents and the teens. On the one hand, I totally get why Maya’s parents have those expectations for her and why they’re so upset when she springs her own desires on them; on the other hand, I sympathize with Maya wanting to forge a life outside of those expectations. Hina was a great character, not only because she often took Maya’s side, but because she established a model for Maya to follow. Hina is living proof that Maya can build a life that suits her while–someday–forging a more equal relationship with her parents.

I really empathized with Maya’s parents’ fears after the terrorist attack and how immediate the backlash was for their family. They remembered the Islamophbic outbursts of violence after the September 11, 2001, attacks, so of course their first instincts were to protect their daughter. While I wish they would have listened to Maya more, I can’t entirely fault them for their reaction.

Audrey: Were there any other characters you particularly liked besides Maya? I was very fond of Violet. She was close to everything I want my YA heroines to have in a best friend. She didn’t have as much screen time as I’d hoped, but I appreciate her support for Maya and how she cheered her on all the time.

Crystal: I totally loved Hina. Like Audrey said earlier, Hina proved that it was possible to carve out a life that fits your own dreams. She knew what she wanted and worked on maintaining relationships in spite of the hurdles.

Karimah: I liked Violet as well. I’m glad that she knew how to best support Maya in her budding relationship with Phil and was completely supportive of her after the terrorist attack. She was a great best friend for Maya and I love that she was written in such a manner. I also liked Phil as he was much deeper than the typical romantic lead. Usually the romantic lead is this idealized version the “popular hot guy” but he was actually the total opposite. I mean, the way Maya described him he seem attractive, but he had a secret himself and had the same family tension as Maya. He was also so sweet to Maya and supportive of her as well.

Crystal: The format of the book is a little unusual. Maya’s story is sequential, but it is interrupted with brief moments from another perspective. These interstitials (a new word for me) definitely add mystery and suspense. Some of them are also very unsettling. What did you think of this choice in the storytelling?

Jessica: At first, I was a little on the fence about it, because I knew where the story was going. I didn’t know how I felt about portraying someone about to commit a terrible crime. It was haunting and beautifully written, and definitely added a layer of suspense. It was, ahem, a great filter for the book. At the same time, I still am not sure how I feel about the portrayal of the terrorist in the aftermath (spoilers ahead, stop reading if you haven’t finished the book) — I guess, I’m always a little leery of narratives that show an abused child becoming a criminal when all too often, people who commit hate crimes are the privileged and angry, not the people who are most vulnerable in society. The terrorist had a mix of privilege and resentment, along with a terrible upbringing, so it’s certainly not a black-and-white narrative that I’d condemn. But it does unsettle me.

Anyway, that’s my long-winded way of saying, I think it added a lot to the book, while also shaking up my preconceptions about a lot of things.

Karimah: Since my WIP has interstitials (didn’t know that is what they were called) has them, I really enjoyed them. I felt like it gave us an insight into the terrorist’s mind as he leads up to the act. I like how they allowed us to connect to different people who were affected by the act as well. It brought the terror of the act, aside from how Maya’s family is affected, to life. However, like Jessica, I was a bit annoyed by the narrative of the abused child becoming a criminal. I felt like it was an “easy out” for the terrorist instead of being real with that he just had hate in his heart and a desire to cause destruction. I get it was trying to humanize him, but with so many terrorists of his ilk called “lone wolf” and humanized when Black and Brown victims of police are demonized, it hurt.

Audrey: The interstitials felt very cinematic for me. Maya’s the main character of this movie, if you will, so the camera mostly sticks with her, but the interstitials were brief cuts to the danger that had been building unbeknownst to her. That ramped up the tension for us as a viewer/reader, and then afterwards we got to see the truth unfold on the periphery while we stayed with Maya (because her story was the emotional center of the story). I think it was a fitting narrative device for this book.

But like you said, I was really disappointed that the abused child backstory showed up. Maybe I’m just bitter and angry and frustrated (hi, all of last year), but I’m entirely uninterested in any story trying to mitigate angry white men’s hateful actions, especially when we saw how much Maya and her family were hurt because of it.

Crystal: One last note about the romances. I had to smile with her first love interest. The actions were fairly innocent, but the descriptions were still quite sensual. The second romance was filled many roadblocks, but was a unique set of circumstances. It was complex and I also appreciated the ending that seemed very realistic. (Trying not to spoil too much here, but it’s not a fairy tale.)

Audrey: I thought it was great that Maya had two love interests and how both of those stories came to different conclusions. It was nice to see how messy feelings could get and how Maya tried to navigate both romantic options. (As a side bonus, I really liked the fact that the guys didn’t know about each other, so we didn’t have to endure any jealous posturing.) I’m really happy we got to see Maya exploring her feelings and sorting out what her heart really wanted.

Karimah: I really, really loved both romances because they were just so real and I feel that Maya handled both of them so well. She was honest with herself and her feelings and rightfully made the right call with her first romance and I loved the slow burn that was the second. It was refreshing that all of them were honest with each other and were able to talk through their issues. It’s so healthy and teens need to see what healthy relationships can look like. And I like that the end was more about Maya being in love with herself, standing up for herself, instead of a “happily ever after” with a significant other (sorry for the spoiler).

If you’ve already read Love, Hate & Other Filters, we’d love to hear your thoughts! If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, we recommend you get it soon.

2 Replies to “Group Discussion: Love, Hate & Other Filters

  1. I read and loved Love, Hate & Other Filters, thank you for your recommendation; it is truly a must read for the teens and one they will be discussing and passing onto their friends! What I felt was truly sad about Maya’s parents was their expectations, which seemed so unfair and unyielding when looking at what they did to Maya’s cousin and then Maya – cutting them out of the family like they were a blight that needed to be exorcised. Family should be nurtured and Maya’s parents put their cultural expectations from India on their American born children (relatives) unfairly. I loved Maya’s personality; it was believable, shy, sincere, yet aware. She was a model daughter who tried to help her parents change (with her comments, etc) and oh that camera; did I love it! I loved Maya’s growth, her struggles, her awareness of herself as an Indian American Muslim (but also her chagrin). The bullying aspect was handled from a few different perspectives and that was authentic. Life and high school are tough times for teens and this multicultural book will shed a light on this book as a must read. My review on Goodreads

  2. I just finished You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins and I was reminded of Love, Hate & Other Filters! These books would be great read-a-likes as well as shedding a different kind of light on different Indian (and American) issues. Didu, the mother has issues like Maya’s parents but to see her daughters and granddaughters as well was (some reared in America and one in Mumbai) great because there were many different outlooks. But I think what Perkins says from Didu POV was what also Maya’s parents struggled with – after her husband dies, she is a Bengali widow for years!!! After 911, she is so devastated by the destruction, she decides to become an American but this is what I liked p. 290 Didu talking to her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters; “I began to feel that this city is my home. It came nearer to my heart, not so distant. That’s how it strted, but now it’s different. I am enjoying making friends my age in my church-non-Bengali friends who don’t know the customs that keep a widow so lonely.” I think Maya’s parents kept themselves LONELY because they refused to allow their customs and living in America to blend together.

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