That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim



Shabnam Qureshi is a funny, imaginative Pakistani-American teen attending a tony private school in suburban New Jersey. When her feisty best friend, Farah, starts wearing the headscarf without even consulting her, it begins to unravel their friendship. After telling a huge lie about a tragedy that happened to her family during the Partition of India in 1947, Shabnam is ready for high school to end. She faces a summer of boredom and regret, but she has a plan: Get through the summer. Get to college. Don’t look back. Begin anew.

Everything changes when she meets Jamie, who scores her a job at his aunt’s pie shack, and meets her there every afternoon. Shabnam begins to see Jamie and herself like the rose and the nightingale of classic Urdu poetry, which, according to her father, is the ultimate language of desire. Jamie finds Shabnam fascinating—her curls, her culture, her awkwardness. Shabnam finds herself falling in love, but Farah finds Jamie worrying.

With Farah’s help, Shabnam uncovers the truth about Jamie, about herself, and what really happened during Partition. As she rebuilds her friendship with Farah and grows closer to her parents, Shabnam learns powerful lessons about the importance of love, in all of its forms.

Featuring complex, Muslim-American characters who defy conventional stereotypes and set against a backdrop of Radiohead’s music and the evocative metaphors of Urdu poetry, THAT THING WE CALL A HEART is a honest, moving story of a young woman’s explorations of first love, sexuality, desire, self-worth, her relationship with her parents, the value of friendship, and what it means to be true.



Shabnam is a Pakistani American teen girl who is just about to finish her high school. Shabnam like any other teenager wants to fit in and get liked by everyone, and because of this desire she ends up making some bad decisions like Kissing the most racist guy in the school and making up a story ( a huge lie) about her family during the partition of India and Pakistan. Shabnam has a best friend named Farah, but there is astrain between them because out of the blue Farah stars wearing Hijab to school which kind of scare Shabnam. Things star to get rosey when she meets a cute guy named Jamie who gets her a job at his Aunt’s pie shack, which results in Shabnam falling for him. In this book you will find that Shabnam is going to discover her first love, urdu poetry and repairing her friendship with Farah.

That thing we call a heart, deals with so many issues like first love, importance of friendship, heartbreak and family. Sheba has done a wonderful job when it comes to the development of the story as well as character, more than Shabnam i loved her best friend Farah.


There’s a lot of talk on what it’s like to be a contemporary Muslim girl, defying conventional stereotypes and what it’s like to be a hijab wearing Muslim girl.

There’s also discussion on the topics like Partition of India and Bosnian Genocide (often forgotten part of History). This book is a real gem as it resonates with so many issues and will resonate well with everyone on so many levels.


Sheba Karim is an American author who writes literature and young adult fiction. Sheba Karim was born and raised in Catskill, New York. She graduated from the New York University School of Law and received a M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her first young adult novel, Skunk Girl, was published in the United States, Denmark, India, Italy and Sweden and was the young adult selection for the 2012 Silicon Valley Reads Program. Her work has appeared in several magazines and anthologies in the US and India. She was a 2009-2010 Fulbright-Nehru Scholar based in Delhi, India, was selected as Remy Cointreau India’s ‘Cointreauversial Woman’ for Spring 2011, and has been awarded residences at Hedgebrook, Kimmel Nelson Harding Center for the Arts, Ledig House, and Millay Colony for the Arts.




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