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Bright Lines

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  1,194 ratings  ·  227 reviews
A vibrant debut novel, set in Brooklyn and Bangladesh, Bright Lines follows three young women and one family struggling to make peace with secrets and their past.

For as long as she can remember, Ella has longed to feel at home. Orphaned as a child after her parents’ murder, and afflicted with hallucinations at dusk, she’s always felt more at ease in nature than with peopl
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 11th 2015 by Penguin Books
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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,194 ratings  ·  227 reviews

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Tanwi Islam
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)

Everything I love //
Brooklyn, Bangladesh, botany, sexuality, taboos
In one home.

I'm a tad partial, of course.
This debut novel is a kind of game-changer for me. I was interested to know what it must be like for Islamic immigrants settling in New York City, but came away thinking I was the one adjusting to life in a strange country. The experience of reading this debut is very New York but it is something else, too. It is so far from the lives of middle-America that we may not recognize it as organic growth, like a seed wrapped in a soil “bomb” of wetted soil and clay and tossed from a speeding bicycle. ...more
Mar 01, 2015 rated it liked it
As college grows more distant in my life’s rear-view mirror, my patience for subtlety in literature dwindles. Since reading is no longer “work” for me, I have trouble muscling up the gumption for novels that require a lot of their readers. Especially this summer, I have been hungry for page-turning, plot-driven novels with twists and turns and sordid secrets.

So maybe it’s a case of right book, wrong time. Even though I enjoyed it, Bright Lines was a bit too cautious for me, deliberate when I cr
Dave Burdick
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A Brooklyn-by-way-of-Bangladesh "Royal Tenenbaums." A pot-tinged, PTSD Muslim "Sesame Street." With sex. Hallucinations, hijabs and handlebars on the always-busy Atlantic Avenue.

Read my full review at
Karen Loder
Apr 29, 2016 rated it liked it
It was a pretty good book that kept me more or less engaged throughout. Honestly, if I were not required to read this for a work training course, I probably would not have picked this one up; but it's good that I read something I normally wouldn't and I didn't think it was a waste of time. I learned a lot about Bangladesh that I never knew before, though there is much in the book about the different tribes, peoples, and places that were never made clear for me (due to my lack of founding knowled ...more
Angie Reisetter
Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: firstreads
The author has really taken her time to craft the characters in this story. It centers on two generations of a family. The parents, immigrants to New York from Bangladesh, have survived war and the tearing apart of families and friendships, and at some level cannot sympathize with the small troubles of their children. The daughters, Ella and Charu, are searching for their identities in every way, including sexual, familial, and religious, as they are on break from college.

Toward the end of the
May 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this, but I just couldn't get that into it.

This felt like a great first draft of a novel. The bones are there, but it needed some editing.

Where this book really shines is with atmosphere. Nandini Islam makes Brooklyn and Bangladesh come to life. Setting is probably this books strongest asset.

I think had the book focused primarily on El, who's story is the strongest narrative throughout, I would have loved it. If this book had been primarily a queer coming of age story wit
Originally published at

It is not an easy thing, describing this book. A family saga? An immigrant story? A bildungsroman?

All of this and more?

However you’d like to group it under, there is no doubt that this was an ambitious book. A book filled with larger than life characters. A book full of energy and colour and spirit.

It is 2003 and Ella, home from college, sneaks into the Brooklyn house of her aunt Hashi and uncle Anwar.

Ella is the adopted daughter, t
This was WILD. Can't recommend enough. It's Queer, Diverse, Sex-positive, unapologetic, and really beautiful story of love, family and friendship.

TW: Rape, Death, Hallucinations, Arson, Cheating, Sex, & Drug use.
Sep 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like it. The story of a family set in both New York and Bangladesh tells the tale of several family members with their loves, hidden desires, work, struggles and more. Ella/El and Charu are cousins raised as siblings after the death of Ella/El's parents. Charu's parents, Anwar and Hashi, make a living in their brownstone. Maya is a young woman who comes to stay with the family after a severe falling out with her father.
To be honest, this was a struggle. It takes quite a while
Lis Carey
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a really engrossing immigrant family drama, parts of which feel very familiar, not that different from the experiences of my mother's family. Immigrant parents, American children, family left behind in the old country, old family issues that didn't disappear because they moved away.

The difference, of course, is that this family are Muslims from Bangladesh.

Anwar and Hashi Saleem have built a good life in Brooklyn, where they have raised their daughter Charu and their orphaned niece Ella--
Lorrea - WhatChaReadin'?
Ella is the adopted daughter of Anwar and Hashi Saleem. The Saleem's took her in when her parents were murdered. They also have a daughter of their own named Chauru. They all live together in Brooklyn, New York, where Anwar is the owner of an apothecary(Pharmacy) and Hashi has a salon in their home. This is the only family that Ella has ever known. Although she has never really felt as a part of them, she was never treated as an outcast and never referred to as niece or cousin. The summer after ...more
Jul 05, 2015 rated it liked it
**I received an Advanced Reader's Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

3 stars...I didn't love this book but I can't seem to stop thinking about the characters.

It's an impressive debut novel, especially with respect to how well developed each of the characters are considering the book has less than 300 pages.

The story is told from the point of view of multiple family members over the course of a summer. Each character is affected differently by the events of the summer & eac
Jan 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
It was just dull. Many things happened, and still it was dull. None of the characters felt real. None of the conflicts or relationships felt real. Only with the father, Anwar, was an attempt made and I didn't pick this book up to read about some sad old man who has an affair with his ~spicy~ neighbour.
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful book!
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Felt on the skin

As beautiful as it is sensual and hallucinatory, this debut novel is a must read for anyone who has ever loved a city and the people who make it up.
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
i wanted to like this book so much but jesus CHRIST the dialogue was comically awful how could anybody read this with a straight face
Dec 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Bright Lines is more of a sprawling family novel than what I usually read, and I think that fact hindered my enjoyment of it in some places: I wanted it to be more tightly focused on a single character than it is. Instead, we get bits and pieces focused on the various inhabitants of a Clinton Hill brownstone: Anwar and Hashi Saleem, who moved to the US after the Bangladesh Liberation War, plus their daughter Charu, who's 18 and about to start college, plus their niece Ella, who's now a college s ...more
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book because there aren't many books about queers and Bangladesh and immigrants. And the cover is pretty awesome. But unfortunately I did not like this book.

I really disliked the writing. Often it is unclear what the author is trying to say. And often the wording is just awkwardly painful, e.g. "when he came on her belly, he did so loudly, as if to warn anyone who might try and enter" and "her soft virgin scalp was sweaty" and "eateries changed names as frequently as
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was incredible. Beautiful, organic, lyrical, totally absorbing. Populated with real characters who don't usually make the pages of books: people of colour, immigrants, locals, neighbours, LGTBQ characters; but all rendered realistically and fully. Islam gets you inside each characters motivations and perspectives seamlessly, even though they're so different from each other. I can't wait for the discussion at the Gracie Book Club with Chirlane McCray and James Hannaham tomorrow.
Oct 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: own-it, alt-tob-ii
I liked this book but didn't love it. Parts of it engrossed me and other parts just left me feeling "meh." I liked the characters but some of them seemed underdeveloped (mainly Maya although Charu's motivations weren't very clear either).
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is impossible to rate.

It's a great book. Like a masterfully written book. And it explores and depicts everything from gender to sexuality to war to death to religion to trauma to ethnicity to family in such a whole and honest way.

The settings were so alive too. I could feel Bangladesh as much as Brooklyn and vice versa.

Really excellent.

Give it a read.
Sep 30, 2017 rated it liked it
While I am so excited to have such a diverse set of characters represented in this book, I believe it created too many shallow storylines, without enough exploration into any one character. There were sections of the book that were brilliant (with some beautifully written lines), but other sections that dragged on and on really detracted from this book.
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Had its ups and downs but overall very good.
Nick Walsh
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This author is more than bright, she's brilliant.

The branches and roots, not to mention botanicals, of the Saleem & Anwar family tree twist and turn between Brooklyn, to Bangladesh, to Brooklyn. The search for identity, human inhumanity to human, the return home, the loss of what was home, the creation of new home, the inability to return. So many beautiful aspects occurring here, the least of which the encyclopeadic history of the Bangladesh diaspora in the confluence of ethnic, cultural and s
Bri (
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In a week, on August 11, 2015, a fantastic book entitled Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam will be released. This is hand’s down the best book I’ve ever received as an Advance Reader’s Copy from the First to Read program. If you know what’s good for you, you will snatch it up/request it from your local library instantly! Bright Lines features many dynamic characters who are all fully fleshed out — each of the characters all exist with
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
A few summers ago, my parents took my brother and I on a long overdue trip back to their respective homelands. Or maybe it wasn't that overdue, afterall. If we had gone at an earlier age, we might not have appreciated the significance of the journey. In any case, because I couldn't speak or read either Vietnamese or Khmer (though the latter I could understand with the limited vocabulary one uses to gossip around the house, and it has never not surprised me that I managed to absorb enough to know ...more
Jessica Andersen
This is a book I probably would not have picked up on my own, unless it was a kindle deal. I got it from the Book Riot Quarterly box, which was a fun little thing, that I only got in on for the last two boxes (sad!). That being said, I did like the book. One of the great things about reading is the ability to really get into the head of a person who you do not have much in common with. It is much more immersive through a book than through a TV show or movie. I feel like the ability to empathize ...more
May 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Bright Lines is a lot of book for a relatively small book. In Tanwi Nandini Islam's debut novel, she tackles many themes and ideas -- Immigrants in America, first generation Americans, religion and obligation, sexuality, gender fluidity, and how the past influences the present and the future and everyone around you. That's a lot to bite off. She mostly succeeds. Anwar and Hashi live in Brooklyn, having originally come from Bangladesh, where Anwar participated in the cultural war. They are raisin ...more
Kim McGee
Aug 08, 2015 rated it liked it
To this family from Bangladesh trying to make a go of it in New York, life can be confusing. The one message I came away from reading their story is - sex is not the answer. Each member of the family -mom, dad, uncle, daughter and niece all try to use sex or ignore sex to solve their problems and feel accepted. Tanwi Nandini Islam's debut novel gives us a story about living in a culture that is not your native one and trying to fit in. I loved all the different cultures that were woven into the ...more
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Tanwi Nandini Islam is the author of Bright Lines (Penguin 2015), a finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, Edmund White Debut Fiction Award, the Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize, and the inaugural selection of the First Lady of NYC's Gracie Book Club. Nandini Islam is the founder of Hi Wildflower Botanica, a small-batch perfume and candle line. A graduate of Brooklyn College MFA and ...more

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