Maria Hossain's Reviews > A Place For Wolves

A Place For Wolves by Kosoko Jackson
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Read 2 times. Last read January 21, 2019 to January 28, 2019.

I’m a bit conflicted with this book. I started it with much enthusiasm, since the book sounded really awesome and I was surprised NetGalley granted me an eARC. But about 37% into the book, the enthusiasm dimmed down.

Because of one big problematic aspect that glared down at me as I raced to finish this book.

Okay spoilers galore, please read it with caution.

The book started with the protagonist, a black gay teen, James Mills writing a letter to his sister, Anna (who was in America the entirety of the book). He hid in a dilapidated hostel with his Brazilian boyfriend, Tomas, before posting the letter to a mailbox nearby. All hell broke loose once he got to the mailbox.

Since then, Tomas and James were on the run, their destination the American embassy in Pristina, the capital of a war wrecked Kosovo. On the way, they encountered lots of things that threatened their lives and all those they held dear.

Okay, now time for the spoiler filled part.

I loved the relationship between James and Tomas. It was so lovingly portrayed, their love for each other growing stronger and stronger as each page passed. They obviously cared for each other and their heat filled banter made me sigh in happiness.

That at least, this book had a happy, healthy LGBTQIAP+ relationship. And on top of that, a gay relationship between two PoC, one black, one brown. And to find healthy, present parents and sibling relationship made this book soar my heart even more. Each letters to Anna Mills showed the close bond James shared with his older sister and I just wanted to sob in joy.

But then came the wreck called Beqiri, or in the earlier chapters, Professor Beqiri.

An Oxford graduated Albanian, his whole presence in the book was reduced down to one cardboard cutout portrayal.

He is a terrorist.

In a blink, the book that made my heart soar soured my mind. It became another book showing Muslim men as a terrorist.

And I’d have not felt as uncomfortable as now if besides being a terrorist, Beqiri was shown with some positive traits. But he was not.

Nope.

I get it that since Beqiri kidnapped and tortured many foreigners, he was a bad guy. He was doing an awful thing. James had his parents held hostage. Of course he wouldn’t and couldn’t see Beqiri as anything but a terrible person. A bad guy. The villain in his story.

But…

Beqiri was shown to be merciless and unsympathetic toward anyone and everyone, even to his own comrades. He fed a dying Serbian soldier to his dogs. He killed one of his men for a mistake by kicking him to death, and didn’t feel the slightest remorse for his best comrade's wounds. As if the independence of Kosovo was his individual goal and nobody else mattered. He was reduced to a terrorist, his humanity stripped bare and into a monster. The author had plenty of places to show he was a grey person. When I said plenty, I meant plenty.

•He could’ve been a doting son, who loved his parents and to reduce their suffering and oppression in this country, he chose this dark path.

•He could’ve been a good mentor or leader or comrade to his fellow fighters, who mourned for their deaths and grieved for them. Who wanted them to live and valued their lives instead of seeing them as mere army to fight for his victory.

•He even could have been showed to be an excellent teacher before the Kosovo war. But he was rather shown as a zealot, a jingo who would do anything to win the war.

During Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971, our freedom fighters fought together and mourned together for one another’s death. But the way Beqiri was shown to be was not as a freedom fighter with shades of grey, rather a black and white Muslim Albanian terrorist killing and kidnapping Americans and Europeans for hostage.

Even when Beqiri was a professor to James, not his family’s kidnapper, he was shown in a negative light. And James was said to be empathetic? Well, he did not empathize with Beqiri as well. If not with a villain like Beqiri, then maybe his people? But no. Not one ounce of empathy did James show toward the locals, not even before the war. Rather they either faded into his POV as clamoring, fear-mongering rebels, or frightened people fleeing the war wrecked Kosovo, or someone who could only terrorize and did not deserve their protests of freedom. James even once said:

James: “So let me guess. Your ragtag group of bandits, fighting for justice across Kosovo, graduated to what? Kidnappings? Beatings?”

Beqiri: “And murder if we needed to, yes…”

Bangladesh was once part of Pakistan. We’d been through a lot of the discrimination Beqiri mentioned his people went through under the Serbian rule. Yet his side wasn’t shown in an empathetic light. None of the discrimination the Albanians faced from the Serbian rulers were shown in the book at all. Which was disheartening, since a Serbian soldier was shown in a positive light, fighting for his country. But anyone fighting for Kosovo’s freedom was shown to be a jingo.

If a group of subjugated people demanded freedom from their oppressors, was it so bad? Yes, Beqiri’s actions were cruel and nothing could justify them. But what the author could’ve shown plenty of times was the locals in a positive light. That war is not black and white, rather shades of grey.

What disappointed me the most was the author’s note at the end of the eARC. He stated he knew he’d painted the Albanians in a villainous hue. This disappointed me the most.

In a time when Muslim ban is still fresh in everyone’s mind, when Hollywood enjoys showing Muslim men as oppressors and terrorists, this portrayal is disheartening.

I am not discouraging or forbidding anyone to buy this book. Far from it, I’ll urge you to read it for its beautiful portrayal of healthy parent-child relationship, the narration from an adoptive black child’s POV, and adorable sibling bond. AND this book has one of the best LGBTQIAP+ representation as well as a black male teen as its narrator and protagonist.

But I’ll also request you to pick up this book knowing its flaw, aware of its problematic Muslim and Albanian portrayals, so you can caution your Muslim and/or Albanian friends before you recommend it to them, or if they pick up this book.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
February 24, 2018 – Shelved
February 24, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
January 21, 2019 – Started Reading
January 27, 2019 – Shelved as: earc
January 28, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Gregory Can you possibly share the eARC? As an intellectual freedom blogger, I'm interested in covering this...


Maria Hossain Jamie wrote: "Can you possibly share the eARC? As an intellectual freedom blogger, I'm interested in covering this..."

I'm sorry but I received an eARC from NetGalley and their system doesn't allow anyone to share it with others. Sorry.


message 3: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Gregory Thank you!


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