In her touching, and at times, confronting new novel, Marrying Ameera, award- winning Australian author Rosanne Hawke explores the complexities of arranged marriage in today's society, and reveals the startling impact of the old-world practice that still occurs regularly in Western countries, including Australia.
"A 17-year-old Sydney girl has saved herself from being forced to go to Lebanon for an arranged marriage by calling the Australian Federal Police
" ABC News, 3 June 2010
"Scared teen calls police to stop arranged marriage" The Daily Telegraph, 3 June 2010
"Women reveal the pain of forced marriages" Kent News, 20 June 2010
"A schoolgirl of Turkish descent was forced into an engagement arranged by her parents
She eventually fled, but her family soon tracked her down" The Star (Canada), 15 June 2010
For Rosanne, it was her experiences travelling and living in Pakistan that inspired her to delve behind the issue of forced marriage.
'In 2006 I was visiting Pakistan and my host school in Murree, Northern Pakistan, became a base to travel from. The school was tight on security due to a terrorist attack four years previously, but since I had my husband with me I was able to take many research trips - including to Azad Kashmir and other the earthquake-affected areas. It was on that trip to Azad Kashmir that we met an English couple who knew a man from the Forced Marriage Unit in the British Consulate. I immediately could see the idea for a new novel. I started collecting folktales, cloth, patterns for outfits, news clippings and Pakistani literature.
Although I had spent seven years in Pakistan when I was younger I felt that this time I understood the richness of the culture so much more than I did before. I was able to visit in local homes, even overnight, and gained much insight into the Pakistani people and customs, including experiencing first hand Pathan hospitality with its gun firing at parties, and honour, segregation and protection of women.
For me writing is a way of talking, a way of interacting with the world and making sense of what I hear and see. Sooner or later what I experience becomes assimilated into my work, and that has happened with what I saw and experienced in Pakistan and Marrying Ameera.' - Rosanne Hawke
Ameera is an average Australian teenager. She doesn't realise it, but her Pakistani father has made plans to marry her off to a wealthy cousin in his home country. After her freedom is taken from her, Ameera realises that she is trapped - she will have to go through with the marriage. With the help of an organisation that rescues girls in Ameera's situation, Ameera fights to escape from Pakistan and win back her life.
This story of forbidden love demonstrates the gulf between two cultures and invites young adults to question their own cultural norms, morality and opinions on often unexplored issues.
"A thrilling read
Four stars." - Australian Bookseller + Publisher Rosanne Hawke
lives in rural South Australia in an old Cornish farmhouse. She has written over 16 books for young people including The Keeper, Soraya the Storyteller, and Mustara. Many of her books have been shortlisted in Australian Awards or were Notable Books in the Australian Book Council Awards. Across the Creek won the Holyer an Gof Award in Cornwall. Rosanne has been a teacher, and for almost 10 years was an aid worker in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. She is a Carclew, Asialink, Varuna and May Gibbs Fellow, and a Bard of Cornwall. Rosanne enjoys writing about family, multicultural issues, music and cats. Her black cat is called Pepper Masalah. She teaches Creative Writing at Tabor Adelaide and writes in an underground room.
Harper Collins Publishers
Author: Rosanne Hawke
Interview with Rosanne Hawke
What research went into Marrying Ameera? Rosanne Hawke
: I did do a lot of research; I was in Pakistan on an overseas writing scholarship in 2006 and I visited all the places, in the book. The information about the rescued bride, I got that from either the Guardian Newspaper or BBC interviews, that were on the UK Forced Marriage website. All the information about the culture that is in the book was gained via personal experience because I lived in Pakistan for about seven and a half years during the 80's. I think that is where it has all come together from; I really enjoyed living in Pakistan, at that time.
When I heard there were quite a few British boys and girls who were being forced into arranged marriage, I thought I'd like to write a story. I enjoyed the culture, in Pakistan, when we were there, so I used that culture in the book as well. It's not just young people that arranged marriages, might happen too, of course. Recently we had a Lebanese-Australian girl who contacted the Federal Police to put her on watch, so she wouldn't be taken out of the country to marry someone.
Whilst in Pakistan did you meet various females who inspired the character of Ameera? Rosanne Hawke
: I didn't actually meet someone from a forced marriage because in Pakistan, everyone has arranged marriages and we saw that they worked really well. We once met a lady who was divorced, though. She was divorced from her husband when a second marriage was arranged for her husband, because she wasn't having any boys. They do need boys, because that is their social security and they way that they make money. The boys look after the family when the parents are old, without boys there would be a problem. She loved her husband, that was an arranged marriage, but she said that after they were married they fell in love and when the second marriage was arranged, because she loved him she couldn't cope with it. Divorce does happen, especially if there is a problem with children. Once she was divorced she went back to live with her brother. She did say that if she was in our country, she would have been left alone and left happy. Normally, in most cases that we saw, arranged marriages worked quite well.
A forced marriage only occurs if the boy or the girl says no, that they don't want to marry the other person and it is arranged, anyways. We are noticing this happening with young people being brought up in the West and then being sent back home to marry someone that they would have perhaps normally married, if they had lived there all their lives, but now because of the Western lifestyle they say "no, I don't want to do that".
What was the best thing about creating a character like Ameera? Rosanne Hawke
: The best thing was that I really wanted to create her as not a disobedient girl; she didn't mean to be a disobedient girl. I wanted her to really want to do what her parents wanted her to do. I wanted to show the struggle of a good daughter, like that, would find when she was up against something that she feels is wrong because of the new influences in her life.
She falls in love with a Pakistan man, who is from a Christian family and she knows her father won't like that. But when she is flown to Pakistan, to marry her cousin, she knows she cannot, because she loves the other boy. It is a very Western thinking to put love in front of obedience, family and honor which is why she had such a big struggle.
How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people? Rosanne Hawke
: No one in the book is actually based on a real person, unless it is used in a historical sense. I made it all up, but everything that did happen in the book, could have happened.
The book is for 14+. I read another book on forced marriages, for adults, and the husband was shown as a really evil person and I thought I do not want to do that, in my book, because I don't want it to be so easy for the reader to think 'I hope she gets out of that marriage, because he is horrible'.
Are you always on the look out for your next novel idea? Rosanne Hawke
: Yes! I have a new novel coming out next year about explorers and that is for younger readers. To write this book, I had to read all the explorers journals (laughs) it was incredible. It has taken four years to get from the explorers journals to a story, which I think 12 years olds, would like to read. Buy it now at