Review: Internment by Samira Ahmed

Title: Internment
Author: Samira Ahmed
Rating: ★★★★
Summary: Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens. With the help of newly made friends, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance within, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the camp’s Director and his guards. Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.


When fascism comes to America, it will come draped in the flag. You don’t need to be a student of history to see how nationalism, disguised as patriotism, can take hold of a country, justifying terrible and cruel acts. You only need to turn on the news.

I don’t know that I really enjoyed Internment—more that I experienced it. On one hand, the plot feels like true dystopic fiction, a horrendous what if? spiraling out of a real-world event. But on the other, it reads like an inevitability, the disastrous result of one too many bad choices, the culmination of a timeline from which we can no longer turn back.

We’re introduced to main character Layla after a Muslim registry and Exclusion Laws have already taken effect, but the action quickly accelerates as her family is forcibly removed from their home, tattooed with an ID number, and transported to a “rehabilitation” camp across the desert. The allusions to Japanese internment are frank and unsettling, Samira Ahmed forcing her readers to truly look at all the horrible shit America has done to its citizens in the name of nationalism. It should come as no surprise, then, that Internment was very hard to read, but it is important that I did, and that you do, too. “What’s that thing people always say about history?” Layla asks. “Unless we know our history, we’re doomed to repeat it? Never forget? Isn’t that the lesson? But we always forget,” she reminds us. “Forgetting is in the American grain.”

One of the first things that Layla mentions is how her life is broken up into “Then and Now,” but most of the Thens—the election, the Nazi march on DC, and the Muslim ban—mirror real-world events, so what’s to say that my reaction to those wouldn’t also mirror my reactions to the other Thens—the registry, book burnings, and Exclusion Laws— that ultimately led to Layla’s internment? One of the reasons why this book was so difficult to read was because Ahmed held up a mirror and made me look at myself, forced me to question how I would react to similar circumstances. I kept asking, would I be able to endure like Layla? Protest like her? Resist?

The short answer? No, I don’t think so.

Layla shows extreme fortitude in Internment, and I don’t know that I could do it as well as her, or even at all. About halfway through the book, Layla’s dad tells her, “don’t attract attention. Fade into the crowd. Stay as anonymous as possible. That’s how we’ll survive.” But Layla doesn’t want survival—she wants life. In acknowledging that “there’s no limit to the horrible things we do to one another,” she still understands that “human beings are capable of so many wondrous things.” It’s that hope, that ability to see beauty in the most brutal circumstances, that I admire most of all.

In her author’s note, Ahmed mentions, “I feel a lot of anger. But I believe in hope. I believe that the things that are wrong with America can be fixed by Americans. I believe that being good is what can make us great.” Reading Internment made me feel a lot of anger, but it also gave me hope. What more could I ask of a novel?

Top Ten: Books on My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was books on my spring TBR.

Whittling down my TBR is so hard. Like, on one hand, it helps me keep organized and know (roughly) which reviews I’ll be posting… but on the other, new books inevitably come out that aren’t on my list but which I really want to read!

† = ARC
* = Year of Asian Reading

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir* by Nicole Chung
Bloom by Kevin Panetta
The Clockwork Ghost by Laura Ruby
The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alex Marzano-Lesnevich
The Graybar Hotel: Stories by Curtis Dawkins

Internment* by Samira Ahmed
The Library of Ever† by Zeno Alexander
Origin by Dan Brown
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Star-Crossed † by Minnie Drake

Technically, You Started It † by Lana Wood Johnson
This Is Not a Love Scene † by S.C. Megale
The Unhoneymooners † by Christina Lauren
Woman World * by Aminder Dhaliwal

Month in Review: January 2019

Favorite Media

I have been on a superb Aaron Tveit kick lately, which has basically come and gone since Grease Live! but is right now like JSKLDJ:KLS. I went down a rabbit hole one afternoon and came across a cover of “I Can’t Make You Love Me”/”All I Ask” which is just all kinds of devastating. Like, he looks absolutely WRECKED while singing, but it somehow makes the songs that much better. (UGH my heart.)

Stuff I Added to My Queue

I stumbled onto The Bookish Life of Nina Hill through NetGalley and then promptly fell in love with the cover and summary. An Introverted bookworm falling in love with her trivia partner? Yes, please!

The Flatshare sounds like it could be, I don’t know, weird? But I’m hoping it’s the cute romantic read the summary promises.

Everyone (and their mother) has Internment on their TBRs, and I have also succumbed to peer pressure. 🤷‍♀️

Do I really need to explain why I added Meet Cute? It sounds like every fanfic I ever read and loved while in college and I am so here for that.

Is Opposite of Always another YA meet-cute that also kind of features time travel? Or maybe it’s just About Time in book form?? I don’t care, though, because both sound adorable!

The cover for Queenie is gorgeous, it sounds like a character study more than a plot-driven novel, and I am 100% super okay it.

Technically, You Started It gives me the same ~vibe I got out of Emergency Contact with a dash of Sierra Burgess Is a Loser through in, and I’m hoping it doesn’t disappoint. 🤞

I literally read The Unhoneymooners‘ summary line-by-line expecting something to jump out as “meh” but then nothing did??? And then I saw that it was by Christina Lauren and I was like “oh duh no wonder.”

A new Lindy West? ‘Nuff said.

On My Radar

  • I’m going to BEA this year (!!!), but I don’t live in NYC, so now I have to book a hotel and decide on a mode of travel. (Yes, this might take me a whole month to accomplish!)
  • I’m ahead with my reading which means I might get to my ARC of If I’m Being Honest in time to nominate it for LibraryReads! (Like, who am I right now???)
  • I’m skating by with my blog and video schedule, but I want to make it a priority to sit down once a week and actually do things in advance (as opposed to the night before). Why is time management so freaking hard?

What were YOU up to in January? Let me know!