Samira Ahmed’s dystopian novel Internment is a disturbing and frightening glimpse into a possible future that America does not want. While the exact year is not pinpointed, Ahmed makes it clear that the action takes place during modern times, quite close to 2020. Numerous tweets, disturbing statements and hate-filled messages of the President in the book parallel the actions of the actual sitting President in 2020.
Set in California, the book follows the experiences of Layla Amin and her family as they first deal with society’s Muslim curfew and then are banned and relocated to an internment camp for Muslim Americans. The book’s action begins in various locations such as the Amin household, the street, and a pool house as Ahmed introduces the conflicts that Muslim Americans face daily. Layla risks her family’s safety by being outside after curfew and by secretly meeting her Jewish boyfriend David at the pool house, as mixed relationships are against the law.
The main action is at the desert internment Camp Mobius, where Muslim Americans are taken after relocation. Ahmed lays down several clues that the camp is in California, or near enough to it. Layla’s family is processed for relocation in Los Angeles, they travel to Independence, and Layla notices that they pass by the former Japanese American internment camp Manzanar.
Mobius is subdivided into blocks of mobile homes. A good deal of the action takes place within the Amin family trailer, which is meagerly outfitted with basic living necessities. An important place is the dining hall, where the families eat but which also serves as a backdrop for pivotal events: the teenagers stage a hunger strike there, Layla secretly meets David there with the help of Corporal Jake Reynolds, and the Director’s violent behavior is first exposed to the world at the mess hall.
The yard is another important part of the setting. Layla and her friends work in the community garden as they plan a way out of their prison. The electrified fence and armed guards do not prevent them from organizing protests in the yard. Ahmed chooses the outdoor backdrop to reveal characters’ true selves: various people are shown to be brave in standing up for their rights, Jake gives his life for Layla, and the Director is completely revealed for his brutality.