Last Reviewed on April 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1325
Layla Amin cautiously ventures outside, knowing curfew will begin in thirty minutes. If she is caught, her parents will be in trouble with the government.
Layla’s family is Muslim, and there is a Muslim ban. The president has declared that “Muslims are a threat to America” and has begun to relocate people, citing his ability to do so in wartime.
Staring at a poster which advertises a book burning, Layla inadvertently bumps into Mrs. Brown. Mrs. Brown cannot look Layla in the eye, because she is carrying Layla’s father’s books to burn. Although Layla apologizes, Mrs. Brown merely hurries away.
Layla pushes on, determined to see her boyfriend, David. She thinks about what her father has lost: a tenured professor of poetry and writing at the university, he was recently fired.
Layla’s risk is greater than David’s. He is Ashkenazi Jewish, not Muslim, so he is not targeted. Because Layla is Muslim, however, he is forbidden to see her. When the two were suspended from school for kissing, the principal lectured her parents, not David’s, about staying in one’s place. Layla didn’t understand why her parents chose not to defend her, and they have homeschooled her since then.
Relieved to see David, Layla tries to pretend they live in normal times.
Suddenly, their phones flash a reminder to watch the president’s weekly National Security Address. David rails against the president’s bigotry, but Layla is only concerned about getting home to avoid trouble. They promise that their relationship will not end, despite David’s parents forbidding him to see Layla. David vows to fight society’s unfairness, revealing that there are groups already fighting. Layla feels he is only trying to make her feel better. She thinks about how lies are accepted in an attempt to survive.
The two fall silent as they see a beam of light move slowly across the lawn. David insists on walking Layla home, but they are stopped by a voice shouting for them to halt. David screams for Layla to run to safety.
Layla races into her house, slamming the door behind her, and faces her shocked parents, Ali and Sophia. They plead with her not to leave again, as the consequences for the family could be dire.
Layla questions their silence during this time of injustice. Ali reminds her that they are Muslim Americans and considered enemies of the government, merely because they answered the census truthfully about their background. When Layla retorts that they should have lied, Sophia explains they will never deny their heritage. Layla angrily brings up crimes against Muslims, but her parents steadfastly believe they must abide by the government’s rules.
Layla recalls life before the current president’s election. During the primaries, the then-candidate proposed a Muslim registry and called people that greeted each other with a Nazi salute “very fine people.” She thinks about the fake news, the president calling refugees criminals and rapists, and the people who voted for a candidate who tweeted hate-filled messages. She is angry that people only pray for better days rather than do something about the hate crimes.
Fearing punishment, the Amins keep the television tuned to the president’s address while they do other things.
Hearing a car outside, Layla peers out the window to see two men in suits approaching their front door. She is seized with terror and tears down the stairs, ready to accept blame for her transgression. One of the men points a gun at her, and as Ali moves to shield his daughter, the man throws him to the ground. The family is informed that they are being relocated.
One of Ali’s poems, entitled “Revolution,” reverberates through Layla’s mind: “Speak the truth while it is still alive.”
Forced to surrender their phones, the...
(The entire section contains 1325 words.)
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