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“Unlike our dumb mascot, I am here to stay. I’m not going anywhere,” Bijan Majidi. —Here to Stay
Here to Stay
by Sara Farizan
AR Test, Diverse Characters
Bijan Majidi loves basketball, comic books, and his mom. When he makes it on the varsity basketball squad, he’s over the moon. Now he’s getting noticed and being invited to parties with the cool kids. But when someone sends the whole school a photoshopped picture that makes Bijan look like a terrorist, he has to deal with the fallout. Here to Stay examines the prejudices and identities that envelop the lives of Bijan and his classmates.
Here to Stay tackles discussions about race and prejudice against the backdrop of a wealthy, white, New England neighborhood. Sara Farizan’s commentary creates a rich dialogue that acutely questions a status quo that harms students who aren’t white. Bijan, who is half Persian and half Jordanian, experiences microaggressions and a hate crime. Bijan is also put under emotional and social strain. Despite this, Bijan is resilient and handles the situations thrown at him through his wit and the strength of his heart.
Along with the discussion of race, Farizan includes two LGBTQ+ characters who initially hide their relationship because they fear their community’s backlash. In both overarching plot points, acceptance and sticking up for oneself are recurrent themes. Although not everyone in the novel is kind to these characters or to Bijan, the supporting cast of friends are loyal and kind people.
Bijan is undeniably a good main character. He’s friendly, funny, and sticks up for himself and his friends. Occasionally, some characters’ dialogue comes across as strange or too young for teenagers. However, it doesn’t make the characters any less likable. Considering all the dark topics that Here to Stay covers, Bijan’s inner monologue is really funny and brings some much-needed lightness to an otherwise depressing situation.
Farizan does an excellent job presenting a discussion around prejudices and integrating it with a fun high school basketball story. Ultimately, life is made up of great, game-winning moments as well as terrible moments. Bijan’s story is about dealing with other people’s prejudices, but he’s also a teenager who has crushes and who likes basketball. These things are not separate from each other, and Farizan presents Bijan as a whole person who deals with a full range of human experiences. Here to Stay is powerful, not necessarily because Bijan is extraordinary, but because his story is a reality for many people. Readers certainly won’t have a difficult time finding something to like about Bijan and his story.
- Bijan has “an imaginary future ex-girlfriend, Elle.” He has a crush on Elle, and the topic of his love comes up often.
- When Bijan is getting ready to go to a party, his mom tells Bijan that he can’t “get ‘fresh’ with any young ladies.”
- According to Bijan, his best friend Sean “has had sex.” No other details are given.
- At the start of practice, a basketball player throws his shirt to the side. “Some girls from the varsity squash team catcalled as they ran on the track above.”
- Someone makes a comment about Bijan going back to “whatever country or Cave of Wonders” he came from. Bijan responds with, “I’ll go back to where I came from. Back to your mom’s house. She made me the best breakfast this morning after the time we had together last night. Her maple syrup tasted just as good as she did.”
- Bijan’s best friend Sean makes a suggestive comment about another classmate. He says, “I wouldn’t mind tutoring Erin Wheeler . . . I’d answer any anatomy and physiology questions she may have.”
- Another basketball player, Will, mentions his girlfriend to a teammate. Will says, “Once I get what I need from [my girlfriend], I’m calling it off. Then it’s college honeys for days, you know what I’m saying?” This statement is not explained further.
- Will harasses Bijan about a girl in their grade. Will says, “ ‘It’s really nice of you to keep defending [Stephanie]. You giving it to her, man?’ Will dry-humped the air. ‘I mean, I guess she’d be a good lay. She’s got a nice physique for a munchkin . . . You put a gag over her head when you do her? So you can shut her up and not have to look at her? I know you people like your girls covered.’ ”
- Stephanie and Erin have been secretly dating. At a party, Bijan accidentally overhears them. Stephanie says, “ ‘While we haven’t done anything, I like you. I like you very much’ Then [Bijan] heard it. Lips smacking. Stephanie was kissing someone!” Erin is worried about being found out because “My friends and that school are going to tear [Stephanie] apart.”
- Will makes yet another comment to Bijan, this time about Bijan and Sean. “I thought you two were joined at the hip. How will you be able to take a piss without him holding your dick?” Bijan responds, “He’s his own man . . . But it’s true, my dick is far too big to hold. Your mom said so last night.” Will then responds with, “By the way…which of his moms did it with a turkey baster?”
- Bijan and Elle kiss. “[Bijan] cupped her face in [his] hand. She was so warm. Kissing her was a million times better than scoring the winning basket for Granger.”
- Erin and Stephanie start officially dating. Erin introduces herself as “[Stephanie’s] girlfriend, with all the confidence of her years in the New Crew.”
- While in the locker room, Will makes a series of sexual comments about Bijan and Drew’s love lives. In response, Bijan says, “Why don’t you find a Jacuzzi jet to stick your dick into and call it a day, Will.”
- Bijan talks about movies. He says that “Daniel LaRusso gets to crane-kick the crap out of Johnny.”
- Occasionally, fouls occur in the basketball games and players are knocked down, pushed, or shoved.
- After Bijan makes a comment about a player’s mom, the player “rushed [Bijan], knocking [him] to the sidewalk.”
- Someone photoshopped Bijan’s face onto a racist version of the school mascot and sent it to the school. Bijan’s face was “photoshopped onto the head of a man with a long beard wearing a pakol hat and holding a gun.”
- An email is sent to the Granger student body, but this time it outs Stephanie and Erin’s relationship and sexual orientations. It’s a picture of their photoshopped faces, and they’re “vomiting rainbows.” It is later revealed that Stephanie’s friend, Noah, is the one who made it out of jealousy, as he felt entitled to Stephanie’s affection.
- Will gets drunk the night before the first tournament game and brings his buddies to beat up Bijan. One of them, “grabbed hold of [Bijan’s] shoulder and pushed [him] backward with his forearm against [his] chest. [Bijan] tried to get away, and wanted to yell but the fear wouldn’t let [him].”
- At the basketball game, a group of white people who “had wrapped athletic towels on their heads and wore fake beards . . . held up a poster-sized version of the terrorist photo of [Bijan]” sat behind the basket and chanted “USA! USA! USA!” at Bijan.
Drugs and Alcohol
- At a party there is a “cooler full of beers.” Many of the underage students drink at the party.
- Someone says to Bijan about the photoshopped picture, “Whoever did send it, I’d love to shake their hand and buy them a beer.” Bijan responds, “I’d love to buy a keg for whatever college will take you . . . How much does your grandpa pay to have you play for us?”
- At another party the students drink again. Bijan drinks a beer and says it tastes “like wheat backwash.” Bijan also joins in on beer pong where he plays “with the guys for an hour.”
- Drew talks about his dad. Drew says, “Mine’s a real piece of work. A guy named Tim who would rather play keno and drink than hang out with his kid.”
- Profanity is used somewhat often. Profanity includes damn, crap, bitches, ass, and hell.
- Bijan says his life turned into a “crap salad in a bucket.”
- Students make many comments about Bijan’s race, and they also make insensitive comments about other races as well.
- Bijan briefly mentions that the JV locker room talk included “theories about what would happen if you smeared Icy Hot all over your junk.”
- During a speech at school, Bijan talks about his parents’ religions. “My mom is Muslim but doesn’t speak to God as much since my dad died. My father was Christian. My relationship with God is personal and has nothing to do with you.” Bijan thinks, “I didn’t explain to them that terrorists who commit heinous acts in the name of religion don’t understand their faith at all, including the white Christian terrorists within our own country. I didn’t read to them the section of the Qur’an that says, ‘Whoever kills a person unjustly. . . it is as though he has killed all mankind, and whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.’”
- Bijan doesn’t drink, and he turns down a beer from another student. That student then says, “Allah’s not gonna mind.”
by Alli Kestler