Literature Circles – Nilsu: Passage Master

Borderline: pg 189-259

Passage #1

I’ve prayed the first chapter of the Qur’an so many times, I’ve stopped hearing the words. But now, in the predawn dark, they ring clear. Each syllable connects me to a power bigger than myself, a world of others praying the same words. My forehead tingles. I’m not alone. I’m not afraid. I’m going to save my Dad, my family, Inshallah. (Allan Stratton, 228)

This passage happens after Sami decides to go to Toronto to face Tariq Hasan in order to prove his father’s innocence. He wakes up the night he’s to leave for Toronto with a need to pray. This is the first time in the novel that Sami has had a connection with his religion, and it affects him deeply. He now feels that he is strong through praying to God. This is an important turning point in the book because Sami always considered his religious identity an afterthought, but now, Sami understands the power of his God and how the words of prayer affect his life. This is relevant to the story because Sami’s religious identity was something he always struggled with, but now he isn’t embarrassed about who he is.

Passage #2

It’s the middle of the night.
I’m staring at that framed photo on my bedside table, the one of me and Dad from his office. Who
is he?Who is he really? I don’t know. I don’t care. I hate him. He’s ruined my life. Mom’s too. 
I go to throw it in the garbage, but I can’t. (199)

This passage happens after Sami’s father’s first trial. Sami is unsure whether his father is truly innocent or not, and is facing the dilemma of if he should stand by him or not. He is mad at his father for getting his family involved in this case, but he cannot bring himself to throw the picture of him away. This is significant to the book because it shows Sami’s loyalty to his father despite how much he hates him. Throughout the whole book, Sami and his father haven’t had a positive interaction, and as a reader, I was unsure whether Sami actually loved his father. This passage proves that Sami loves his father deep down, and despite all the stress he’s put Sami through, Sami is still there for him.

Passage #3

What does evil look like, Sami? If monsters looked like monsters, we’d know who to run from. But they don’t. They scariest monsters look like family and friends. They’re the ones that get you. The ones you trust. You let them into your heart, and then it’s too late. They’ve got you. You’re dead. Ask Andy. He thought he knew his dad too.
No! I hit my head over and over, but the voice gets louder. I grab the photo of me and Dad, smash the frame face down on the floor, and shove it, hard, under my bed. I imagine the splintered glass tearing into the paper, shredding Dad’s face. (200-201)

In this passage, Sami is arguing with his inner voice, and is having an internal struggle to who his dad truly is: a monster, or his father? Sami is trying to defend his father, but his inner voice is telling him to face the facts; monsters are the ones we trust. Sami tries to fight the voice, but he ends up succumbing to it and smashing the picture of his father. This is a significant point in the book, because Sami has been conversing with this “inner voice” throughout the book. This is the first time Sami has given into the voice, showing that his mental struggles are manifesting in Sami’s life.

Literature Circles – Nilsu: Word Wizard

Borderline: pg 124-188

Word #1: Martyr

According to unconfirmed reports, the cell calls itself the Brotherhood of Martyrs. (Allan Stratton, 157)

Here, the word martyr is used in the title of the terrorist cell that Sami’s father was allegedly involved with. A martyr is a person who died or sacrificed themselves for a cause, for example, religion, war, etc. This word relates to the story because terrorists who die in suicide bombings or attacks are called martyrs among their ranks. They aspire to be martyrs because in their eyes, to get to Jannah (Muslim heaven) they must sacrifice themselves in a religious war. In Borderline, Sami’s father is arrested by the FBI for supposedly providing them with weapons of bioterrorism.

Word #2: Bioterrorism

Science types are popping up on all the channels, discussing Dad and bioterrorism.

The word bioterrorism is used when Sami is thinking about all the news channels talking about his father’s work at Shelton Laboratories, and how the substances he worked with could potentially infect the public population. Bioterrorism is when someone intentionally releases harmful viruses or bacteria in order to cause death or illness in people. This word relates to the story because Sami’s father was originally the head research director at Shelton Laboratories, where he dealt with very dangerous substances. Now that he is believed to be involved in an international terrorist cell, authorities feared that he provided the cell with the materials to seriously harm the public.

Word #3: Deranged

That doesn’t stop the networks from posting a video still of Dad’s deranged face under the headline: DR. DEATH?

The word deranged is being used when Sami is talking about a picture of his father’s face from the raid being put up across all the TV networks. At the raid, his father was woken up from his sleep under Demerol, a pain medication. Deranged is an adjective used to describe someone who isn’t mentally sane or well. This word relates to the story because the news networks are making Sami’s father look like a crazy man, which Sami knows is not true. This relates to the over-arching theme of the book, which is appearances. Sami’s father looks like a mad scientist/terrorist, when Sami and his mother know the truth, that he isn’t.

Word #4: Snitch

I won’t snitch on Dad!

The word snitch is used here when Sami is being interrogated by the FBI, and he’s having an internal struggle whether to tell the agents about his Dad in Toronto or not. Snitch is a colloquial verb used when someone is ratting another person out to get off easy. This word relates to the story because throughout the book, Sami has had internal struggles with himself to snitch, whether it be about Eddy bullying him or his Dad getting in trouble with the FBI.

Word #5: Premeditated

He says the carving doesn’t look like SABIRI SUX; it looks like “premeditated vandalism.”

The word premeditated is used to describe Sami trying to turn the vandalism that Eddy wrote into something indistinguishable. Mr. McGregor calls it “premeditated vandalism” because Sami apparently had a previous motive when carving it. Premeditated is an adjective used to describe something that’s planned in advance. This word relates to the story because Sami is always trying to plan things in advance, but they never turn out the way he hopes they do. This happens when Sami plans the cottage trip with Andy and Marty, along with his trip to Toronto with his dad.

Literature Circles – Nilsu: Making Connections

Borderline: pg 59-123

Connection #1)
When Sami is filling a sack up with firewood at the cottage to take camping, Andy and Marty tease him about being over-prepared and like a mom.

I fill the burlap sack with firewood. 
Marty rolls his eyes. “We’ll find loads of driftwood on the beach.”
“What if it’s too dark to see by the time we get there?”
“That’s why we have flashlights.”
“But what if it’s wet? Like, what if it got rained on this week?” 
“Fine,” Marty grumps. “if you’re gonna be a girl about it.” 
“This way’s easy is all,” I explain. “We can get our fire pit going right away without wearing down our batteries.”
“I got it, mom.” (Allan Stratton, 63-64)

I can make a text-to-self connection to this because my friends always call me a soccer mom and tease me when we go somewhere and I over-pack. I understand how Sami is feeling like he’s trying too hard, even though he was trying to help his friends. Whenever I do this, I always feel embarrassed, and I think to myself, “Stupid, you should have relaxed and chilled out a bit.” This might make Sami feel more like an outsider to his friends, because he was already dealing with that feeling when he jumped in the car.

Connection #2)
When Sami is being tailgated by Eddy’s BMW, and doesn’t want to tell the administration about it, for fear that they won’t do anything, despite Mr. Bernstein urging him to do it.

Mr Bernstein pauses. “I’d like you to tell Mr. McGregor what happened.”
“Nothing happened sir.” 

“That’s not true. We both know it.” 
I toe the ground. “Sir, I know you’re trying to help, but here’s the thing. There’s a zero-tolerance policy for fighting. If I tell, I’d get suspended too. My dad would kill me.”
Mr Bernstein puts a hand up. “Zero-tolerance doesn’t apply to bullying.”
“Who said it was bullying? You didn’t see it, sir. You guessed. Which makes it my word against six Academy athletes. Can you imagine Mr. McGregor suspending a quarter of the football team midseason? Especially when their parents are like Eddy’s?” (100-101)

I can make a text-to-world connection to this event because at my school, we have so many options for reporting bullying, like the Tipoff anonymous hotline, our counselors, teachers, etc. This makes me feel grateful, but also upset because kids like Sami who don’t have these resources are still afraid of telling someone who could ultimately make the situation. If Sami had an anonymous way to report Eddy, I bet he’d be less afraid of him and his grasp on the school’s administration.


Literature Circles – Nilsu :Summarizer

Borderline: pg 1-55

Sami, his mother Neda, and his father Arman live in the suburb of Meadowvale in New York state, where his father is a research director at a laboratory, and his mother is a pharmacist. Sami’s father offers to take Sami on a trip to Toronto while he’s at a conference, where they’ll see the Toronto Blue Jays and the Toronto Maple Leafs play. Sami gets very excited, because him and his father don’t go on many bonding trips together. However, Sami’s excitement is short-lived when his father cancels the trip because he has to cover for someone else at the conference. Sami’s two best friends, Andy and Marty, offer to take Sami on a trip to Andy’s cottage with Andy’s family. His mother agrees to let Sami go without consulting his father because she was still mad at him for cancelling on Sami’s plans with him. On the day that Sami, Andy, and Marty are leaving for the cottage, Sami is being picked on in history class by his bully, Eddy Harrison. It builds to Eddy calling Andy a sand monkey (a derogatory insult to people of Middle Eastern background) which has Eddy sent to the office. Eddy comes back from the office, getting off scot-free. The principal calls Sami down to the office, and Sami runs away from him, jumping into Andy’s car. Sami relaxes, then realizes that Andy’s parents are nowhere in sight. Andy’s parents turn out to be away for the week, which Andy and Marty lied about to Sami. Sami is uneasy, and isn’t sure about what his parents will think of him being unsupervised. Andy and Marty become glum when Sami seems to back out, but Sami finally tells them he’s in. They drive away, off to Andy’s cottage.