Watched by Marina Budhos
What would it be liked to be watched? Everything you do, everything you say, everywhere you go…always watched? This is the topic that is explored in the novel Watched by Marina Budhos. Naeem, a Bangladeshi teenager living in a South Asian neighborhood in the Bronx, is a high school senior. His father and step-mother own a little shop in the neighborhood, but Naeem dreams of wanting more. He’s a good kid, but he begins to let his grades slip and is in jeapordy of not being able to graduate. Also, he has begun to hang out with an older friend, Ibrahim. One day as the two are in the mall, Ibrahim slips stolen shirts into Naeem’s bag. Naeem gets caught with the stolen property, and instead of being arrested, two NY cops offer him a deal…work undercover to infiltrate various Muslim groups that they are watching and search for anyone who may seem to be becoming radical. Naeem takes the deal; one to get out of being arrested and two they offer to pay him. He feels this will help his family out and help him to be able to take summer courses in order to graduate. As Naeem delves deeper and deeper into the surveillance, he starts to loose track of himself…is he a hero for what he’s doing or is he a villian? What happens when the surveillance turns towards the people you care about?
Watched was inspired by actual surveillance practices. It’s a timely book in a world where people are judged by their culture. What would it be like to be under surveillance at all times? I really enjoyed this book. Not only does it look at the issue of being under constant surveillance for who you are, but it also explores the issues of family, communities, and countries. I think this is a wonderful book that would bring about many discussions about the injustices of being monitored just because of the place you or your family originated from. Also, what loyalties to you have to your family, friends, and community. This book would appeal to many readers and it is definitely one I will get to have in my classroom library as I think it will be one the students would remember for a very long time to come.