Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed
English | 2020 | Children/Young Adult | ePUB | 2.2 MB

Told in alternating narratives that bridge centuries, the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed traces the lives of two young women fighting to write their own stories and escape the pressure of cultural expectations in worlds too long defined by men.

It’s August in Paris and 17-year-old Khayyam Maquet-American, French, Indian, Muslim-is at a crossroads. This holiday with her parents should be a dream trip for the budding art historian. But her maybe-ex-boyfriend is probably ghosting her, she might have just blown her chance at getting into her dream college, and now all she really wants is to be back home in Chicago figuring out her messy life instead of brooding in the City of Light.

Two hundred years before Khayyam’s summer of discontent, Leila is struggling to survive and keep her true love hidden from the Pasha who has “gifted” her with favored status in his harem. In the present day-and with the company of a descendant of Alexandre Dumas-Khayyam begins to connect allusions to an enigmatic 19th-century Muslim woman whose path may have intersected with Alexandre Dumas, Eugène Delacroix, and Lord Byron.

Echoing across centuries, Leila and Khayyam’s lives intertwine, and as one woman’s long-forgotten life is uncovered, another’s is transformed.

I just stepped in dog shit. Bienvenue à Paris.

Welcome to my life of constant code-switching. Witness my attempts to blend an occasional impulse for Bollywood melodramatics with my flair for complaining like a local. I shouldn’t be cranky, summering in Paris. I should be an expert at dodging excrement on sidewalks and accustomed to tepid service from waiters and sardonic smiles at my fluent but slightly accented French. And I should absolutely be prepared for les grèves—the strikes that bring the Métro to a standstill every single time we’re here.

I should be French about it and nonchalant.

Instead, I’m American and have no chill.

Because it is hot. The air-conditioning is mostly aspirational. And I’m a captive here, since my parents value family vacation tradition more than my desire to stay in Chicago, stewing in self-doubt and woe-is-me pity and the truth universally acknowledged that the forces of entropy attack you on all fronts.

This is what metaphorical multiple organ failure feels like:

My head: I have likely, most probably, almost definitely royally screwed up my chances of getting into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago—my dream college that I’ve been shooting for since ninth grade. It is the school if you want to go into art history. Which I do. Obsessively.

My heart: Belongs to Zaid. Still. Zaid, my not-exactly boyfriend, but only because he never actually called himself my boyfriend, who is thousands of miles away in Chicago.

My lungs: On top of the dog crap, there’s a railway strike today, somehow precisely coinciding with this heat wave and my arrival in Paris. The air is humid and so thick I’m panting.

But those are merely symptoms.

The underlying cause? An essay. Yeah, really.

The School of the Art Institute is super competitive, so I wanted to find a way to stand out from the pack. I had this brilliant idea to submit an absolutely mind-blowing essay for its Young Scholar Prize. Technically, I was ineligible because you have to be a high school grad to enter. I was only a junior, and I petitioned the judges to make an exception. I didn’t want a technicality standing in the way of my dreams. Besides, my college counselor told me it would show I have “moxie” and would look great on my college applications. I was certain I had solved a centuries-old art world mystery, proving that Eugène Delacroix had secretly given a painting—one of several—from his Giaour series to the writer Alexandre Dumas, the all for one, one for all dude. Not just any painting in the series—the exact one on display at the Art Institute. I was going to astound the old fogey museum curators with my genius. I would unveil a secret that was hiding in plain sight. I would be the youngest prizewinner ever, an art world darling. I based my entire theory on a single sentence in a twenty-year-old article about Delacroix I found online and followed down a rabbit hole. Apparently fake news is also old news.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: