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Helen Thurloe’s debut novel, Promising Azra, is published by Allen & Unwin.

What it’s about:

Azra is sixteen, smart and knows how to get what she wants. When she wins a place in a state chemistry competition, she thinks her biggest problem is getting her parents’ permission to go.
But she doesn’t know they’re busy arranging her marriage to a cousin she’s barely met. In Pakistan, in three months’ time.
Azra always thought she’d finish high school with her friends, but now her dreams of going to university are overshadowed. And it all becomes more complicated when her Uncle sees her with Pratik.
Can she find a way to do what she wants, while keeping her parents happy? Or must she choose between being a good daughter and her own freedom?

Publisher: Allen & Unwin, August 2016

  • A really compelling novel. I was completely gripped by it, it's a page turner. A fascinating story about forced marriage and the impacts it has within a society.

    Andrew Pople, First Draft, Radio 2SER
  • Absolutely enthralling and educational at the same time. The author has done a brilliant job of creating an endearing protagonist in Azra… at some point everything has to be put aside so you can finish those last heart-stopping chapters.

    Amanda Hampson, author of The Olive Sisters
  • With a frightening and fast paced ending, this was an exciting and thought provoking novel, ideal for any teenagers. It shows cultural diversity in the extreme and should be widely read in school groups as an excellent resource on this topic. I strongly recommend this title!

    Rob, Lamont Books Standing Orders, Secondary Book of the Month.
  • It has very engaging and delightful characters, they're fantastically feisty and lovely, these girls. The drama in the book does become quite intense, and raises issues about what people do when they have great loyalty to their family.

    Cassie McCullagh, Life Matters, ABC Radio National
  • On face value, Promising Azra is an engaging and often amusing story for young adults. It is, however, much more profound than this. Without being didactic, it contains important messages for young girls caught between the demands of their parents’ culture and a desire to chart their own life.

    Judges’ comments, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2017


Promising Azra is a hybrid of true stories, based on extensive interviews with high school students in Western Sydney. It is also informed by the work of the Immigrant Women’s Health Centre in Fairfield, Anti-Slavery Australia, and Good Shepherd (Victoria). The novel explores the blurry lines between freedom and obligation, consent and coercion, and culture versus individual rights in contemporary Australia.

The Stories behind Promising Azra

Promising Azra draws from many people’s experiences, both in Australia and around the world.
Here are details of the reports, media articles and books that inform the novel.

If you, or someone you know, is at risk of forced marriage, the following organisations can help.
Australia: mybluesky.org.au    UK: karmanirvana.org.uk

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