author: Neesha Meminger
Margaret K. McElderry Books; 2009
main character: Samar “Sam”
Sam‘s Uncle suddenly comes to visit. He is her mom’s only brother, the brother she walked away from when she left her family to marry the love of her life. Sam‘s mom resented the Indian culture that she felt was stifling her, so she left it behind and never looked back. She raised her daughter to be an all American girl. Sam dressed, talked and acted just like her white friends.
And then her Uncle Sandeep appears. Her turban wearing Sikh uncle in post 9/11 America.
It is so painful to watch a young person suddenly realize what it means to belong to an ethnic group when for years they’d basically been passing. The story unfolds into a journey of self discovery. Relationships are redefined, values are clarified and tears are shed. Through this process, Meminger gives us reason to empathize with Samar: her ignorance of her culture is not her own fault and she is working to make up for lost time. A real testament to her character is the fact that Sam is never embarrassed by her uncle even when she sees how people react to him. What embarrasses her is her own ignorance.
Meminger gives us reason to be proud of who we are and from where we come. She shows us that people who really love us see us for who we are, we cannot hide our true selves from them. Somehow, though we try to hide from ourselves. An interesting subtext was that Sam’s childhood friend, Maggie, had a bit of a problem understanding the subtleties of racism, but people of color in Sam’s world, people with whom she wasn’t necessarily friends, understood exactly what Sam was feeling and why. Heck, they were taunted with similar slurs from the same people! In fighting with her mother, her friend and her enemies, Sam exhibited the resilience that teens of color need to come of age in America. For these teens, it’s not just about growing up but it’s still about overcoming.
DISCLOSURE: The book used for this review was purchased at full price.