Set against the backdrop of Karachi, Pakistan, Saadia Faruqi’s middle grade novel tells the story of two girls navigating a summer of change and family upheaval.
Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.
The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?
Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most.
CW: Classism, Poverty, Chronic Illness (Diabetes), absent father, theft
Thoughts and Themes: I picked this one up at the library but it was taking a while for me to get into it so I tried it as an audiobook and really enjoyed it. I like that the audiobook has two distinct voices for each of the girls which makes it easier to tell them apart.
There was a lot that I really enjoyed about this book but my favorite are the scenes in which Sakina and Mimi are teaching each other about their culture. I love how Sakina is hesitant at first to allow Mimi into her world and how Mimi doesn’t understand why Sakina responded to her in a way she deemed rude. I liked when Sakina would ask Mimi things about America and Mimi got to explain what was familiar to her and felt like she belonged somewhere.
I also really enjoyed the moments in which Mimi realized how different Sakina’s life was from her and the different expectations that were put on each of them. I also like that both of the girls are keeping things from their families and they trust each other with this information. It was nice getting to see them talk each other through things that they were struggling with.
Characters: This book centers around our two main characters, Sakina and Mimi, and through them you get to meet several other characters in this book. You get to meet both of their families as well as some other people they interact with while they are both navigating Pakistan.
I really liked getting to know both of our main characters and liked reading as their friendship develops. I thought it was great that at first they both needed something from each other which is why they were speaking to each other but that develops into more. I thought it was great that Mimi felt like she could open up to Sakina and share her feelings with her.
I also do enjoy getting to know each of the girls apart from each other and getting to see them act their age when they are with each other. There are times in which the girls are interacting with adults that you forget that they are still kids because they have been forced to grow up quickly because of the struggles their families are going through. I liked getting to see them react like children though and get to see them allow each other feelings that were messy and complicated.
Writing Style: This book is told in the first person through the dual perspectives of Sakina and Mimi. Sakina is a girl who works for Mimi’s mother’s family in Pakistan and lives in poverty, and Mimi is an American girl who is visiting her rich grandparents in Pakistan. I really enjoyed getting the chance to see this story unfold through both of their perspectives because when you first start reading you think that they are so different from each other and come from two different worlds. It isn’t until you keep reading and get to see them interact that you realize that they have some things in common.
Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” published by Capstone and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” (HMH/Clarion 2020) co-written with Laura Shovan, and “A Thousand Questions” (Harper Collins 2020). She has also written “Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan” a short story collection for adults and teens. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children.